Friday, September 6, 2019

Booknotes: General Hylan B. Lyon

New Arrival:
General Hylan B. Lyon: A Kentucky Confederate and the War in the West
  by Dan Lee (UT Press, 2019).

I believe that Dan Lee's General Hylan B. Lyon is the first military biography of the Kentucky Confederate officer, who fought in multiple service branches during the Civil War but achieved his greatest prominence and notoriety as a cavalry general. Beginning with the Kentuckian's antebellum U.S. Army career, Lee "chronicles Lyon’s military career, which began with service in the Third US Artillery after his graduation from West Point in 1856. Lyon first saw action in the Third Seminole War. Later stationed at Fort Yuma in California, he went on to fight in the Coeur d’Alene War. ... "After serving with troops building the Mullan Road between Washington and Montana, Lyon returned to Kentucky just as Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election."

After resigning his commission, Lyon raised a company that became a part of the 3rd Kentucky infantry regiment. Among those surrendered at Donelson, he emerged from captivity to lead the 8th Kentucky. His eventual transfer to cavalry service raised his profile considerably, and he would be mostly remembered for his late-war role as one of Nathan Bedford Forrest's principle subordinates, leading the mounted version of the famous Kentucky Brigade. "Lyon saw action in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, spending several months as a prisoner of war and winning special commendation for his performances at the Battles of Coffeeville and Brice’s Crossroads. He ultimately earned the rank of brigadier general." As an independent commander, Lyon also led a raid into western Kentucky in 1864 that was infamous for the many courthouses that he ordered burned.

"After the Civil War, Lyon sought refuge with other ex-Confederates in Mexico, working as a railroad surveyor. He requested and received a presidential pardon and returned to Kentucky by mid-1866. Lyon remained there until his death in 1907, devoting himself to farming and prison reform, as well as serving in the state house of representatives. He was the mayor of Eddyville, Kentucky, when he died in 1907."

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