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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Shop > Books Listed by Topic > The Indiana Historian > Lewis & Clark - Indiana Connections > Introducing the "nine young men from Kentucky" and York, Clark's slave Introducing the "nine young men from Kentucky" and York, Clark's slave

The "nine young men" were the first recruits for the permanent party; they departed from Clarksville, Indiana Territory with Lewis, Clark, York and others on October 26, 1803. The information for this chart has been gathered from a variety sources. The citations--and in some cases additional information--are included in the soon to be mounted Web database version of this chart.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

William Bratton

Augusta Co., Va.

7/29/1778--11/11/1841

10/20/03--10/10/06;
35 months, 20 days

$178.33 1/3

Rank: Private. Duties: Blacksmith, hunter. On May 11, 1805, Bratton shoots a bear, but it chases him. He rejoins the Corps; they track and kill the bear and dress it. They render eight gallons of bear's oil and store in kegs. On May 24, 1806, Bratton is unable to walk from the pain in his lower back; he endures a severe Indian sweat treatment administered by John Shields, which cures him almost immediately. In Clark's journal on July 17, 1806, he calls a large creek Brattens Creek, presumably after Bratton. After the expedition, he lives in Kentucky and fights in the War of 1812. He marries Nov. 25, 1819. On Nov. 8, 1822, he enters land in Wayne Township, Montgomery County, Ind.; he holds several public offices there. On Nov. 11, 1841 he dies and is buried in the pioneer cemetery, Waynetown. See also p. 10 of this issue.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

John Colter

Virginia

circa 1775--circa 1813

10/15/03--10/10/06

35 months, 26 days

$179.33 1/3

Rank: Private. Duties: Hunter. On June 18, 1805, Colter is chased by white [grizzly] bear and forced into the Missouri River to escape. In Clark's journal on Oct. 8, 1805, he mentions a creek that is named after John Colter. According to Clark's journal on Aug. 15, 1806, Colter is allowed to leave the party and return up the Missouri River with some trappers. He is given that privilege "as we were disposed to be of service to any one of our party who had performed their duty as well as Colter had done." Colter spends four years as a trapper and is apparently the first white man to see what is now Yellowstone Park. He settles in Mo. and marries; he dies of jaundice in 1813.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

Joseph Field

Virginia

circa 1780--1807

8/1/03--10/10/06

38 months, 10 days

$191.66 2/3

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

Reubin Field

Virginia

circa 1781--early 1823?

8/1/03--10/10/06

38 months, 10 days

$191.66 2/3

Rank: both Privates. Duties: Two of best marksmen and hunters. The trust and confidence Lewis and Clark had in the Field brothers is confirmed in the over 220 references to them in the journals. On July 27, 1806, Joseph, Reubin, Lewis and others are in a skirmish with some Blackfoot Indians; one or two of the Indians are killed. This is the only recorded incident in which members of the expedition take the lives of any humans. Lewis indicates that Joseph and Reubin are "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 acquitted themselves with much honor." How Joseph dies is not clear; he and his brother are in St. Louis in the spring of 1807, his death is confirmed in October 1807, and Clark later indicates that he was "killed." Little is known about Reubin's life after the expedition. He settles in Ky. and marries in 1808.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

Charles Floyd

Jefferson Co., Ky.

1782--8/20/1804

8/1/03--8/20/04

12 months, 20 days

$86.33 1/3

Rank: Sergeant. Duties: Appointed one of three sergeants in command of a squad, Apr. 1, 1804. While Lewis and Clark are in St. Louis in Apr. 1804, he is in charge of their quarters and the supplies. By 1799, Floyd's family moves to Clarksville area; he is appointed first constable of Clarksville Township. He dies from an apparent ruptured appendix near present Sioux City, Iowa, where he is buried. Floyd's River, Iowa bears his name. Lewis commends him as "A young man of much merit. His father, who now resides in Kentucky, is a man much respected, though possessed of but moderate wealth. As the son has lost his life whilst on this service, I consider his father entitled to some gratuity, in consideration of his loss; and also, that the deceased being noticed in this way, will be a tribute but justly due to his merit." Floyd is the only man in the party to die on the expedition.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

George Gibson

Pennsylvania

Unknown--1809

10/19/03--10/10/06

35 months, 21 days

$178.50

Rank: Private. Duties: Expert marksman, hunter, interpreter, fiddle player; in charge of perogue. On July 18, 1806, while mounting his horse after shooting a deer, Gibson falls onto a one-inch diameter tree snag which goes two inches into his thigh. The wound is so painful that Gibson is incapacitated; by July 21, it is beginning to heal with Clark's treatment; on July 25 he is assigned to a mission to the Mandan Indians. Clark names the creek where Gibson is injured, Thy [thigh] Snag'd Creek. It is not clear what happened to Gibson after the expedition. He dies in St. Louis.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

Nathaniel Pryor

Virginia

1772--1831

10/20/03--10/10/06

35 months, 20 days

$278.50

Rank: Sergeant. Duties: Appointed one of three sergeants in command of a squad, Apr. 1, 1804. Like all of the men in the Corps, Pryor does what is asked of him. Journal entries have him paddling canoes, hunting, and whatever else it takes for the survival of the Corps. In Sept. 1807, he leads an unsuccessful expedition to return a Mandan chief to his people. Lewis and Clark "considered him 'a man of character and ability' and after the expedition helped him secure an officer's commission in the army." Pryor stays in the Army until 1810. He then becomes an Indian trader on the Mississippi River and runs a lead-smelting furnace in northern Illinois Territory. He serves in the Army, 1813-1815, and fights at the Battle of New Orleans. He becomes a trader among the Osage Indians on the Arkansas River, marries an Osage woman, and remains with her tribe until his death. The towns of Pryor, Okla. and Mont., and the Pryor Mountains, Mont., bear his name.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

George Shannon

Pennsylvania

1785--1836

10/19/03--10/10/06

35 months, 21 days

$178.50

Rank: Private. Duties: Hunter. On Aug. 26, 1804 in what is now S. Dak., he goes with another man to find lost horses and becomes separated. Sixteen days later on Sept. 11, he is found by the Corps near starvation. He believed he was behind the party but was actually ahead. They name the river, Shannon's River. In Sept. 1807, he is part of Pryor's unsuccessful expedition to return the Mandan chief; in an attack, his leg is injured and has to be amputated. In 1810, at Clark's request, he assists Nicholas Biddle in preparing the history of the expedition. Shannon studies law and is practicing in Lexington by 1815. He is active in politics in Ky. and later in Mo. He serves as U.S. attorney for the District of Missouri, 1830-1834. He dies and is buried in Palmyra, Mo.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

John Shields

Rockingham Co., Va.

1769--1809

10/19/03--10/10/06

35 months, 21 days

$178.50

Rank: Private. Duties: Blacksmith, gunsmith, carpenter, hunter. Lewis notes that he "Has received the pay only of a private. Nothing was more peculiarly useful to us, in various situations, than the skill and ingenuity of this man as an artist, in repairing our guns, accoutrements, &c. and should it be thought proper to allow him something as an artificer, he has well deserved it." On May 11, 1806, Shields cured William Bratton with an Indian sweat treatment. The Shields River, Mont. still bears his name. After the expedition, Shields and Daniel Boone, apparently a kinsman, trap in Mo. for a year. Shields eventually settles in Indiana, near Corydon, where he dies and is buried. Although married, Shields was allowed to go on the expedition despite the "no married men rule." There is some evidence that Clark's brother may have helped Mrs. Shields with food and money during Shields absence.

Name

Birth place

Birth/Death dates

Service

Pay

York

Caroline Co., Va. ?

circa 1772--1820s ?

Went entire trip with no pay

0

York, as Clark's slave, is not assigned a particular role, but he "performed his full share of the duties with other members of the party," including hunting. York is the first African American to cross the U.S. from coast to coast. "Yorks dry river" and Yorks 8 Islands are named after him. York cares for Charles Floyd as they try to save his life in 1804. Indians, who have never seen a black man, are astonished by York. He was Clark's companion from childhood and was inherited by Clark from his father in 1799. After the expedition, York remains Clark's slave until possibly 1816; his relationship with Clark is described in several letters from Clark to his brother. York was married to a slave with a different owner before the expedition; he and Clark have problems after the expedition because York wants to be near his wife in Louisville. In an 1832 interview, Clark says York died of cholera sometime before 1832. Robert B. Betts, In Search of York (2nd ed., 2000) is a biography of York, updated and with an epilogue by Holmberg.