The Tennessee State Guard, as the original militia of the state, was actually formed during the Revolutionary War.
The unit traces its roots to the Battle of Kings Mountain, North Carolina, during the War for Independence. Some four hundred volunteers crossed the mountain to fight the British. The volunteer force was so effective and wreaked such havoc on the British troops, Colonel Patrick Ferguson, under Cornwalis, made the threat that if the Tennesseeans did not desist from their opposition to the King, he would "march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword!"
This threat was met with an additional 1,000 volunteers, who turned the tide at Kings Mountain and sent Cornwallis back to the Chesapeake. In just over one hour, the volunteers without benefit of orders, formal military training, uniforms, provisions or even promise of pay, totally decimated the highly-skilled British troops. Every last Red Coat was either dead or captured, the dead including Col. Ferguson.
During the War of 1812 volunteers from Tennessee once again answered the call of service by serving with the State Militias until their General Andrew Jackson was asked to take charge of all Federal forces in an effort to stop the British from taking New Orleans. During the Battle of Horseshoe Bend the Tennesseeans earned a great victory over the "Red Stick" group of renegade indians that had been terrorizing the frontier. Following this they followed "Gen'l Andy" to New Orleans where they defeated the British in a decisive victory.
A small band of volunteers from Tennessee jumped into the fray to assist Texas in gaining their independence from Mexico. Col. David Crockett and several volunteers traveled the long journey only to end up at a little mission in San Antonio, Texas better known as The Alamo. After several days of delaying the Mexican Army to protect and allow a fellow Tennesseean - Sam Houston - to reorganize the Army of the Republic of Texas, they were all killed
The title "Volunteer State" was forever formalized during the Mexican War in the late 1840s when native Tennesseean, President James K, Polk, requested the state to provide one regiment of cavalry and two of infantry ... ten times that many volunteered.
Although split by regional differences, the spirit of volunteerism continued throughout the War Between the States. Tennessee was the location of the second most number of battles and conflicts of the war. Three regiments of State Guardsmen were the first to answer the call of the Confederacy to defend Virginia.
The War Between the States
The 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
Is Organized In Shelby County – 1861
As the United States of America approached its 85th birthday in 1861, forces were being drawn together that would eventually tear the country apart. A war between the states was about to erupt under the leadership of the federal government. It would be called a Civil War. War it was. Civil it was not.
On May 15, 1861, the 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment was organized in and around Shelby County in west Tennessee and became part of the Provisional Army of Tennessee.
In August of that year the 4th was transferred to Confederate service and defended the Southern cause until April 26, 1865 when the 4th Tennessee, barely able to muster enough men to fill half of a regular infantry company, finally surrendered. Paroled on May 1, 1865, the remaining men of the 4th Tennessee began their long, lonely and sad walk to their homes and farms.
They carried their rucks, meager rations, hunting rifles – which the Union forces allowed so they could feed their families once they returned home – and the occasional horse. Although probably none carried all of the above items, they all carried the fullness of pride and honor for having proven their courage and bravery on the fields of battle from Shiloh to Nashville, Corinth to Chickamauga.
Even though weary from years of walking, starving, fighting and dying, the citizen soldiers of the 4th Tennessee carried their heads high knowing they had done all that was asked of them – and more – and left only respect in the hearts of their victors.
During their service with the Confederacy the 4th Tennessee served under Generals Hood, Johnston, Stewart, Forest and other Division Commanders, all under the command of General of the Army of the Confederate States of America, General Robert E. Lee.
Baptism of Fire - The Battle of Shiloh – 1862
The 4th Tennessee, under the command of Colonel Rufus Neely, joined a brigade that included the 12th Louisiana and marched to Columbus Kentucky, joining Major General John McCowan's Division.
After wintering there and at New Madrid, Missouri, the 4th was ordered to Corinth, Mississippi, arriving on 2 April 1862 with 512 men present for action.
Four days later the 4th Tennessee got its baptism of fire as Confederate and Union forces met at Shiloh.
Assigned to BGN Charles Clark's division and BGN Alexander Stewart's Brigade, the 4th was joined by 13th Arkansas, 5th and 33rd Tennessee Regiments and a Mississippi artillery battery.
On the extreme right of the Confederate line, the 4th held its ground throughout the battle and was commended for valiant action in storming and capturing a Federal battery. The cost, however, was high as 191 men were killed or wounded in the charge.
Overall, in two days of battle the 4th Tennessee lost almost half its effective force.
Following Shiloh the 4th was moved to Corinth, Mississippi.
Corinth to Kentucky to Tennessee – 1862
The 4th Tennessee Regiment was reorganized after the Battle of Shiloh, with Otho French Strahl as colonel. With the Army, it went through the siege of Corinth , the withdrawal to Tupelo, and the subsequent move to Chattanooga, via Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama.
On 17 August 1862, the march to Kentucky was begun. Colonel Strahl marched the 4th Tennessee through Sparta, Pikeville and Gainesboro, Tennessee, to Munfordville, Kentucky, which was captured on 19 September 1862.
In this campaign the entire brigade had been reinforced with the addition of the 24th and 31st Tennessee Infantry Regiments.
There followed the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, on 18 October 1862, in which the 4th Tennessee suffered 85 casualties, nearly half the total loss of the engaged regiments.
Having to fall back from the field of battle, the 4th Tennessee joined the brigade as it headed for Murfreesboro by a long and circuitous route through Knoxville to Bridgeport, Alabama, then north through Tullahoma to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
With so many of the regiment dead or wounded, the brigade had to reconstitute the fighting force under its command before the next battle. This would happen at Murfreesboro.
The Battle of Murfreesboro – 1862-63
At Murfreesboro, Tennessee, both the 4th and 5th Tennessee Regiments had become seriously understrength due to combat losses. The two regiments were therefore consolidated for field purposes into the combined 4th/5th Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment. All muster roles and other paperwork were kept separate until April of 1864, after which the combined units were mustered as one. The 4th Tennessee was down to 5 companies.
Despite the incredible losses in previous combat, especially Shiloh, as well as the loss of the non-ambulatory wounded due to the long trek from Corinth to Murfreesboro, the 4th/5th took on the assignment of holding the right wing of BG Alexander Stewart's Brigade at the Battle of Murfreesboro.
The regiment withstood the Federal charges, turned the Federal line and captured a Federal artillery position.
While casualty lists from this campaign are not available, it is believed that the 4th/5th did not lose a man in the battle.
The Battle of Chickamauga – 1863
There is no battle name that stirs the soul of a Southeast Tennessean more than The Battle of Chickamauga. The 4th Tennessee was there.
Assigned to GEN Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's Division – a part of GEN Polk's Corps – the 4th/5th Tennessee, along with the 19th, 24th, 31st and 33rd Tennessee regiments, fought in the Chickamauga campaign on 19 and 20 September 1863. The brigade was commanded by BG Strahl and COL Jonathan Lamb of the 5th commanded the regiment.
On 26 September 1863 the regiment joined GEN John Breckenridge's Corps for the Battle of Missionary Ridge when it held the Confederate line until the corps could fall back after both flanks had been turned.
The regiment had been forced back to the summit, but held its ground, until the corps could disengage and begin the march to winter quarters in Dalton, Georgia.
Defense of Dalton and Siege of Atlanta – 1864
The 4th/5th Tennessee Regiment, along with Strahl's Brigade, as it was now known, covered the Corps withdrawal to Dalton where it went into winter camp until 7 May 1864.
From then on the regiment was under fire for 60 of the next 71 days, almost constantly fighting in the campaign from Dalton to Atlanta, and eventually to Jonesboro, Georgia.
During this time the 4th/5th Tennessee left its mark on such battles as Dug Gap, Mill Creek Gap, Resaca, Ellsbury Mountain, Kennessaw Mountain – where the 4th/5th was in the infamous "Dead Angle" of Yankees to their front, cliffs to their back and artillery overhead –, the siege of Atlanta and the Battle of Jonesboro.
The 24th Tennessee Infantry Regiment by this time had ceased to exist and was removed from the active roles of the Brigade, Corps and Army. The remaining regiments weren't much better off.
As 1864 was drawing to a close surely the men of the 4th/5th knew the cause was all but lost.
But they held their heads high and began the long march to Tennessee – to cut the Union lines feeding Sherman's Army.
Battles of Spring Hill and Franklin – 1864
From Jonesboro the regiment marched back to Tennessee with General John Bell Hood. In October. It had reached the Tennessee River where it fought again.
On 29 November 1864 the badly mauled 4th/5th Tennessee fought in the Battle of Spring Hill. On 31 November 1864 they mustered their meager numbers and took it to the Federals at the Battle of Franklin.
It was in this battle that the 4th/5th Tennessee Regiment planted its colors upon the main Federal works, but at a terrible cost.
In this charge to take the battlement, brigade commander Brigadier General Otho F. Strahl was killed. A great loss to the 4th.
At Nashville on 15 December 1864, they joined GEN Nathan Bedford Forrest's Cavalry Corps to cover the retreat to the Tennessee River. The 4th/5th crossed last.
The Final Walk Home – 1865
Once across the river the army marched to a place the 4th/5th had seen before, Corinth, Mississippi. On 5 January 1865 COL Lamb allowed the regiment a 30 day furlough. His peers told him he would never see his regiment again.
When the regiment assembled at West Point 30 days later, it assembled almost to a man. They then marched to Bentonville, North Carolina where they joined General Joe Johnston's Army for the Battle of Bentonville.
On 9 April 1865, the 4th, 5th, 19th, 24th, 31st, 33rd, 35th, 38th, 41st Tennessee Regiments and a few men from the 22nd Tennessee Infantry Battalion formed the 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment, under the command of Colonel James D. Tillman.
Following the events at Appomattox, Virginia, the unit surrendered on 26 April 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina. On 1 May 1865 what remained of the 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment began the long walk back to what was left of their homes, farms, family and friends.
4th Tennessee: 1865 – Today
Following the Civil War, the 4th Tennessee Infantry Regiment was disbanded with all other Confederate States of America military units.
During the Spanish American War of 1898 the state was once again called upon for volunteers. Four Regiments from Tennessee were mustered into service and was the only state unit in the nation to stay on and serve during the Phillipine Insurrection. They served so valiantly that thirty years later, Army Chief of Staff Summerall reminisced that, "I can say deliberately that the Tennessee Battalion of the 37th U.S. Infantry Regiment [were] the best soldiers I have ever known, and it is an honor to have been associated with them."
The honor of volunteering was repeated during the World War. Seven Regiments of State Troops were mustered into service forming the nucleus of the 30th Infantry Division. More Medal of Honor awards were made to the men of the 30th than any other unit during WWI. One Medal of Honor recipient was the most decorated enlisted man of the war ... Tennessee's Alvin C. York, who in later years would command a Brigade of the Tennessee State Guard earning the rank of Colonel. The 30th Division was called on for duty in February, 1941. It subsequently took part in the invasion of Normandy. The 30th spearheaded the breakthrough at St. Lo and was one of the first divisions to break through the Seigfried Line, and at Avranches it held off five German divisions. They gave the German's such a mauling at the Battle of the Bulge, that the German High Command named them "Roosevelt's Shock Troops." This unit's nickname "Old Hickory Division" continues today through the Second Infantry Regiment of the Tennessee State Guard's "Old Hickory Brigade." During WWII the National Guard was federalized and the Tennessee State Guard was organized asa replacement military force in 1941. The State Guard assisted local authorities in securing Dams, railways and other vital installations during the war. The very law that created them also deactivated them in 1947.
With ever-increasing federalization of National Guards across the America, many Governors and State Legislatures realized that in the event of a national emergency that the troops who provided local service would be withdrawn from their command. Thus, in 1985 the Tennessee Defense Force was formed to provide a trained and organized military reserve force under the control of the Governor and would provide service to the state when the National Guard was under Federal control or otherwise on a mission for the Governor and unable to perform certain duties to meet the needs of the people.
In 1998 the Tennessee General Assembly changed the name to the Tennessee State Guard.
The TNSG experienced a surge in enlistments following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Veterans anxious to "get back into the game" as well as non-prior service members who wanted to make a difference in protecting the homeland joined our ranks. With more personnel and a renewed spirit, the Tennessee State Guard was revitalized in 2002. Long-dormant units were re-activated, more attention was paid to equipment and training.
State Guard units were pressed into service providing logistical support during the activation and deployment of National Guard units in the early days of the War on Terror. With so many National Guard troops out of state, TNSG units trained to provide funeral honors details for fallen soldiers and veterans. During the years of 2003 and 2004, State Guard units provided the final farewell for more than 1,000 service members.
In 2005, the TNSG was activated by Governor Phil Bredesen to assist in the relocation and housing of many hundreds of evacuees from Hurriane Katrina. With professionalism and compassion, members of the State Guard provided shelter, food, clothing and even job assistance to displaced Louisianians.
In 2008, the Tennessee State Guard wass included as a full partner in Operation Vigilant Guard, a disaster drill involving military and civilian agencies from across Tennessee and surrounding states. Based on the hypothetical scenario of a major earthquake epicentered near Reelfoot lake in the northwest corner of the state, State Guard soldiers worked side-by-side with TEMA and TNARNG counterparts in a seamless display of force multiplication.
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