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Nathaniel Ly0n

LY0N, Nathaniel, soldier, born in Ashford, Connecticut, 14 July, 1818 ; died near Wilson's Creek, Missouri, 10 August, 1861. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1841, assigned to the 2d infantry, and served in Florida during the latter part of the Seminole war. He was engaged at the siege of Vera Cruz, promoted 1st lieutenant while on the march to the city of Mexico, and commanded his company throughout the. subsequent campaign, receiving the brevet of captain for gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco. In the assault on the city of Mexico he was wounded at the Belen Gate. At the close of the war he was ordered to California, and in 1850 he conducted a successful expedition against the Indians of Clear lake and Russian river in northern California, receiving the praise of General Persifer F. Smith for the rapidity and secrecy of his marches, and his skilful dispositions on the ground. He was promoted captain on 11 June, 1851, and in 1853 returned with his regiment to the east. While listening to the debates in congress over the Kansas-Nebraska bill, his sympathies were engaged in behalf of the negro, although he had been hitherto an earnest Democrat. In 1854 he was sent to Fort Riley, and during the height of the contest for the possession of Kansas manifested his sympathy with the Free-state party, and gave it his aid and support. In 1856, when the troops were ordered to enforce the laws against the Abolitionists, Lyon seriously contemplated resigning his commission, that he might not be employed " as a tool in the hands of evil rulers for the accomplishment of evil ends"; but he was saved from the necessity of doing so by being ordered to the Dakota frontier, he was on duty again in Kansas in 1859, and was with General William S. Harney in December, 1860, when the governor of Missouri sent a brigade of militia to co-operate with the National troops in arresting James Montgomery. He was left, by Harney at Fort Scott, but wished to be nearer the scene of the impending conflict, in which, he wrote on 27 January, 1861, " I certainly expect to expose, and very likely shall lose, my life." In the beginning of February he was ordered to St. Louis. There he contested with Major Peter V. Hagner, whom he suspected of southern sympathies, the command of the arsenal" but his appeal to General Harney, and then to President Buchanan, was unavailing. He was soon in close accord with Francis P. Blair, jr., and the other Unionist leaders, and at once began to drill and organize the Home-guards. A few days before President Lincoln's inauguration Blair went to Washington to persuade General Scott and the president of the necessity of giving the command of the arsenal to Lyon, but without success. An attempt of the secessionist minute-men to provoke a conflict on inauguration-day decided the new administration to place Lyon in command of the troops on 13 Mareh, 1861 ; yet the order was qualified by instructions from General Harney still leaving in charge of Major Hagner the arms and materials of war which Lyon intended in the event of a collision to distribute among the Home-guards. While Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson was promoting the organization of secessionist militia, and after he had placed the police of St. Louis under the control of Basil W. Duke, the leader of the minute-men, and after the municipal election of 1 April, 1861, had transferred the city government into the hands of secessionists, Gem Harney revoked his recent order and gave Lyon entire charge of the arsenal, arms, and stores. Before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Lyon had strengthened the fortifications and mounted heavy siege-guns and mortars that commanded the city, and its river approaches. On the president's call for troops Governor Jackson prepared to plant batteries on the hills overlooking the arsenal. Lyon at once communicated with Gov. Richard Yates, who, by the president's orders, sent three regiments of the Illinois quota to support the garrison in St. Louis. Lyon was at the same time commanded, according to his own suggestion, to turn over 10,000 stand of arms to the Illinois state authorities. Blair had procured in Washington another order authorizing Captain Lyon to issue 5,000 stand of arms for arming loyal citizens. Harney interfered to prevent the arming of volunteers, and ordered Lyon, who had placed guards in the streets in violation of the city ordinances, to withdraw his men within the arsenal, but for this was removed from the command of the department on 21 April. On the same day Captain Lyon was ordered to muster into the service the four regiments, constituting Missouri's quota, which the governor had refused to furnish. Without regard to seniority he assumed command on the departure of Harney, and from that time was recognized by the government as commanding the department. On the night of 26 April he secretly sent away to Illinois all the munitions of war that were not needed for the four regiments, which were speedily organized and equipped. Although the removal of the arms from the arsenal frustrated the governor's object in ordering the militia into camp at St. Louis, it was decided to hold the encampment nevertheless. Daniel M. Frost's brigade, numbering now, after all the Union men had withdrawn, about 700 men, went into camp on 6 May in a grove in the western part of the city, which they called Camp Jackson. Having been authorized by a despatch from the secretary of war, Lyon in May mustered in five regiments, called the Home-guards or United States reserve corps, in addition to five regiments of Missouri volunteers that had been organized in April. The volunteers were recruited almost entirely from the German population, as the native-born and the Irish were secessionists. On 10 May he surrounded Camp Jackson, and made prisoners of war of the entire corps of militia. In the camp were siege-guns that Jefferson Davis had sent from New Orleans at the request of Governor Jackson. When General Harney resumed command he approved the capture of Camp Jackson, but refused to carry out Lyon's plan for immediate operations against the hostile forces that the governor was organizing in pursuance of an act of the legislature. On 31 May, in accordance with an order that Blair had obtained from the president, Lyon, who had been commissioned as brigadier-general of volunteers on 17 May, and appointed to the command of the brigade of German recruits, relieved General Harney of the command of the Department of the West. The governor and General Sterling Price, in an interview with General Lyon, sought to obtain from him a renewal of the agreement General Harney had made to respect the neutrality of the state' but Lyon insisted on the right of the United States government to enlist men in Missouri, and to move its troops within or across the state. Open hostilities followed. Lyon sent troops to the southwestern part of the state in order to meet an apprehended advance of Confederate troops from Arkansas, and cut off the retreat of the governor and the state troops, while with another force he advanced on Jefferson City, of which he took possession on 15 June, the state forces having evacuated it two days before, and then on the enemy's new headquarters at Booneville, where he routed Colonel John S. Marmaduke's force on 17 June. His sudden movement placed him in command of the entire state except the southwestern corner. On 3 July he left Booneville to continue the pursuit of Price, but when he learned that the Missourians had defeated Sigel at Carthage, and effected a junction with the Confederate troops under General Ben McCulloch, he halted at Springfield to await re-enforcements. On learning that the Confederates were marching on his position, he advanced to meet them, although he supposed that they outnumbered his force four to one, but, after a skirmish at Dug Spring, retreated to Springfield again when he found that their three columns ha(] joined. On 9 August, considering a retreat more hazardous than a battle, he decided to surprise the Confederates in their camp on Wilson's Creek at daybreak the next morning. He turned their position and attacked their rear, while General Franz Sigei, at the head of another column, assailed their right flank. Sigei, after driving back the enemy, was defeated through mistaking one of their regiments for Iowa troops. Lyon, perceiving new troops coming to the support of Price, brought all his men to the front for a final effort. His horse was killed, and he was wounded in the head and leg, but, mounting another horse, he dashed to the front to rally his wavering line, and was shot through the breast, expiring almost instantly. Major Samuel D. Sturgis, who was left in command, soon afterward ordered a retreat. Of the 5,000 National troops 1,317 were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, while of the Confederates, who were 10,000 strong, 1,230 were killed or wounded. The National forces fell back on Springfield in good order, and retreated t, hence to Rolla, while General McCulloch, the Confederate commander, refused to pursue. Lyon's movement, though resulting in defeat, had enabled the Union men in Missouri to organize a government and array the power of the state on the National side. General Lyon bequeathed , $30,000, constituting nearly his entire property, to the government, to aid in the preservation of the Union. A series of articles, written while he was on duty in Kansas in advocacy of the election of Abraham Lincoln, and printed in a local newspaper, were collected into a volume with a memoir, and published under the title of "The Last Political Writings of General Nathaniel Lyon" (New York, 1862). See also a memoir by Dr. Ashbel Woodward (Hartford, 1862); James Peckham's " Life of Lyon" (New York, 1866); R. I. Holcombe's "Account of the Battle of Wilson's Creek"; and "The Fight for Missouri," by Thomas L. Snead (New York, 1886).

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