Charles William Field was born at the family plantation, "Airy Mount," in Woodford County, Kentucky. His parents had immigrated from Virginia, and his father was a friend of Henry Clay. Through the influence of Clay and Andrew Jackson, President James K. Polk appointed Charles as an "at large" cadet to the United States Military Academy. Charles Field graduated 27th of 43 cadets in the Class of 1849 and accepted a commission as a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Dragoons.
He was assigned to frontier duty duty for five years at various posts in New Mexico, Texas, and the Great Plains. In 1855, he was promoted to first lieutenant and assigned to the newly organized 2nd U.S. Cavalry, a regiment under Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston that also included Robert E. Lee and other future Civil War generals. In 1856, Field returned to West Point as Assistant Instructor of Cavalry Tactics. He was promoted to captain in January 1861.
Field performed competently during the Peninsula Campaign, but was severely wounded in the leg at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August. At first, it was feared that the mangled leg would require amputation, but doctors managed to save it. However, it took nearly a year for Field to recuperate, although he never fully recovered. In May 1863, using crutches to move, Field was able to resume limited military duties, serving as Chief of the Bureau of Conscription in the War Department.
|MacLean House at Appomattox Court House|
He worked as a civil engineer from from 1881 through 1888 and then served for a time as superintendent of Hot Springs Reservation (later renamed Hot Springs National Park).
|Hot Springs, Arkansas|