Joseph Field celebrated Independence Day 1804 by getting bitten
by a snake. Looking back, it's almost fitting.
danger and difficulty arose, Field always seemed to be in the
middle of it, and his brother wasn't far behind. Joseph survived
that July 4 snakebite, but plenty of other adventures awaited
these Kentucky woodsmen, two of the "nine young men from
Kentucky" that William Clark had
selected for Meriwether Lewis' approval.
brothers knew their way around the frontier. Reubin was born in
1772, two years before Joseph, in Virginia. As Clark wrote of
the Field brothers and five others he had chosen for Lewis, these
were "the best young woodsmen & Hunters in this part
of the Countrey."
thought highly of both brothers, especially Joseph Field. When
they did any scouting, Joseph usually was in the party. The captains
trusted him and found him dependable.
|Though the bison
became a familiar site along the Missouri the farther north
the Corps traveled, Pvt. Joseph Field was the first Corps
member to shoot a buffalo.
A month after
his snakebite, Joseph was sent by Lewis on a hunt as they neared
the Great Plains. It was Aug. 23, 1804, when Field came rushing
down a bluff toward the party out on the river. He shouted that
he had killed a buffalo. Field became the first in the party to
kill this great symbol of the Plains during the expedition. Reubin
soon accompanied Capt. Lewis and bagged his own buffalo.
spring, on April 25, Lewis sent Joseph Field alone up the Yellowstone
River to investigate it. Field reported on the river's gentle
current and muddy bottom. A few days later, on March 4, Joseph
again appears in Lewis' journal, this time sick with dysentery
and high fever. Lewis treated him successfully with various frontier
the favor. When the expedition built Fort Clatsop in December
1805, Field made writing desks for Lewis and Clark. On these primitive
desks the captains completed much of their report about their
As the expedition
waited for the snow to melt on the Rockies on their return trip,
Lewis writes of how the men of the Corps played games with the
Nez Perce Indians. Reubin Field and George
Drouillard were the fastest runners, Lewis pointed out.
the return trip east Joseph Field's careless mistake led to the
only Indian deaths on the trip. When Lewis, the Field brothers,
and Drouillard encountered the Piegan Indians, one of the Blackfeet
tribes, the Indians and the Corps members agreed to camp together
the night of July 16, 1806. Early the next morning one of the
Piegans attempted to steal Joseph Field's rifle, which Field had
carelessly laid next to his sleeping brother. The ensuing chase
and confrontation resulted in both Lewis and Reubin Field each
killing a Piegan and the men of the Corps having to flee more
than 100 miles over the next day to elude the Blackfeet.
incident Lewis praised the Field brothers at the end of the mission.
He asked for additional pay for the brothers. In his report he
called them "two of the most active and enterprising young
men who accompanied us. It was their peculiar fate to have been
engaged in all the most dangerous and difficult scenes of the
voyage, in which they uniformly acquited themselves with much
their efforts they each received double pay and 320 acres of land.
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