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Civil War Soldiers - Lyon
|Lyon, Nathaniel, brigadier-general,
U.S. Army, was born in Ashford, Conn., July 14, 1818. He was graduated
at the United States military academy in 1841, served in the Seminole
war, and afterwards, until the Mexican war, on garrison duty. He was
promoted 1st lieutenant, Feb. 16, 1847, and took part in all the
principal engagements of the Mexican war, winning the brevet of
captain for gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco, and being slightly
wounded at the Belen gate, City of Mexico. In the interval between the
close of the Mexican war and the beginning of the Civil war he served
on garrison and frontier duty in the western states, being promoted
captain in 1851. He was in Washington while the debates were going on
in Congress over the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and, whereas he had
formerly been a loyal Democrat, his sympathies were now engaged in
behalf of the negro. Capt. Lyon was commissioned brigadier-general of
volunteers on May 17, 1861, and succeeded Maj. Hagner in command of
the St. Louis arsenal. On the president's call for troops, Gov.
Jackson of Missouri, who had been active in promoting the organization
of state militia for the Confederate army, prepared to plant batteries
on the hills overlooking the armory. Gen. Lyon then secured three
regiments of Illinois troops and subsequently secretly removed from
the arsenal all arms except those needed for the arming of the
citizens. The Confederate militia forces under Gen. Frost, now
numbering only 700 men, went into camp at St. Louis, at Camp Jackson,
on May 6, and on May 10 Lyon surrounded the camp and took as prisoners
of war the entire force. Later in the day an encounter between the U.
S. troops and the citizens resulted in the death of several unarmed
citizens and caused great excitement in St. Louis. Gen. Lyon succeeded
Harney as commander of the Department of the West on May 31, and two
weeks later he overtook Jackson's state troops and scattered them at
Boonville. Then followed the action at Dug springs, Aug. 2, after
which he retreated to Springfield, upon learning that the three
Confederate columns had joined. On Aug. 9, considering a retreat more
hazardous than a battle, he decided to surprise the enemy at their
camp on Wilson's creek at daybreak the next morning. He turned their
position and attacked their rear, while Gen. Franz Sigel assailed the
right flank. Sigel was defeated through mistaking one of the
Confederate regiments for Iowa troops, and Lyon, perceiving new troops
coming to the support of the Confederate forces, brought all his men
to the front in a final effort. His horse had been killed and he had
been wounded in the head and leg, but he mounted another horse and
dashed to the front to rally his wavering line, when he was shot
through the breast, dying almost instantly. Soon afterwards Maj.
Samuel D. Sturgis, who had succeeded to the command, ordered a
retreat. Lyon's movement, although resulting in defeat, had enabled
the Union men to organize a state government and array the power of
the state on the national side, and in recognition of the services of
himself and his troops Congress passed a resolution of thanks, and
each regiment which took part in the battle was permitted to "bear
upon its colors the word 'Springfield' emblazoned in letters of gold."
Gen. Lyon bequeathed $30,000, which constituted almost his entire
property, to the government to aid in preserving the union.
Source: The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal
States 1861-1865, Volume 8 Biographical, 1908