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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

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