A Special Name in the 1st Tennessee

The 1st Tennessee has special place in our minds because it’s our namesake.  I was reading through the 1890’s Confederate Veteran articles at the Williamson County Archives when I came across an article by a man describing the 1st Tennessee that was currently fighting, in 1899, in the Philippines and carrying on the legacy of the 1st Tennessee.  After some research I wrote a history of the regiment.

War of 1812

            The 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry began with a short start on December 10, 1812 when the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry was mustered in under the command of Colonel William Hall and General Andrew Jackson in Nashville, TN.  The regiment began its career with 620 men.  The men were comprised from the areas of Sumner, Davidson, Giles, Lincoln, Montgomery, Overton, Rutherford, Smith, and Wilson Counties.  The Captains being William Alexander, Abraham Bledsoe, William Carroll, Harry L. Douglass, James Hamilton, John Kennedy, Brice Martin, John Moore, Travis Nash, Henry M. Newlin, John Wallace.  Each company was assigned a fife and drummer. There were two rifle companies (Captains Bledsoe and Kennedy) which had buglers instead of the fife and drummer.  After a short period of training the regiment was sent on an expedition to Natchez, MS in January 1813. 

            They traveled on a flotilla down the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi River to Natchez, MS a riverside port town.  They arrived in Mid-February and camped around the town for several weeks.  In March, the Secretary of War at the time, informed Andrew Jackson that his services were no longer needed.  So, Jackson decided to march the expeditionary forces back to Tennessee, reaching it in April 1813.  On the way to Tennessee, Jackson’s attitude and drive to get to where he was going earned him the nickname “Old Hickory.”  Jackson disbanded the regiment the same month in Columbia, TN.  The 1st Tennessee ended its first war after only five months.  Many of the men enlisted in other regiments to fight in the Creek Wars in latter 1813, but they would be in other units besides the 1st Tennessee. 

Mexican War

            A newspaper proclaimed in 1846 that it was impossible for a man to buy a place in the ranks.  So many men from Tennessee volunteered that the state could not afford to outfit them all.  The Government requested 2,800 be sent from the state and 30,000 volunteered.  The 1st Tennessee was again formed on May 26, 1846 with twelve companies and 1,050 men.  By June 3rd every position had been filled.  Included in the regiment were at least two soon to be accomplished officers.  Lieutenant Colonel Samuel R. Anderson was second in command of the regiment.  In 1861 he would be assigned the command of the Tennessee Brigade that was sent to Virginia (which the 1st Tennessee (Maney’s) was originally assigned to).  Another even more prominent officer was the Captain of Company E of the regiment, Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, future Major General in the Confederate army.  On June 3, Nashville’s female academy presented the regiment with its “Eagle Blue Banner,” which is the standard U.S. infantry battle flag of this war and the Civil War.

Officers of the Regiment  
Colonel William B. Campbell  
Lt. Colonel Samuel R. Anderson  
Major William B. Campbell  
A-Whitfield H-Frierson
B-Mouldin I-Foster
C-McMurry K-Allen
D-Northcut L-Foster
E-Cheatham M-Nixon

            The next day, June 4, the regiment was sent by steamboat down the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.  Within a week of their arrival to the City, they were the honor guard for General Gaines at the St. Charles Hotel.  Their temporary quarters were in a guarded warehouse.  However, the men found ways out, some would put on spare officer uniforms to leave the building.  On June 17 the regiment was crammed into three small boats for Brazos on Santiago Island.  On June 23, the boat anchored two miles off the coast, and slowly the regiment was rowed ashore.  A storm came in later that day and transportation stopped.  On June 30 every soldier in the 1st Tennessee was safely ashore.  They had started from inland Tennessee and made it to Mexico in one month and four days. 

Lt. Colonel Samuel R. Anderson

1st Lieutenant Thomas Whitfield Collier:  Company I (1823-1873)


Both pictures were obtained from this webpage:  http://www.mexicanwarsoldiers.freewebspace.com/

Not long after arriving disease swept through the camps and discharges and deaths began to accumulate.  Most of their time was spent drilling, but relief came in September when Taylor moved the army deeper into Mexican territory.  On September 21, 1846 the 1st Tennessee got its baptism of fire and a new nickname.

            The regiment was assigned to Quitman’s Brigade.  House to house fighting had been raging through the streets of Monterey all morning as they marched towards the sound of the fighting booming in the distance.  That afternoon a small group of Americans had positioned themselves on the rooftops so they could fire at Fort Diablo on the eastern area of the city.  Taylor ordered Quitman’s brigade alone to swing to the eastern edge of town and take Fort Diablo.  With the 1st Tennessee out front, the brigade formed up for assault.  They advanced over open ground in front of the Fort.  When they were three-quarters of a mile out from the fort’s walls they came under artillery fire.  Lieutenant George Nixon of Company M recalls one cannonball taking down Captain Allen of Co. K and six other men from the regiment.  The order to charge is given and anonymous soldier from the regiment (his diary survives but his name does not) remembers they went in with bayonet’s fixed and screaming at the top of their lungs.  Captain Cheatham runs ahead of his men, as he nears the fort a bullet grazes his back and he falls to his knees.  Just then a cannonball strikes the ground in front of him and bounces over his head.  He rose back to his feet and is the first man to reach the fort’s walls.  Further down the line Lieutenant Nixon finally makes his way over the walls and finds the Mexican Soldiers fleeing except in one place where a Mexican Artilleryman refuses to budge.  Before the Artilleryman can fire or cause any sort of damage, Nixon draws his pistol and shoots the man down.  So much lead is fired in the assault the anonymous soldier has bullet holes in his cap and jacket.  Major Richard Alexander is severely wounded in the assault. 


Fighting in the streets of Monterey

Quitman's Brigade (which the 1st Tennessee was assigned) is on the right side of the map.

            The assault succeeds and the Mexican right flank is successfully turned.  The Mexican soldiers nearby begin firing on the Americans in the fort.  The 1st Tennessee’s flag is hoisted over the walls.  Jefferson Davis’s (later C.S.A. President) Mississippi regiment, who had originally formed up behind the 1st Tennessee, would later claim they had reached the walls first but there is not much evidence to support this.  There were 394 total American causalities in the few days of fighting it took to clear the town.  The 1st Tennessee suffered 25 killed and 89 wounded, a quarter of all the causalities, and they were dubbed the “Bloody First”. 

Afterwards, they were transferred to the army under Winfield Scott and boarded a fleet of ships destined for the shores of Vera Cruz, a port city close to Mexico City.  On March 9, 1847, the 1st Tennessee was loaded onto rowboats and sailed in the second wave, under General Pillow (future commander at Fort Donelson) to strike the beaches south of the city.  They sailed in under fire and hit the beach among exploding shells.  Quickly clearing the beach, they moved inland and within a few days the Americans had the town surrounded. 

Captain Cheatham with Company E managed to storm and secure a bridge outside of town before the Mexicans could destroy it.  Then fought off several counter attacks afterwards.  The town surrendered a few weeks later and the march to Mexico City resumed.  The regiment’s final battle would occur six months before the city fell.  At Cerro Gordo they fought in minor skirmishing.  The Regiment was not involved in the major assault during the battle.

            On May 3, 1847, they marched back to Vera Cruz and sailed back to Texas.  The regiment was discharged in Tennessee the same month.  Captain Cheatham was promoted to Colonel and recruited the 3rd Tennessee to go to Mexico.  He would be present for the fall of Mexico City. 

Civil War

            During the Civil War three 1st Tennessee Regiments would spring up.  Two Confederate and one Federal.  The two Confederate regiments are identified by their colonels.  Turney’s 1st Tennessee was formed before Maney’s and went to Richmond and also went by the name of the 1st Confederate Infantry since Tennessee had not seceded from the Union at the time.  This may be the reason there were two 1st Tennessee’s.  Both regiments went to Virginia, Maney’s eventually came back to the Western theater. 

1st Tennessee Infantry (Maney’s) was recruited out of Middle Tennessee from Davidson, Williamson, Giles, Maury, and Rutherford Counties.  To summarize they fought in the Cheat Mountain Campaign (Lee’s first of the Civil War), Jackson’s Romney Campaign (one of the only regiments to be mentioned by name in his report), the left wing fought at Shiloh, Perryville (only regiment to penetrate Starkweather’s Hill), Lavergne, Stones River (attacked the Brick Kiln), Tullahoma Campaign (last unit to leave Shelbyville and rear guard), Chickamauga (first day held their position until almost surrounded, second day part of assault that overran Snodgrass Hill), Fought and recaptured Missionary Ridge two days later, Fought on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge (the only part of the line that did not rout from the ridge), Was rearguard to Dalton, rearguard to Resaca, held the Octagon House at Adairsville, held the Dead Angle at Kennesaw Mountain, fought in the most far reaching assault against Bald Hill at Atlanta, fought both days at Jonesboro, front line skirmishers at Franklin (first unit to break Wagner’s Division), fought at Shy’s Hill at Nashville, and fired their last shots at Bentonville.  Surrendered at Greensboro, N.C. April 26, 1865 with only 65 men of around 1500+ to have served in it. 

            1st Tennessee Infantry (Turney’s) was recruited from Grundy, Coffee, Franklin, and Lincoln Counties.  This regiment was created in February 1861 months before the state of Tennessee seceded at Winchester, TN.  In May of the same year it reached Richmond and began training.  The regiment was one of two Tennessee regiments present for the Battle of 1st Bull Run and were part of General Bee’s brigade.  In March 1862 they joined the 7th and 14th Tennessee regiments in forming the Tennessee brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia.  At this time General Anderson resigned (he was 58 and in his second war, see Mexican War above).  The next engagement the regiment saw was the Peninsular Campaign.  They participated in the Seven Day’s Battles at Richmond, lost their flag in the battle of Gaines Mill to the 13th New York, and at fought at Fair Oaks Station.  They fought at 2nd Bull Run, Harper’s Ferry, Antietam, Shepherdstown, and at Fredicksburg near the center of the Confederate line.  They saw action at Chancellorsville before seeing their fiercest combat of the war at Gettysburg.  On July 1, 1863 they were one of the leading units to run into the famed Iron Brigade at McPherson’s Ridge.  The Iron Brigade managed to sweep onto the field so fast they captured close to half of the brigade including its commander, General Archer.  Two days later they were participants in Pickett’s Charge, where they along with the 7th Tennessee Infantry pushed further then any other regiment in the field.  They made it all the way to the outbuildings of the Leister House before being stopped.  Here they again lost their flag, this time to the 14th Connecticut.  They went on to fight at Mine Run and Bristoe Station later that same year.  They fought in the Wilderness and Spottsylvania Courthouse in May 1864.  They later participated in fighting at Cold Harbor and Petersburg.  They surrendered with General Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865.

1st Tennessee Infantry (Turney's) Flag


A sketch from Harper's Weekly of the 1st Tennessee (Turney's) marching through Virginia in 1861

The Caption: "Turney's 1st Tn. Volunteers as they arrived in Winchester Va. mostly hunters and men used to outdoor life...they were armed with tomahawk, bowie knife, and revolver....the uniform of these men is reminiscent of the hates, hunting shirts and black pants."

            1st Tennessee Infantry U.S. formed at Camp Dick Robinson, KY on September 1, 1861.  Formed mainly from men of East Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.  They were pulled out of basic training in January 1862 to fight in the Battle of Millsprings, KY.  Then sent to garrison duty at the Cumberland Gap.  They then moved north to Cincinnati, OH to block Bragg’s Invasion of Kentucky in late 1862.  Moving south again they reached Nashville and escorted a supply train to the Stones River front.  On January 3, 1863 (the day after the major fighting) they drove all remaining Confederate forces out of Murfreesboro in two hours of night fighting.  Two days later they routed three Confederate Cavalry regiments on rearguard on the Manchester Pike.  They were then sent back to Camp Dick Robinson and mounted to pursue Morgan into Kentucky and Ohio.  In October 1863 they participated in Burnside’s Invasion of East Tennessee capturing Knoxville.  In early 1864 they were again dismounted and transferred to the Army of the Ohio in Georgia.  Fought at the Battle of New Hope Church.  Reported as having captured Confederate works on Pine and Lost Mountains north of Marietta, GA.  In September 1864 everyone with a three-year enlistment was discharged.  The remaining consolidated with the 2nd Tennessee U.S. and served until August 1865.


Spanish-American War

            The U.S.S. Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor in 1898.  The country for the first time since the Civil War went into a patriotic uproar.  In May 1898, Tennessee gave its first call for volunteers to serve against Spanish occupation of the Caribbean and Philippine Islands.   The regiment was formed by May 17, 1898 and the Daughters of the American Revolution presented the regiment with an American flag to take with them overseas.  The men came from all walks of life.  Charles Luther Grump lived eight miles outside of Nashville and walked the entire length to downtown to enlist.  “In ten minutes I was a soldier,” he later stated.  Grump would later be assigned to Company E.  Claude F. Myers played for his school band and was asked by Major McGuire of the Regiment to be a bugler, which he accepted.  Myers was assigned to Company G.  The regiment was temporarily stationed outside of Nashville at Camp Cherokee.  The regiment was from the following areas:

Company G 1st Tennessee Infantry at Camp of Instruction in California

A-Nashville B-Columbia




G-Waverly H-Clarksville
I-Big Sandy K-Springfield
L-Nashville M-Nashville

The Regiment contained many notables.  First, being Major Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, Jr., son of Major General Cheatham of the Civil War.  The second person being an original member of the 1st Tennessee Infantry (Maney’s).  His name was William J. Whitthorne, though thirty-seven years earlier he was a fifteen year old private in Company H.  This is the same Whitthorne who is mentioned by Sam Watkins and Marcus B. Toney as being struck in the neck at the Battle of Perryville in 1862.  The wound was so severe that everyone thought he was killed right off.  He then jumped to his feet and yelled, “I’ll fight them as long as I live!”  His wound appeared to get worse after the battle and everyone assumed he was a goner.  He lived to fight out the rest of the war.  The Colonel of the 1st Tennessee, William Crawford Smith, was also a Confederate soldier. 

Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, Jr. (Son of General Cheatham of the Army of Tennessee)

Major William J. Whitthorne (Fought in Civil War in 1st TN (Maney's) Company H.  Mentioned by Sam Watkins at Perryville.

The Regiment left Camp Cherokee on June 10, 1898 and was sent to the West Coast.  They arrived at Camp Merritt near San Francisco a week later and began training heavily.  Private Myers recalls the regiment being teased for wearing civilian clothes until they reached California and his shock when they were issued uniforms made in China.  There they were 1863 Springfield Conversion Rifles, which fired a metallic cartridge filled with black powder (not the new smokeless powder).  The sandy area where the regiment camped became known as “Tennessee Hollow” because of their occupation.  On August 8 they were sent to Camp Mariam not far away.  Stationed nearby for training at Camp Mariam was the 1st Utah and 20th Kansas Infantry Regiments.  Being shipped to the West Coast obviously told the men of the regiment they were not being sent to Cuba, but instead being sent to the Philippines to fight the Spanish garrison there.  On June 12, Filipinos declared their independence from Spain and began attacking the Spanish garrisons.  With the help of American troops, the Spanish surrendered their army after the siege of Manila on August 22.   A little while before the Spanish surrendered their army in Cuba.  With both Spanish armies eliminated it appeared the 1st Tennessee was destined to be discharged or do police work.  The discharge never came, on October 30 after six months of training they were loaded onto ships.  With the exception of Companies G, H, I, K, all were put on board the U.S.S. Zealander.  The other four companies were put on board the U.S.S. City of Pueblo.  Private Grump remembers food being a scarce commodity on the Zealander.  They reached their destination at Manila in mid-November. 

As expected the regiment was put on police duty around the city.  Filipino Soldiers were not allowed to enter the city.  Around this time President McKinley made it very apparent that the Philippines would become a colony of the United States.  This outraged the Filipinos and they began to assemble an army outside of Manila.  On February 4, 1899 hostilities commenced.  A group of Filipino soldiers came too close to an American picket line.  After they failed to reply to the Americans demand for the countersign several times, the 1st Nebraska opened fire on the group of Filipinos killing most.  That night, firing started along the lines.  By the morning of February 5 the Filipinos had pushed back many sectors of the American lines including the 1st Nebraska.  That night the 1st Tennessee was ordered near the front lines.  At 6 o’clock the next morning they arrived back at their original camp with standby orders.  General Otis in charge of American troops in the area actually attempted to stop the fighting but after it become obvious the war had begun, organized a counter attack.  The 1st Tennessee was again ordered forward mid-day February 5. 

1-Where the 1st Tennessee started the morning of battle

2-Where the Nebraska Unit was located that the 1st TN fought its way toward

Their objective was to relieve some of the pressure on the 1st Nebraska regiment pinned a few miles outside of town.  1st and 2nd Battalions of the regiment were formed up front, the 3rd battalion in the rear.  As they made their way through a bamboo hedge they were fired upon by Filipino soldiers.  The enemy soldiers fled after firing a few shots.  The men then saw Colonel Smith being carried off the field in a litter.  He died that day and though most of the men thought he was struck by a bullet, he actually died of apoplexy, sudden internal bleeding.  As they approached the river they came across the bridge that would carry them to the Nebraska soldiers.  On the other side of the river were some Filipinos that were standing between them.  The order was given to charge and the regiment cleared the bridge of Filipinos who fled as they came under attack.  A reporter who was traveling with the regiment later told one soldier he thought the Filipinos were going to destroy them as they crossed the bridge.  Captain Whitthorne was slightly wounded in the assault.  The regiment then rallied on a hillside to the right of the Nebraska troops.  From there the rabbit chase began.   

The Nebraska and Tennessee soldiers chased the Filipino soldiers over two thousand yards.  They would clear one trench after another.  Only darkness stopped the advance.  One soldier in the regiment said, “If they knew how to shoot we wouldn’t be here today.”  During this campaign they began to get a reputation for taking no prisoners.  One soldier in a Washington Unit recalls:  

    “Don’t know how many men, women, and children the Tennessee boys did kill. They would not take any prisoners. One company of the Tennessee boys was sent into headquarters with thirty prisoners, and got there with about a hundred chickens and no prisoners.

    Many of the 1st Tennessee Officers had trouble keeping the men in order.  During one part of the engagement Sergeant Clement C. Jones ran out in front of a Filipino trench under fire to pick up their flag and then ran back.  They spent the night on the field and pushed further the next morning.  During the entire engagement not a single soldier was killed, though they help inflict 2,000 causalities on the Filipinos.  With resistance officially crushed at Manila, the American army now shifted its intentions to retaking the Philippines in its entirety.

            On February 22, the regiment was again loaded on boats offshore of the city of Iloilo.  After American demands to leave the city were not obeyed the navy opened fire on the town and the regiment was loaded into landing craft and assaulted the beaches.  The Filipino army evacuated as the Americans moved through the streets.  By the next day the town was completely secure. 

            February 25, Colonel Gracey Childers (Colonel Smith’s replacement) moved the men outside of the town to move the army further inland to La Paz.  From this point the regiment was mostly involved in clearing out the area of insurgents.  On March 16 they had another pitched battle with the Filipinos near the Jaro River.  The 1st Tennessee succeeded in decimating the Filipinos who after only a few hours retreated.  Amazingly, the regiment only suffered two wounded, both of whom refused to go to the hospital.  This opened the way and the city of Jaro itself fell into American hands. 

            From that point forward the fighting in the Philippines was similar to the fighting in Iraq.  The U.S. defeated their main army and then fought insurgency.  The 1st Tennessee moved on Cebu City on June 13 and used it as a base for fighting the insurgents in the area.  There was plenty of down time at Cebu City.  They were paid at frequent intervals and four soldiers from the regiment after the war stated, “All money was used for gambling.”  The regiment was supposed to be discharged after their one year service in May 1899.  The government was slow in getting National Army troops to replace the state volunteers.  This in turn caused their terms to be lengthened.

            From Cebu the regiment sent two battalions to clear insurgents on another island.  In mid-September a week before they were about to ship back to America, A squad of the 1st Tennessee was ambushed during reconnaissance of a road.  They suffered one killed and several seriously wounded.  A few days later the U.S.S. Indiana sailed in and picked up the two battalions that had left Cebu City and made its way to the latter.  When they pulled into Cebu, they found the city under attack and the men volunteered to disembark and helped fight off all attacks without any loss.  After the engagement, the regiment made final prepartions to leave the Philippines for good.  Private Grump packed several gifts for his family back home.  He left his barracks temporarily and upon his return found all of his gifts stolen.  On September 25, 1899 the entire regiment was loaded back onto the ship and sent to Manila for a short time.  They left Manila in mid-October on the U.S.S. Indiana and reached San Francisco on November 12.  Sergeant William Mims Robins recalls the seas being so rough he was thrown from his bunk several times.  200 men from the regiment volunteered to stay and joined the national army. 

            From San Francisco the regiment was moved by rail back to Nashville and were officially discharged November 23, 1899 (six months was added to their enlistments).  The regiment lost 2 KIA; 1 Killed by Accident; 28 died from disease in the Philippines. 


The 1st Tennessee would exist as a state guard unit up until WWI.  The 1st Tennessee of the Pilipino War would be the last time the 1st Tennessee name saw combat.  With the break out of hostilities in 1914 and America’s entry in 1917 the 1st Tennessee and all state guard units were converted to national army status.  The majority of the original Tennessee units were converted into the 117th U.S. Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry “Old Hickory” Division.  The Division was comprised of men from Tennessee, North and South Carolina.  They were named after Andrew Jackson “Old Hickory” who was born near the NC/SC border and made a name for himself in Tennessee.  Their division patch was an ‘O’ with an ‘H’ inside of it and the roman numerals ‘XXX’ for 30.  They were sent to Europe in 1918 and saw heavy action during the last six months of the war and had more Medal of Honor winners then any other division in the U.S. Army.

30th Infantry Division Patch

The Division was reactivated in 1942 during World War II and the balance of the 30th went to the beaches of Normandy on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 4, June 10th, and was immediately thrown against the German Army.        

Spearheading “Operation Cobra”, the 30th distinguished itself during the breakthrough and opened the way for Patton’s Third Army to drive into Brittany and on to Best. In combat the Division became known as the “Workhorse of the Front”. It was dubbed by the German high Command as “Roosevelt’s SS Troops” because of its relentless pressure on the German’s elite First SS Division during the breakout at St. Lo and again at Mortain.

The 30th again saw action against the First SS during the Battle of the Bulge, during the Ardennes Offensive in winter 1944-45. “Old Hickory” extracted so many casualties to the 1st SS; the elite enemy unit was no longer able to do battle.  The 30th continued on across Germany, eventually linking up with elements of the Russian Army at Magdeburg on the Elbe River in April 1945.

In 1946 the ETO historian for the military S. Marshall had this to say about the 30th over other infantry divisions:  “We picked the 30th Division No. 1 on the list of first category divisions. It was the combined judgment of the approximately 35 historical officers who had worked on the records and in the field that the 30th had merited this distinction. It was our finding that the 30th had been outstanding in three operations and that we could consistently recommend it for citation on any one of these three occasions. It was further found that it had in no single instance performed discreditably or weakly when considered against the averages of the Theater and that in no single operation had it carried less than its share of the burden or looked bad when compared with the forces on its flanks. We were especially impressed with the fact that it had consistently achieved results without undue wastage of its men.”

With ever increasing federalization of National Guards across America, many Governors and State Legislatures realized that in the event of a National emergency that the troops that 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 Legislature of the State of Tennessee changed the name to Tennessee State Guard.   The 1st Tennessee exists even today in this state guard unit. 

 The 1st Tennessee since its inception into American armies has truly made a proud name in the 1st Tennessee.


-Written by Mike Hoover