General Nathaniel Lyon was born in Ashford, Conn., 14 July 1818 and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1841. He served in the Seminole War, the Mexican War, and was promoted to Captain in 1851. After several years duty in California and Kansas he was assigned to the St. Louis Arsenal in February 1861 and promoted to Brigadier General in May 1861. When the Civil War broke out, he armed volunteers and seized Camp Jackson. After an unsuccessful attempt to compromise with Sterling Price and Governor Claiborne F. Jackson, General Lyon pushed up the Mississippi River and captured Jefferson City and Boonville, Mo. Although his troops were badly outnumbered, he attacked the main secessionist forces at Wilson's Creek on 10 August. He was defeated and killed in this battle but not before he had helped to save Missouri for the Union.
(SwStr2:t.468; a. 2-12 pdr. r.)
General Lyon was built at New Albany, Ind., in 1860, and operated out of New Orleans, La., as De Soto. Taken into service by the Confederacy as a gunboat in 1861 (see vol II, Confederate Appendix), she was captured at Island No. 10 on 7 April 1862. The ship was taken into the Union Army as transport De Soto. Transferred to the Navy 30 September 1862, she was renamed General Lyon on 24 October 1862, Master John R. Neeld in command.
After undergoing extensive repairs at Cairo, 111., General Lyon saw duty as ordnance, stores, and dispatch ship for the Mississippi Squadron. Leaving Cairo 2 February 1863, she operated for the next two and a half years on the western waters. In April 1863 she was briefly flagship of Rear Admiral D. D. Porter. General Lyon returned to Mound City, 111., 17 February 1865, decommissioned 3 August, and was sold to H. L. Lee 17 August 1865. She redocumented as Alabama, and was destroyed by fire at Grand View, La., 1 April 1867.