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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS General Lyon
CSS DeSoto (1861 - 1862)

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Civil War Medal

Two Wheel Sidewheel Steamer:
  • Built as the sidewheel steamer DeSoto in 1860 at New Albany, IN.
  • DeSoto operated out of New Orleans, LA.
  • Taken into service by the Confederate Navy in 1861 as a gunboat
  • Captured at Island No. 10, 7 April 1862
  • Taken into the Union Army as DeSoto
  • Transferred to the Navy, 30 September 1862
  • Commissioned, 24 October 1862, as USS General Lyon, Acting Master John R. Neeld in command
  • USS General Lyon saw service on the Western rivers as an ordnance, stores and dispatch ship for the Mississippi Squadron
  • Decommissioned, 3 August 1865, at Mound City, IL.
  • Sold, 17 August, 1865, to H. L. Lee, re-documented SS Alabama
  • Final Disposition, destroyed by fire at Grand View, LA, 1 April 1867
    Displacement 468 t.
    Length unknown
    Beam unknown
    Draft unknown
    Speed unknown
    Complement unknown
    one 12-pdr rifle
    one 12-pdr Dahlgren howitzer
    Propulsion steam
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    General Lyon 33k

    USS General Lyon was named for Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. He was the first Union general to be killed in the American Civil War and is noted for his actions in the state of Missouri at the beginning of the conflict. Nathaniel Lyon attended the United States Military Academy and graduated 11th out of 52 in 1841. After graduation, Lyon participated in fighting the Seminole Indians in Florida, as well as in the Mexican American War, even though he did not support the conflict. During the war, he received several brevet promotions for gallantry under fire at the battles of Mexico City, Contreras, and Churubusco. He was then sent to posts in California where he participated in several Native American massacres. He was then reassigned to Fort Riley in Kansas, where he began to develop strong support for the Union as a result of the political climate developing in the state, known as “Bleeding Kansas.” In February of 1861, Lyon was made commander of the Union arsenal in St. Louis, Missouri, where tensions grew between the Union soldiers stationed there and the secessionist governor of the state, Claiborne Jackson. When the Civil War broke out, Jackson refused to send volunteers from the state to fight for Abraham Lincoln. Instead, Jackson had the militia muster outside the city to begin training in preparation to join Confederate forces. On May 10, 1861, Lyon and his troops surrounded the pro-Confederate Missouri militia under General D. M. Frost, and forced their surrender. While marching his captured prisoners through St. Louis, many citizens began to riot, and provoked the Camp Jackson Affair, during which Lyon ordered his troops to fire into the rioters. On May 17, 1861, Lyon was promoted to brigadier general and was given command of Union troops in Missouri. Once in command of all Union troops in Missouri, Lyon began to pursue the capture of Governor Claiborne Jackson and the remaining Missouri Militia. On August 10, 1861 the Union forces met a combined force of the Missouri Militia and Confederate troops under the command of Ben McCulloch near Springfield, Missouri, during the battle of Wilson’s Creek. Nathaniel Lyon was killed during the battle while trying to rally his outnumbered soldiers. Although the Confederate forces would win the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Lyon’s efforts prevented the State of Missouri from joining the Confederacy.
    Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
    Bill Gonyo
    General Lyon 123k USS General Lyon, upper deck, forward, during the Civil War, showing her smokestacks and a 12-pounder Dahlgren howitzer on an iron field carriage. Note low wooden railing around the deck edge.
    US Navy History and Heritages Command photo # NH 53866
    Bill Gonyo

    USS General Lyon
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
    Commanding Officers
    01Act Master Neeld, John R.24 October 1862 - 25 December 1862
    02Pilot Birch, Richard E., USN25 December 1862 - 3 August 1865
    Courtesy Bill Gonyo

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    Last Updated 17 January 2017