Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hyland B. Lyon Burned Kentucky Courthouses

Copyright by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
May not be copied without written consent

Hyland Benton Lyon was born 22 February 1836 in the part of Caldwell County, Kentucky that later became Lyon County. He was a member of an influential family in western Kentucky, his grandfather being Matthew Lyon, pioneer settler from Vermont to  Western Kentucky.

After attending college, H.B. Lyon enrolled in the United States Military Academy and  became a career officer.  However, he resigned  his office in the U.S. Army when the Civil War broke out as he did not want to fight against the South. He raised Company F., 3rd Kentucky Infantry (CSA) and, in January 1862, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel of the 8th Kentucky Infantry.

Lyon saw action during the War and was a prisoner of war for several months. However, he is best known for his raid into  Kentucky during December 1864. It is said the raid was made to enforce the CSA draft law and to divert United States troops from Nashville.  It is also said he ordered the courthouses burned because they had all housed Federal troops. Whatever the reason, his troops burned seven courthouses within less than one month's time. No records were lost in the fires, except in Taylor County.

The following courthouse were burned:  Christian County (12 December), Trigg County (13 December), Caldwell County (15 December), Hopkins County (17 December), Ohio County (20 December), Taylor County (25 December) and Cumberland County (3 January 1865).

In all, 22 Kentucky courthouses were burned during the Civil War - 12 by Confederates, eight by guerrillas and two by Union accidents.

After the War, Lyon spent a year in Mexico before returning to Lyon County, where he died 25 April 1907. He is buried in Eddyville Cemetery, Lyon County.



Genevieve said...

I will never believe that he didn't derive some sort of malicious pleasure in setting them afire. Destroying the public infrastructure was certainly not in the best interests of the counties -- but that's war, I guess.

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

I have heard a couple of stories about H.B. Lyon. One is from a gentleman now deceased. He said his father had told him that when Lyon had returned to Lyon County after the war, some people would turn the other way if they met Lyon on the streeet. The other story is from a much younger person who find said Lyon had no choice but to burn the courthouses as the Union forces had "desecrated" them by camping there. It's interesting that the courthouse in Lyon County, where H.B. Lyon lived, was not burned.