Albert Pike (December 29, 1809 – April 2, 1891) was an American author, poet, orator, jurist and prominent member of the Freemasons. He was also a senior officer of the Confederate States Army who commanded the District of Indian Territory in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War.

Albert Pike
Albert Pike - Brady-Handy.jpg
Pike in Masonic regalia by Mathew Brady
Born(1809-12-29)December 29, 1809
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedApril 2, 1891(1891-04-02) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Place of burial
Oak Hill Cemetery,
Washington, D.C., U.S.
(38°54′46.4″N 77°03′22.9″W / 38.912889°N 77.056361°W / 38.912889; -77.056361)
Allegiance United States
 Confederate States
Service/branchUnited States Volunteers
 Confederate States Army
Years of service1846–1847 (USV)
1861–1862 (CSA)
RankUnion army cpt rank insignia.jpg Captain (USV)
Confederate States of America General-collar.svg Brigadier-General (CSA)
Commands heldDistrict of Indian Territory
Battles/warsMexican–American War

American Civil War

Early life and educationEdit

Albert Pike was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1809, the son of Benjamin and Sarah (Andrews) Pike, and spent his childhood in Byfield and Newburyport, Massachusetts. His colonial ancestors settled the area in 1635,[1] and included John Pike (1613–1688/1689), the founder of Woodbridge, New Jersey.[2] He attended school in Newburyport and Framingham until he was 15. In August 1825, he passed entrance exams at Harvard University, though when the college requested payment of tuition fees for the first two years, he chose not to attend. He began a program of self-education, later becoming a schoolteacher in Gloucester, North Bedford, Fairhaven and Newburyport.[3]

Pike was an imposing figure; six feet tall and 300 pounds with hair that reached his shoulders and a long beard.[4][5] In 1831, he left Massachusetts to travel west, first stopping in Nashville, Tennessee and later moving to St. Louis, Missouri.

There he joined an expedition to Taos, New Mexico, devoted to hunting and trading.[1] During the excursion his horse broke and ran, forcing Pike to walk the remaining 500 miles to Taos. After this, he joined a trapping expedition to the Llano Estacado in New Mexico and Texas. Trapping was minimal and, after traveling about 1,300 miles (650 on foot), he finally arrived at Fort Smith, Arkansas.[5]

Pike's relative, Jacob, married Bethina Jones, daughter of the Chief of the Choctaw Nation. Jacob and Bethina's son, Benjamin M. Pike, was fluent in several Indian dialects and served as representative between the Native American Tribes in Oklahoma and the government of the United States of America.

Journalist and lawyerEdit

Settling in Arkansas in 1833, Pike taught in a school and wrote a series of articles for the Little Rock Arkansas Advocate under the pen name of "Casca."[6] The articles were sufficiently well received for him to be asked to join the newspaper's staff. Under Pike's administration, the Advocate promoted the viewpoint of the Whig Party in a politically volatile and divided Arkansas in December 1832.[6] After marrying Mary Ann Hamilton in 1834, he purchased the newspaper.[7]

He was the first reporter for the Arkansas Supreme Court. He wrote a book (published anonymously), titled The Arkansas Form Book, which was a guidebook for lawyers.[8] Pike began to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1837, selling the Advocate the same year.

He also made several contacts among the Native American tribes in the area. He specialized in claims on behalf of Native Americans against the federal government.[4] In 1852, he represented Creek Nation before the Supreme Court in a claim regarding ceded tribal land. In 1854 he advocated for the Choctaw and Chickasaw, although compensation later awarded to the tribes in 1856 and 1857 was insufficient.[7] These relationships were to influence the course of his Civil War service.

Additionally, Pike wrote on several legal subjects. He also continued writing poetry, a hobby he had begun in his youth in Massachusetts. His poems were highly regarded in his day, but are now mostly forgotten. Several volumes of his works were privately published posthumously by his daughter. In 1859, he received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Harvard.[9]

Military serviceEdit

Brigadier General Albert Pike statue, Washington, D.C.

Mexican–American WarEdit

When the Mexican–American War started, Pike joined the Regiment of Arkansas Mounted Volunteers (a cavalry regiment) and was commissioned as a troop commander with the rank of captain in June 1846. With his regiment, he fought in the Battle of Buena Vista. Pike was discharged in June 1847. He and his commander, Colonel John Selden Roane, had several differences of opinion. This situation led finally to an "inconclusive" duel between Pike and Roane on July 29, 1847, near Fort Smith, Arkansas.[10] Although several shots were fired in the duel, nobody was injured, and the two were persuaded by their seconds to discontinue it.[11]

After the war, Pike returned to the practice of law, moving to New Orleans for a time beginning in 1853.[12] He wrote another book, Maxims of the Roman Law and Some of the Ancient French Law, as Expounded and Applied in Doctrine and Jurisprudence.[13] Although unpublished, this book increased his reputation among his associates in law. He returned to Arkansas in 1857, gaining some amount of prominence in the legal field.

At the Southern Commercial Convention of 1854, Pike said the South should remain in the Union and seek equality with the North, but if the South "were forced into an inferior status, she would be better out of the Union than in it."[14] His stand was that state's rights superseded national law and he supported the idea of a Southern secession. This stand is made clear in his pamphlet of 1861, "State or Province, Bond or Free?"[6]

American Civil WarEdit

In 1861, Pike penned the lyrics to "Dixie to Arms!"[15] At the beginning of the war, Pike was appointed as Confederate envoy to the Native Americans. In this capacity he negotiated several treaties, one of the most important being with Cherokee chief John Ross, which was concluded in 1861. At the time, Ross agreed to support the Confederacy, which promised the tribes a Native American state if it won the war. Ross later changed his mind and left Indian Territory, but the succeeding Cherokee government maintained the alliance.[4]

Pike was commissioned as a brigadier general on November 22, 1861, and given a command in the Indian Territory. With Gen. Ben McCulloch, Pike trained three Confederate regiments of Indian cavalry, most of whom belonged to the "civilized tribes", whose loyalty to the Confederacy was variable. Although initially victorious at the Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) in March 1862,[1] Pike's unit was defeated later in a counterattack, after falling into disarray. When Pike was ordered in May 1862 to send troops to Arkansas, he resigned in protest.[7] As in the previous war, Pike came into conflict with his superior officers, at one time drafting a letter to Jefferson Davis complaining about his direct superior.[16]

After Pea Ridge, Pike was faced with charges that his Native American troops had scalped soldiers in the field.[17] Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman also charged Pike with mishandling of money and material, ordering his arrest.[18] Both these charges were later found to be considerably lacking in evidence; nevertheless Pike, facing arrest, escaped into the hills of Arkansas, sending his resignation from the Confederate States Army on July 12.[18] He was at length arrested on November 3 under charges of insubordination and treason, and held briefly in Warren, Texas. His resignation was accepted on November 11, and he was allowed to return to Arkansas.[18]


Pike first joined the fraternal Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1840. He next joined a Masonic Lodge, where he became extremely active in the affairs of the organization. In 1859 he was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite's Southern Jurisdiction.[10] He remained Sovereign Grand Commander for the remainder of his life (a total of thirty-two years), devoting a large amount of his time to developing the rituals of the order.[19] Notably, he published a book called Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1871, of which there were several subsequent editions. This helped the order grow during the nineteenth century. He also researched and wrote the seminal treatise Indo-Aryan Deities and Worship as Contained in the Rig-Veda.

In America, Pike is still considered an eminent[20] and influential[21] Freemason, primarily in the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction.[22]

Death and legacyEdit

Pike died on April 2, 1891 in Washington, D.C. at the age of 81, and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. Burial was against his wishes; he had left instructions for his body to be cremated.[23] In 1944, his remains were moved to the House of the Temple, headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. A memorial to Pike is located in the Judiciary Square neighborhood of Washington, D.C. He is the only Confederate military officer with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C., and in 2019 Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton called for it to be removed.[24][25]

The Albert Pike Memorial Temple is an historic Masonic lodge in Little Rock, Arkansas; the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[26]

Figure in conspiracy theoryEdit

Pike has become a key figure for conspiracy theorists. Some people claim that stories about Pike, including his "forecast" of three world wars, are bogus and derive from the Taxil hoax.[27]

In the 2007 movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Albert Pike is mentioned as a Confederate general to whom a missive from Queen Victoria is addressed.


As a young man of letters, Pike wrote poetry, and he continued to do so for the rest of his life. At 23, he published his first poem, "Hymns to the Gods." Later work was printed in literary journals such as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine and local newspapers. His first collection of poetry, Prose Sketches and Poems Written in the Western Country, was published in 1834.[5] He later gathered many of his poems and republished them in Hymns to the Gods and Other Poems (1872). After his death these were published again in Gen. Albert Pike's Poems (1900) and Lyrics and Love Songs (1916).[6]

The authorship of "The Old Canoe" was attributed to Pike. He was suggested as author because about the time of its publication, when it was going the rounds of the press, probably without any credit, a doggerel called "The Old Canoe" was composed about Pike by one of his political foes. The subject was a canoe in which he left Columbia, Tennessee, when a young man practicing law in that place. Pike told Senator Edward W. Carmack that he was not the author of "The Old Canoe," and could not imagine how he ever got the credit for it. The rightful author was Emily Rebecca Page.[28]

Selected worksEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Massachusetts born CSA general Albert Pike leads brigade of Native Americans at the Battle of Pea Ridge", Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War Archived July 25, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Albert's descent from his immigrant ancestor John Pike is as follows: John Pike (1572–1654); John Pike (1613–1688/89); Joseph Pike (1638–1694); Thomas Pike (1682–1753/4); John Pike (1710–1755); Thomas Pike (1739–1836); Benjamin Pike (1780–?); Albert Pike (1809–1891).
  3. ^ Hubbell, Jay B. (1954) The South in American Literature: 1607–1900. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 640.
  4. ^ a b c "Albert Pike - Hero or Scoundrel?", The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 5, Number 1, Civil War, Smithsonian Associates
  5. ^ a b c Cutrer, Thomas W., "Pike, Albert", The Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association
  6. ^ a b c d Moneyhon, Carl H. (February 4, 2009), "Albert Pike (1809–1891)", Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, retrieved November 14, 2009
  7. ^ a b c Westmoreland, Ingrid P., "Pike, Albert", Oklahoma Historical Society
  8. ^ "Albert Pike (1809–1891)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture (EOA). Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  9. ^ "The Phoenix," Manly P. Hall
  10. ^ a b Eicher, John H., aer (2001) Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 429
  11. ^ Allsopp, Frederick William. A Life of Albert Pike, Parke-Harper news service, 1920
  12. ^ Moneyhon, Carl H. "Albert Pike (1809-1891)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  13. ^ Brown, Walter Lee (1997). A life of Albert Pike. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. pp. 61, 240, 302, 408. ISBN 1557284695.
  14. ^ Potter, David Morris and Edward, Don (1976) The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861. HarperCollins. p. 467
  15. ^ "Dixie to Arms!", Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  16. ^ Boyden, William Llewellyn (1921). Bibliography of the Writings of Albert Pike: Prose, Poetry, Manuscript. Washington, D.C.: A.A.S.C. p. 18.
  17. ^ Shea, William, and Earl Hess, Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. University of North Carolina Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8078-4669-4.
  18. ^ a b c Smith, Dean E. (1986) "Pike, Albert" in Historical Times Illustrated History of the Civil War, edited by Patricia L. Faust. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-273116-6. p. 585
  19. ^ Warner, Ezra J. (1959) Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-0823-5. pp. 240–241
  20. ^ ALBERT PIKE AND FREEMASONRY. California Freemason
  21. ^ Albert Pike,
  22. ^ Albert Pike Museum, The Scottish Rite of Freeemasonry
  23. ^ PIKE, Brigadier General Albert: Memorial at the Municipal Center in Washington, D.C..
  24. ^ Glambrone, Andrew (July 31, 2019). "Confederate statue near Judiciary Square should be removed, D.C. delegate says". Curbed. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  25. ^ Q.v., Wikipedia's article on the statues of Confederates in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
  26. ^ "Historic Albert Pike Masonic Center", Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau
  27. ^ Ellis, Bill. Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture, University Press of Kentucky, 2004, p12
  28. ^ Bob Taylor's Magazine 1910, p. 192.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Colonel S. H. Hempstead
Adjutant General of Arkansas Militia
Succeeded by
Colonel Solon Borland