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Corps of Discovery ~ Private John Shields

Private John Shields (one of the "Nine men from Kentucky") was a highly skilled blacksmith & gunsmith.  Several journal entries from both Captains suggest that he was indeed a professional at his job.

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Private John Shields Continued ...

Born in 1769 in Harrisonburg, Virginia
John Shields at the age of 34 was recruited by Lewis and enlisted on October 19, 1803 becoming the expeditions oldest enlisted member. Shields possessed immaculate blacksmith, gunsmith, huntsmen, and craftsmanship skills, he was also a general mechanic.

The success Shields had with all of these things were astonishing, there are over 70 references in journals made about Shields’ success with hunting and his blacksmith skills.

Captain Clark at Fort Mandan on February 6, 1805: " the blacksmiths take a considerable quantity of corn today in payment for their labour.  the blacksmith's have proved a happy resource to us in our present situation as I believe it would have been difficult to have devised any other method to have procured corn from the natives.  the Indians are extravegantly fond of sheet iron of which they form arrow-points and manufacter into instruments for scraping and dressing their buffaloe robes."

Captain Lewis at the Marias River on June 10, 1805:  "Shields renewed the main-spring of my air-gun we have been much indebted to the ingenuity of this man on many occasions; without having served any regular apprenticeship to any trade, he makes his own tools principally and works extreemly well in either wood or metal, and in this way has been extreemly servicable to us."

Captain Lewis at Fort Clatsop on March 20, 1806: " The guns of Drewyer and Sergt. Pryor ( one of the "Nine men from Kentucky") were both out of order.  the first was repared with a new lock, the old one having become unfit for uce; the second had the cock screw broken which was replaced by a duplicate which had been prepared for the lock at Harpers ferry where she was manufactured. but for the precaution taken in bringing on those extra locks, and parts of locks, in addition to the ingenuity of John Shields, most of our guns would at this moment have been untirely unfit for use; but fortunately for us I have it in my power here to record that they are all in good order."

A year after the expedition, he spent a year with a close relative, Daniel Boone. Shields finally settled in near the Falls of the Ohio in Corydon and it is believed that he was a member of the Squire Boone Party that moved there. He resides in Little Flock Cemetery in Harrison County, having died in November of 1809.

Privates Alexander Willard & William Bratton ( one of the "Nine men from Kentucky") also served as blacksmiths.

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