Hume R. Feild Not Field

Anyone who reads and writes about the Army of Tennessee will inevitably come across two names. One is Sam Watkins, who served with the 1st Tennessee from Shiloh to the end. The other is the commander of Watkins’ regiment, who led it in nearly every battle from Shiloh to Franklin and then commanded a brigade at Nashville and Bentonville. Watkins himself left his high opinion of this man in Company Aytch:

“Colonel Field was born a soldier. I have read many descriptions of Stonewall Jackson. Colonel Field was his exact counterpart. They looked somewhat alike, spoke alike, and alike were trained military soldiers. The War Department at Richmond made a grand mistake in not making him a “commander of armies.” He was not a brilliant man; could not talk at all. He was a soldier. His conversation was yea and nay. But when you could get ‘yes, sir,’ and ‘no, sir,’ out of him his voice was as soft and gentle as a maid’s when she says ‘yes’ to her lover. Fancy, if you please, a man about thirty years old, a dark skin, made swarthy by exposure to sun and rain, very black eyes that seemed to blaze with a gentle luster. I never saw him the least excited in my life. His face was a face of bronze. His form was somewhat slender, but when you looked at him you saw at the first glance that this would be a dangerous man in a ground skuffle, a foot race, or a fight. There was nothing repulsive or forbidding or even domineering in his looks. A child or a dog would make up with him on first sight. He knew not what fear was, or the meaning of the word fear. He had no nerves, or rather, has a rock or tree any nerves? You might as well try to shake the nerves of a rock or tree as those of Colonel Field. He was the bravest man, I think, I ever knew. Later in the war he was known by every soldier in the army; and the First Tennessee Regiment, by his manipulations, became the regiment to occupy ‘tight places.’ He knew his men. When he struck the Yankee line they felt the blow. He had, himself, set the example, and so trained his regiment that all the armies in the world could not whip it. They might kill every man in it, is true, but they would die game to the last man. His men all loved him. He was no disciplinarian, but made his regiment what it was by his own example. And every day on the march you would see some poor old ragged rebel riding his fine gray mare, and he was walking.”

Sam Watkins

Watkins left the man a high testimonial, but he did make one major mistake. His name was spelled Hume R. Feild not Field. I was recently told this and shown a picture his grave, where it is written in bold letters. As a cemetery tour guide,  I know a name being misspelled on a grave is not uncommon, but looking at his report from Chickamauga his name is spelled Feild.

Feild’s Grave

Nearly every book where Feild appears his name is misspelled. Hopefully this post will change this minor error for anyone who stumbles upon it. Much of this error persisting is now no doubt due to autocorrect, which often will change the name.

Lastly, we are indebted to Watkins despite his mistake. Little is known of Feild. Before the war he was a druggist who graduated from the Kentucky Military Institute. He assumed command of the 1st Tennessee at Shiloh, when George Maney took command of the brigade. Maney to his credit did not misspell Feild’s  name in his report. Feild made colonel on May 1, 1862 but never rose higher. He might have achieved brigade command in July 1864, but he was wounded at Kennesaw Mountain. Not until John C. Carter was mortally wounded at Franklin, did Feild assume brigade command, but only when all was lost. Still, he lived long after the war, dying of a cerebral hemorrhage on June 17, 1921. Watkins may have done his commander a wrong, but he also left him a tribute, one of the few descriptions we have of the man.

Hume R. Feild

2 Responses to Hume R. Feild Not Field

  1. Excellent Article. Sam Watkin’s book is one of my favorite reads. I just learned a little more about him and his commander.

    My ancestors were also in the Army of Tennessee and like Sam and Col. Feild survived the conflict.

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