Born in Connecticut, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1841 (11th in a class of 52). He served in the Seminole War, on frontier duty, in the Mexican War, in Indian fighting, and in "Bleeding Kansas." The latter experience shaped the political views of the fiery little redhead, and he became a prolific writer, advocating Lincoln and the Republican Party. Serving as a captain of the 2d US Inf. at the St. Louis arsenal in early 1861, he and F.P. Blair, Jr. collaborated to safeguard Union property and interests from the sizable disloyal element in the state. Together they worked out and executed the strategy that saved the weapons in the arsenal, and captured the rebel force that was assembling at nearby Camp Jackson under General D.M. Frost. Together they also succeeded in eliminating Lyon's pro-Southern superior, General W.S. Harney, from the scene. With Blair's influence, Lyon was appointed Brigadier General of Missouri Volunteers on 12 May 1861, and he became Brigadier General US Volunteers five days later. He then undertook military operations in southwest Missouri that ended with his death at Wilson's Creek, 10 August 1861. He became the North's first military hero.
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