BORN: 1818 in Ashford, CT.
DIED: 1861 in Wilson's Creek, MO.
CAMPAIGNS: St. Louis andWilson's Creek.
Nathaniel Lyon was born on July 14, 1818, in Ashford, Connecticut. After graduating from West Point in 1841, he fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars. In the 1850s, he was a captain stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. A Democrat with few beliefs about slavery, his experiences in the tense political climate of "Bleeding Kansas" led him to become a strong anti-slavery Republican. Transferred to Missouri in 1861, he was concerned about the conflict in the state between the pro-Union legislature and the pro-Confederate governor, Claiborne F. Jackson. When Jackson called out the state militia, Lyon became suspicious. Lyon, disguised as a farm woman, spied on the militia's camp, and came to the conclusion that Jackson intended to use the militia to capture the St. Louis arsenal for the Confederacy. In reaction, Lyon boldly, but with poor timing, surrounded the camp with captured it. When Lyon's troops displayed the prisoners through the town, a riot broke out. By saving the arsenal, however, Lyon did a great deal to keep Missouri part of the Union. Promoted to brigadier general on May 17, 1861, he began a serious effort to push Confederate troops out of Mississippi. On August 10, 1861, Confederate troops lay in wait at Wilson's Creek, and engaged Lyon's troops in battle. Lyon was killed in the battle; and, although it had been a bloody, inconclusive battle, it was declared a Confederate victory.