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The Civil War in Missouri

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General Nathaniel Lyon

General Nathaniel Lyon (Download 1.2 MB PDF)
Early Life


  • Nathaniel Lyon was born July 14, 1818, in Ashford, Connecticut. He grew up there on his family’s farm. 
  • He faced hardship in his early childhood. When his eldest brother died unexpectedly, young Nathaniel was often the victim of his father’s misplaced anger. 
  • He attended West Point Military Academy and graduated 11th in his class in 1841. Afterward, he served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. 
  • He was stationed in California during the Gold Rush and developed a reputation as an effective Indian fighter. 

Kansas and Missouri


  • After returning East for a short time, Lyon was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1854, where the conflict known as “Bleeding Kansas” was at its height.
  • Lyon sympathized with those opposed to slavery. In July 1854, he wrote to Capt. M. Knowlton, stating that he hoped the violence would “hardly keep back our hardy people [abolitionists], who I trust will come forth with strong hands and honest hearts to execute the high duties of humanity.”  
  • Lyon’s strong opposition to slavery was only surpassed by his dedication to the Union. When Lyon came to St. Louis in 1861, his dedication would be tested. 
  • Capt. Lyon was at the center of organizing Union supporters who would eventually be mustered into Federal service. He led these troops against the predominantly pro-South Missouri Volunteer Militia stationed at Camp Jackson. 
  • Afterward, he led Federal forces in driving from power the pro-South forces under Confederate general Sterling Price and Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson. 
  • He was victorious over the pro-South forces at Boonville before being defeated at Carthage. Although tactically insignificant, the battle helped to spark Southern recruiting.
  • The final battle of the Lyon’s campaign was fought at Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861. When the battle ended, Lyon was dead. 

Primary Source

General Nathaniel Lyon (Download 1.2 MB PDF)