In the summer of 1806, Gen. James Wilkinson dispatched Lt. Zebulon Pike to conduct an exploratory expedition of the Southwest. Wilkinson did so without consulting the president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Here the intrigue begins. Wilkinson, governor of the Territory of Louisiana and commanding officer of the United States Army, was at the same time on the payroll of the Spanish government. By the time of the Pike expedition, Wilkinson had, in collusion, with Aaron Burr, concocted a scheme to establish an empire in the Southwest made up of trans-Appalachian states and conquered Mexico. Was Pike a willing accomplice in the scheme or was he an ambitious young man duped by his superior officer? The answer to that question is moot; but Burr’s and Wilkinson’s part of the scheme are not.
Following are chronologies of Burr’s and Wilkinson’s lives which hopefully will shed light on their characters and ill uminate their roles in the above mentioned conspiracy.
Aaron Burr 1756 – 1836
1756 - Born in Newark, N.J. to the Rev. Aaron Burr, co-founder of College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, and Ester Edwards Burr, daughter of New England preacher Jonathan Edwards.
1759 - Following the death of both parents, Burr’s training was assumed by an uncle, the Rev. Timothy Burr.
1769 - Entered Princeton University as a sophomore at age 13. First studied theology, later the law.
1772 - Graduated with honors.
1777 - Commissioned Lt. Col. after serving on the staff of Benedict Arnold, George Washington, and Elisha Putman.
1799 - Resigned his commission due to ill health.
1782 - Admitted to New York bar. Married Theodosia Prevost, a widow, ten years his senior, with five children. The couple produced a daughter, Theodosia.
1784 - Theodosia died.
1789 - Appointed attorney general for the state of New York.
1791 - Won senate seat.
1797 - Failing reelection, won seat in New York legislature.
1800 - Won vice-presidency
1804 - Lost in race for New York governor. Because of remarks made by Alexander Hamilton during the campaign, Burr challenged him to a duel. Hamilton was mortally wounded. Fled to Philadelphia. There, he and former senator Jonathan Dayton, developed a scheme to establish an empire in the Southwest made up of Mexico they planned to conquer and the trans-Appalachian southern States separated from the Union.
Returned to Washington City, served out his term of vice president.
1805 - Made trip to the West. Met Harmon Blennerhassett at his estate on an island in the Ohio River and visited James Wilkinson at New Orleans. Acquired more than a million acres of land in Orleans Territory financed by his son-in-law and Blennerhassett.
1806 - Assembled boats, supplies, and men at Blennerhassett’s Island. Burr and sixty men set out to join Wilkinson near Natchez. Burr’s and Dayton’s coded letters were then underway to Wilkinson alerting him to be ready to move on Mexico. Wilkins revealed scheme to President Jefferson.
1807 - Surrendered to authorities in Natchez, jumped bail, and fled to Spanish Florida. Intercepted, arrested, and taken to Richmond. Acquitted on treason charges. Moved to Europe
1812 - Returned to New York. Practiced law.
1833 - Married Eliza Jumel, a wealthy widow.
1836 - Eliza granted divorce on the day of Burr’s death.
James Wilkinson 1757-1825
1757 - Born Calvert County, Md. Privately tutored on father’s plantation. Briefly studied medicine.
1776 - Commissioned captain in the Continental Army. Brevetted brigardier general. Lost brevet rank due to his participation in the Conway Cabal, a group that schemed against Gen. Washington. Appointed Continental clothier, forced to resign because irregularities in his accounts.
1784 - Became involved with the Spanish government to gain control of the western territories. Rewarded with a trade monopoly on all goods entering the New Orleans port from the north. Granted an annual pension of $2,000 to work for the interests of Spain in the U.S.
1791 - Returned to active service when Indian warfare broke out in Ohio Territory.
1792 - Commissioned brigadier general. Launched substained campaign to discredit his superior, Anthony Wayne and gain command of the U.S. Army.
1796 - Upon Wayne’s death, became ranking officer in the U.S. Army. Still on Spanish payroll.
1803 - Became governor of Louisiana Territory.
1805 - Conspired with Burr to establish empire in the southwest.
1806 - Dispatched Zebulon Pike do reconnoiter the southwest. Denounced Burr and revealed conspiracy to President Jefferson.
1807 - Arrested Burr’s accomplices in Louisiana and declared martial law in the territory. Was chief witness against Burr on a charge of treason. Narrowly missed being indicted for treason himself.
1811 - After a series of inquiries and court martials restored his command.
1813 - During War of 1812, his troops occupied Mobile but failed in an abortive sttempt to take Montreal.
1815 - Honorably discharged
1821 - Went to Mexico to negotiate a Texas land grant. Served briefly as an advisor to Empower Iturbido.
1825 - Died.
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