Albert Pike was born on December 29, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts; he spent the early part of his career teaching at a variety of schools in Massachusetts.
In 1831 he moved west, traveling with various groups across Missouri, Texas and New Mexico; in 1833 he settled in Pope County, Arkansas where he taught school and built a reputation as a great poet and author, receiving international attention for his work. Along with his writing he operated a successful newspaper, the Arkansas Advocate. In 1837 he was admitted to the bar and practiced primarily in the Indian Territory, representing Native Americans in disputes with the Federal government.
Pike was an early vocal opponent of secession, but when it became apparent in 1861 that Arkansas would secede, he sided with the Confederacy. The Confederate government commissioned Pike a brigadier general on August 15, 1861 because of his relationship with the Five Civilized Tribes, and he was requested to recruit support from the Native Americans in the Indian Territory. By November 1861, Pike commanded the Department of Indian Territory and had enlisted more than 2,000 Native Americans, including Cherokee Colonel Stand Watie, for the Confederate cause.
On March 7 – 8, 1862, Pike and 1,000 of his men fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Initially successful in capturing an artillery battery, the victorious Native Americans were unable to turn the cannon to their advantage, and being preoccupied with discarded Union equipment and supplies, were routed from the field by a Union counterattack.
Discouraged by military politics, Pike resigned in July 1862, although his resignation was not accepted until that November.
Albert Pike left the Civil War as the only white Southerner to lead an all-Native American force in battle. He returned to Arkansas to practice law and became a national figure in Freemasonry. He died in Washington, D.C. in 1891.
Image Courtesy Wilsonâ€™s Creek National Battlefield; WICR 30069