Friday, December 7, 2007

Nathanial Lyon

Nathanial Lyon was born in Ashford Connecticut in 1818 and graduated 11th in his class from West Point in 1841. Assigned to the 2nd Infantry he fought in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War. After the war, Lyon participated in the controversial ' Clear Lake Massacre' in California and was reassigned to Fort Riley Kansas where he was accused of hounding an enlisted man to death.

'Bleeding Kansas' turned Lyon into a fanatical abolitionist, writing "It is no longer useful to appeal to reason, but to the sword.". Lyon transferred to St. Louis, used his friendship with the powerful Blair family to gain command of the St. Louis arsenal and captured pro-secessionist Missouri troops at camp Jackson outside of the city. Marching the captives back through the city, fighting broke out and over 100 people were killed or wounded.

Promoted to Brigadier General Lyon was given command of all Union troops in Missouri and began pursuing Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson's forces across the state which he defeated at Boonville and chased southwest past Springfield. Meeting a combined force of Missouri State Guard and regular Confederate forces at Wilson's Creek, Lyon was killed on August 10, 1861. Lyon's quick, perhaps rash, action in the early days of the war neutralized Confederate ambitions in Missouri, allowed Union forces to dominate the state and laid the groundwork for the bloody guerilla war for the next 3½ years.

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