By C.P. Hyatt, U.S. Army Military History InstituteApril 2, 2009
In 1847, General Winfield Scott nicknamed the Third Regiment of Infantry Aca,!A"The Old GuardAca,!A? for the regimentAca,!a,,cs valor during the Mexican War. Steeped in history, this regiment has fought in battles from Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794, the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, through the war in Vietnam to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The initial Third Regiment was formed by the direction of President George Washington on March 5, 1792, for the protection of the frontiers of the United States. First known as the Third Sub-Legion, that unit was renamed under the Act of May 30, 1796, as the Third Regiment of Infantry. Then, under the Act of March 16, 1802, which drastically drew down American force posture, the Regiment was discharged on June 1, 1802.
Under the force build-up six years later, the Third Regiment was re-established under the Act of April 12, 1808. It saw action in 1813 and 1814 in the Creek Wars. The Creek Wars started with the massacre at Fort Mims, Alabama, on August 30, 1813, and ended on March 25, 1814, with the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend. Andrew Jackson, as Major General of Tennessee Volunteers, commanded the attacking forces at Horse Shoe Bend, which included the Third Regiment of Infantry. Because of the victories in the Creek War, President James Madison promoted Jackson to the rank of brigadier general of the U.S. Regular Army on April 19, 1814, and a month later, on May 1, 1814, to major general of Regulars. Part of the regiment was also with Jackson when he fought the British during the War of 1812 and captured Pensacola on November 7, 1814, and was with him again at the famous Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. This successful war record helped Jackson win the Presidency in 1828.
Long before Jackson became Commander-in-Chief, the Army was reorganized yet again. The Act of March 3, 1815, reduced the wartime Army of fifty rifle and infantry regiments to a peacetime footing of one rifle and eight infantry regiments. The Third Infantry, two other prewar regiments, and a wartime regiment were consolidated into one unit. Because its colonel was the senior infantry officer of the Army, the resulting outfit was numbered the First Infantry Regiment. Comparably, the ordinal number Aca,!A"ThirdAca,!A? was reassigned to the regiment of the third-ranking colonel of infantry. That new Third Infantry Regiment was formed from two pre-1812 regiments and three other regiments. One of the components in this new Third was the original First Regiment of Infantry, which had been organized under the order of Congress on June 3, 1784. Through such lineage dating back to the immediate post-Revolutionary War years, the Third Regiment of Infantry became the oldest infantry regiment in the United States Regular Army.
The first major to be assigned to the newly created Third Regiment of Infantry in 1815 was Charles K. Gardner, who originated the concept of designating companies by letters of the alphabet. The following year, another future Commander-in-Chief, Zachary Taylor, succeeded Gardner as major. Taylor left the Third Regiment when he was promoted on April 20, 1819, to the Fourth Regiment of Infantry. Taylor would again be involved with the Third Regiment in 1844. The Regiment, along with additional regiments, came under his command when he served as the general commanding the Aca,!A"Army of ObservationAca,!A? just before and during the Mexican War.
From the consolidation of regiments in the Act of 1815 to current times, the regiment has fought valiantly in numerous battles and wars. In 1948, the Third United States Infantry assumed the duties as official Army Honor Guard and escort to the President, conducting military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, and national memorials. But even with those great honors, the duties that the people of our nation and the world most recognize are the distinct privileges of maintaining the twenty-four-hour-a-day vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns and providing military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery.
To honor the Aca,!A"Old GuardAca,!A? and our nationAca,!a,,cs fallen warriors at Arlington National Cemetery, I respectfully dedicate the accompanying original poem.
ABOUT THIS STORY: Many of the sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). The artifacts shown are among nearly 50,000 items of the Army Heritage Museum (AHM) collections. MHI and AHM are part of the Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC), 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA, 17013-5021.