One of the great adventures of early American national history is the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which began in 1803. There is a close tie between the Corps of Discovery and the 8th Virginia: William Clark was the youngest brother of Captain Jonathan Clark. Middle brother John Clark was a 2nd lieutenant in Robert Higgins’ company. (Another brother was Gen. George Rodgers Clark, famous for leading the Virginia’s Illinois Regiment in the Northwest.)
There seems to be another connection, as well. Among the first recruits for the Corps of Discovery were privates Reuben and Joseph Field. They signed up in Kentucky (where the entire extended Clark family now lived) but were—according to various sources—born in Culpeper County, Virginia. Meriwether Lewis said the brothers were “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 honor.”
Three decades earlier, five men with the same last name enlisted in Capt. George Slaughter’s Culpeper County company of the 8th Virginia: Abraham, Henry, William, Larkin, and Reuben. This Reuben Field cannot be the Reuben Field from the Corps of Discovery, but there is every reason to believe they were closely related—perhaps first cousins or an uncle and a nephew. Genealogies posted on the internet show a large extended family that frequently used certain given names—Abraham, William, Reuben, Henry, and others—in many generations and collateral lines. They are consequently difficult to navigate.
Captain Slaughter was himself married to Mary Ann Field, the daughter of Culpeper County’s Col. John Field (who fought at Braddock’s Defeat and died at the Battle of Point Pleasant). Mary Ann’s mother mother is identified as Anna Rogers Clark, who has been erroneously identified as the sister of the regiment’s Jonathan and John. Another genealogy seems to indicate that she was the aunt of the Corps of Discovery’s Reuben and Joseph. Colonial Virginia was a small place, genealogically speaking. It is entirely possible that Mary Ann was related to the famous Clarks.
The 8th Virginia's Reuben appears to be the son of William Feld and Hanna Roberts Field. Genealogists state Reuben’s birth date as November 11, 1757 and the month of his death as April, 1815. This aligns with Virginia veterans records. This Reuben had a unique career in the war. He enlisted as a private early in 1776 but soon managed to get appointed as a cadet (an officer in training), still with the 8th Virginia. He was commissioned an ensign in March of 1777 and was a lieutenant by the Battle of Germantown, where he was captured. He was later exchanged, promoted to captain, and served nearly to the end of the war.
Abraham Field was among the many 8th Virginia men to succumb to malaria during their southern campaign of 1776. He died on August 6 of that year. The same Virginia records indicate that he was Reuben’s elder brother. The 8th Virginia’s Henry Field, the original 1st lieutenant of Slaughter’s company, also contracted malaria. He went home on an extended furlough and died in 1778, probably from complications caused by malaria. He, however, does not appear to be our Reuben’s brother (though our Reuben had a brother of the same name). Almost certainly a cousin.
This is all very confusing. Obvious errors in online genealogies confuse the matter further. I have made a point of avoiding genealogical investigations in this project, leaving that to the descendants of the men. Family relationships, however, were a major factor in the life of the 8th Virginia. Officers were given recruitment quotas in 1776 and looked first to those closest to them. Those who were not related before the war became related, in many instances, in the years after it.
If anyone knows of an authoritative genealogy of the Fields family and can help connect the five soldiers of the 8th Virginia with the two brothers of the Corps of Discovery, I will be very grateful.
Read More: "George Slaughter: Louisville's Forgotten Founder."
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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