|General Nathaniel Lyon was buried in his hometown of Eastford, Conn., on Sept. 5, 1861.|
No day in Eastford, Conn., has surpassed the late-summer day in 1861 when the body of native son Nathaniel Lyon -- the first Union general to die during the Civil War -- was returned home for burial. "The funeral brought together more people than the town ever saw convened within its limits before," the Hartford Daily Courant reported on Sept. 6, 1861, "or will again for many years to come."
Nearly four weeks earlier, on Aug. 10, 1861, the commander of the Army of the West had died from a bullet wound to the chest at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri. A West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, Lyon was only 43.
Throughout the North, the general was mourned. In St. Louis, where Lyon's remains arrived on Aug. 26, "the whole city seemed buried in the profoundest grief." In Cincinnati, thousands passed by Lyon's body as it lay in state Aug. 29, and in New York, flags were placed at half-mast throughout the city after his remains arrived there.
|Lyon suffered three wounds at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. |
A bullet to the chest proved fatal. (Library of Congress)
"Windham County opened hospitable doors," the Daily Courant reported, "and the extraordinary tax upon the capacity of the community was duly honored. All the guests were well cared for by willing people, with willing hearts."
Atop Lyon's coffin in front of the pulpit lay the general's hat and sword, and flowers were strewn on its lid. A "banner which he had followed so devotedly, and upheld so gloriously," wrote an observer, "threw its graceful fold over the head of the sleeping warrior."
Lyon's casket remained closed, no doubt a wise move given the time elapsed since his death and the treatment of his remains after he was killed. After the battle, doctors tried to preserve the body with injections of arsenic but were apparently unsuccessful. And the news got worse: the Union army twice lost track of Lyon's body, which first was placed in an outdoor cellar and covered with straw on the farm of a staunch Unionist. Later, the woman had the remains buried on another part of her property. Thankfully, the Union army eventually took custody of the body.
For the 2 1/2--mile journey from the Congregational Church to old Phoenixville Cemetery, Lyon's body was placed in a hearse trimmed with American flags and built by noted Hartford undertaker William Roberts. The cemetery grounds formed a "perfect amphitheater," a witness wrote, for a crowd estimated at up to 15,000 people. Pall bearers that afternoon were Connecticut Gov. William Buckingham, Rhode Island Gov. William Sprague and two generals. A three-volley salute was fired by the Hartford City Guards and Lyon was lowered into a grave in the family plot.
"When the last echoes of the musketry over Lyon's grave rattled through the ravines of Windham County," the Daily Courant reported, "there was not one of all the throng who did not leave the sacred place with a sadder, even if not a better and more patriotic heart."
(See below for the complete account of Lyon's funeral in the Hartford Daily Courant on Sept. 6, 1861.)
|An illustration in Frank Leslie's Illustrated, a popular Civil War newspaper, depicts |
Lyon's wounding at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on Aug. 10, 1861. Lyon is on horseback.
Hartford Courant, Sept. 6, 1861
The escort accompanying the body of Gen. Lyon left Hartford, by special train, at 12 1/2 o'clock Wednesday noon. In addition to the special escort detailed from the Army in Missouri, and the friends of Gen. Lyon, which we mentioned Tuesday, there were present at this time the Hartford City Guard, Capt. Prentice, with 60 men, and Colt's Armory Band; the Hartford Light Guard, Lieut. Kipplin, with 40 men; Col. Burnham, of the First Regiment Connecticut Volunteers; Capts. Gore and Durivage, and Lieut. Merrills, of the Second.
The train arrived in due season at Willimantic, and found the people gathered there by thousands. All the buildings in the vicinity of the depot were covered, and every balcony and windows filled with people. The flags were dressed in mourning and drooped at half-mast, and the bells of the village were tolled. The procession started at 3 1/2 o'clock for Eastford, which was reached in about four hours.
From the time the body left Hartford, to the hour when it was deposited in the Congregational Church in Eastford, all classes and conditions of people paid it, in sundry ways, some token of respect.
|A service for Lyon was held at the Eastford Congregational Church|
on Sept. 5, 1861. Thousands gathered here to pay their respects to the general.
Windham County opened hospitable doors, and the extraordinary tax upon the capacity of the community was duly honored. All the guests were well cared for by willing people, with willing hearts.
Thursday was bright and cool, a beautiful day being promised -- a promise which was fulfilled subsequently. Soon after sunrise the people of the County came flocking in, and a continual stream of carriages continued for hours. The churches and some of the other buildings of the town were covered with black. A booth for the speakers and invited guests was erected on the slope east of the Congregational Church, and in front of and around this the thousands gathered. Col. Sabin came in with a company of one hundred horsemen from Woodstock. The Tiger Engine Company, of Southbridge, preceded by a band, and the Home Guard, of the same place, were among the organizations present. Among the guests were Gov. Buckingham, Adjt.-Gen. Williams, Senator Foster, Hon. A.A. Burnham, M.C. from the Third District; Major-Gen. Pratt, Mayor Deming and Postmaster Cleveland, of Hartford; Major Warner and Lieut. Holcomb, of the Third Connecticut Regiment, and Lieut.-Col. Young, of the Second, from Connecticut; Gov. Sprague and Staff, Col. Gardiner, Col. Frieze, Col. Harris, Col. Sprague, Col. Knight and Attorney-General Burges, from Rhode Island; Adjt.-Gen. Schouler and Lieut.-Col. Witherell, of Gov. Andrew's Staff, from Massachusetts; Hon. Richard Busteed, of New-York; Hon. Galusa A. Grow, of Pennsylvania; Col. Casey, of the U.S. Army, and Paymaster Adams, of the U.S. Navy; Lieut. J.B. Dunlap, Thirty-eighth New-York Regiment; Hon. J.B. Colt, of Missouri.
The choir sang the hymn, "Hark from the tombs a mournful sound."
|A West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, Lyon|
was 43 when he died at Wilson's Creek.
Hon. Galusha A. Grow followed. He eulogized Gen. Lyon as a true patriot and brave man.
In a similar strain, Gov. Buckingham, Gov. Sprague, and Judge Colt, of St. Louis, spoke. Remarks were also made by Capt. Edgar, Maj. Conant, and others of the Army in Missouri, and by Messrs. Deming, Busteed, Schouler, and Senator Foster. After the speeches, the exercises of the forenoon were finished. The military and guests were marched to a grove and collated.
In the afternoon, the line was formed and marched to the grove. The body was conveyed in the splendid hearse of Roberts, of this city. The vehicle was decorated with silver trappings, trimmed with American flags, surmounted by plumes, and drawn by four black horses. By its side walked the citizens who came with the body from St. Louis, and whose mission was now coming to a close, and the honorary bearers designated by Ex-Gov. Cleveland, consisting of Gov. Buckingham, Gov. Sprague, Gen. Pratt, and Gen. Casey. As the procession neared the grove, the detachment of the City Guard fired a National salute from a high hill near at hand.
After arrival at the grave, the Episcopal burial service was read by Rev. C.C. Adams, the Methodist Clergyman of Eastford. The body was lowered into the earth, the City Guard fired three volleys over the place, and the vast assembly dispersed.
Gen. Lyon was literally buried with his fathers in the family burial-ground, in the town of Eastford, near the Ashford line. The funeral brought together more people than the town ever saw convened within its limits before, or will again for many years to come. The estimation in which Lyon was held by all patriot people, amounting almost to idolization, was shown by the multitude who gathered to pay this last tribute of respect and affection to his remains. It is estimated that 15,000 were present; and when the last echoes of the musketry over Lyon's grave rattled through the ravines of Windham County, there was not one of all the throng who did not leave the sacred place with a sadder, even if not a better and more patriotic heart.
|The date the monument was placed in old Phoenixville Cemetery is unknown.|
|When he was shot at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Lyon was on horseback, leading Iowa troops.|
This is a close-up of the front of the memorial.
|Another close-up of the front of Nathaniel Lyon's memorial in Eastford, Conn.|
|Crossed swords and cannons and a shield on the front of Lyon's monument.|
|General Lyon Cemetery was formerly known as Phoenixville Cemetery.|