Nathaniel Lyon

Nathaniel Lyon, as General, ALS from "Bleeding Kansas"

NATHANIEL LYON, Autograph Letter Signed, July 9, 1858, to Henry K. Craig, Fort Scott, Kansas. 1 p., 7.75" x 9.125"  Expected folds.

 

Complete Transcript

                                                                        Fort Scott Kansas

                                                                        July 9, 1858

Sir,

Herewith enclosed I respectfully transmit the Return for Ordnance and Ordnance Stores pertaining to Company “B” 2nd Inf’y for the Second Quarter of 1858.

                                                                        Very Respectfully, / your Obedient Servant,

                                                                        N. Lyon

                                                                        Capt 2d Inf’y / Com’g Comp’y “B”

Col H. K. Craig / Chief of Ordnance U. S. Army / Washington D.C.

 

[Docketing:] 121 / Letter / Capt N. Lyon / Fort Scott, K. T. / 9 July 1858.

Transmits Ord Return of Co B, 2d Inf for pt. 2d qr 1858. / B28.

Rec’d 30 July 1858. / Ans’d 7 Aug.  "

                       

Historical Background

After his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in the summer of 1841, 2nd Lieutenant Nathaniel Lyon traveled to Florida, where he served with the 2nd U.S. Infantry in the ongoing Second Seminole War (1835-1842). After the war in Florida, the 2nd U.S. Infantry did frontier service along the Canadian border in Michigan.

 

Several companies of the 2nd U.S. Infantry left Detroit in mid-July 1846 by steamer for New Orleans and on to Texas for service in the Mexican War (1846-1848). After the war ended, Lyon continued to serve with the 2nd U.S. Infantry in a series of frontier posts in California, Nebraska Territory, and Kansas Territory.

 

The U.S. Army established Fort Scott in eastern Kansas in 1842 as part of a chain of forts from Minnesota to Louisiana to enforce the “permanent Indian frontier.” The army abandoned the fort in 1853 and sold the buildings at auction in 1855. In 1857, Fort Scott was laid out as a town. A former officers’ quarters became the Fort Scott Hotel or the “Free State” Hotel. Across the square, an infantry barracks became the Western Hotel, headquarters for proslavery men. Violence was common between proslavery and antislavery forces in this part of “Bleeding Kansas.” Soldiers returned periodically to Fort Scott to restore law and order, and Lyon likely sent this letter and accompanying report during one of those assignments.

 

At the beginning of the Civil War, Lyon was in St. Louis, where he took command of the federal arsenal and kept the weapons there from falling into Confederate hands by sending many of them to Illinois and arming Unionist militia. He pursued Missouri governor Claiborne F. Jackson and southern-sympathizing Missourians to Springfield, Missouri. On August 10, at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Lyon became the first general to die in the Civil War and an immediate martyr in the Union cause.

 

 

Nathaniel Lyon (1818-1861) was born in Connecticut and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1841. Upon graduation, Lyon received a commission as a second lieutenant and assignment to the 2nd U.S. Infantry in Florida. There, he served in the Second Seminole War. He also served with the 2nd Infantry in the Mexican War and in service in California and the West. Although staunchly antislavery, Lyon did not support the abolitionists. In early 1861, Lyon was placed in command of the federal arsenal at St. Louis, which he protected against southern sympathizers. Promoted to brigadier general in May 1861, he was given command of Union troops in Missouri as commander of the Department of the West. He occupied the state capital in Jefferson City in mid-June 1861, and moved southwest in pursuit of southern-sympathizing Missouri troops. Lyon encamped at Springfield, Missouri, in mid-July with 6,000 soldiers. On August 10, some 12,000 Confederate forces attacked Lyon’s forces. Lyon was killed leading a counter-attack, and the Union forces retreated. Lyon was the first Union general killed in the Civil War, and his actions are credited with saving Missouri for the Union, though the state remained a battleground throughout the war.

 

Henry K. Craig (1791-1869) was born in Pennsylvania and entered the Army in 1812. He commanded Fort Niagara for a time near the end of the War of 1812. He rose through the ranks to major in 1832 and was assigned to the Ordnance Corps. He served as Chief of Ordnance for General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War. In 1851, he was appointed Chief of Ordnance with the rank of colonel. He was relieved of duty in 1861 at the age of 70, though he protested and continued for another two years in an advisory capacity. In March 1865, he was brevetted brigadier general for his fifty years of service to the army.

 

 

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