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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Nathaniel Lyon

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NATHANIEL LYON (1818-1861), American soldier, was born in Ashford, Connecticut, on the 14th of July 1818, and graduated at West Point in 18 4 1. He was engaged in the Seminole War and the war with Mexico, won the brevet of captain for his gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco, and was wounded in the assault on the city of Mexico. In 1850, while serving in California, he conducted a successful expedition against the Indians. He was promoted captain in 1851, and two years later was ordered to the East, when he became an ardent opponent of "States' Rights" and slavery. He was stationed in Kansas and in Missouri on the eve of the Civil War. In Missouri not only was sentiment divided, but the two factions were eager to resort to force long before they were in the other border states. Lyon took an active part in organizing the Union party in Missouri, though greatly hampered, at first by the Federal government which feared to provoke hostilities, and afterwards by the military commander of the department, General W. S. Harney. On Harney's removal in April 1861, Lyon promptly assumed the command, called upon Illinois to send him troops, and mustered the Missouri contingent into the United States' service. He broke up the militia camp at St Louis established by the secessionist governor of Missouri, Claiborne F. Jackson, and but for the express prohibition of Harney, who had resumed the command, would have proceeded at once to active hostilities. In all this Lyon had co-operated closely with Francis P. Blair, Jr., who now obtained from President Lincoln the definitive removal of Harney and the assignment of Lyon to command the Department of the West, with the rank of brigadiergeneral. On Lyon's refusal to accede to the Secessionists' proposal that the state should be neutral, hostilities opened in earnest, and Lyon, having cleared Missouri of small hostile bands in the central part of the state, turned to the southern districts, where a Confederate army was advancing from the Arkansas border. The two forces came to action at Wilson's Creek on the 10th of August 1861. The Union forces, heavily outnumbered, were defeated, and Lyon himself was killed while striving to rally his troops. He bequeathed almost all he possessed, some $30,000, to the war funds of the national government.

See A. Woodward, Memoir of General Nathaniel Lyon (Hartford, 1862); James Peckham, Life of Lyon (New York, 1866); and T. L. Snead, The Fight for Missouri (New York, 1886). Also Last Political Writings of General Nathaniel Lyon (New York, 1862).

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Nathaniel Lyon'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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