Article by L. Allen
After the American Revolution, when our country was young, and at the beginning of the Napoleonic Era, there was a period in time when we could
have gone to war against either France or England over shipping rights and issues along our early frontiers of which we had with both countries. At this
time of danger our ancestors saw the need for a stronger National Defense. It was at this time the Congress authorized the organization of the 12th.
Regiment on July of 1798. After two uneventful years the Congress decided to reduce the Army and the 12th. Regiment was mustered out in July of
When the Declaration of War was signed against England on June 18,1812 the entire Regular Army consisted of only 6,744 Officers and Men. Fearing
War Congress had authorized an increase of Military Forces to 35,000 prior to the hostiles, but this was never to fully come about. On the 16th of
June 1812 Congress authorized the reorganization of the 12th Regiment. The Regiment was to be composed of 10 Companies of 103 men each with 3
Field Officers in each Company. ON top of this it was also authorized to have a Staff Section made up of 13 non-commissioned and commissioned
officers. The Total authorized strength was therefore to be at 1,073 officers and men, but it is doubtful if the Regiment ever reached full strength.
For those of us that have studied the War of 1812, you will remember that there were 4 Basic Campaigns of the War not counting the Campaign at
New Orleans that actually happened after the Peace Treaty had been signed in Europe.
The 4 Campaigns were:
1. Those in the West - in Ohio and Canada around Detroit
2. Operations on the Niagara Frontier
3. Operations in the North along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain with the objective being Montreal
4. Operations in and about the Chesapeake Bay with the English objectives being Baltimore and Washington
Of these 4 campaigns and Operations the 12th Regiment took part in 3 of them. Starting with the Campaign along the Niagara Frontier, the 12th
Regiment took part in only one engagement, that being the successful attack on the Fort at Black Rock. Black Rock being one of a chain of forts by
Buffalo and happening in 1812.
Next the 12th Regiment took an important role in the 1813 Operations on the Northern Frontier with the objective being the Capture of Montreal. The
Army was organized in 2 separate forces, 1.) under the Command of a little skilled General named Wilkinson, who was to start at lake Ontario and
march down the St. Lawrence to Montreal and the other force 2.) under the Command of General Hampton, who was to cooperate from Lake
Champlain. The 12th Regiment, as part of General Wilkinson's force, marched down the St Lawrence, meeting the British Forces at a position called
Crystler's Farm on the 11th of November 1813. After a 2 hour advance that cost the Regiment 338 casualties, General Wilkinson decided to withdraw
across the river to the American side and go into Winter quarters. In the following Spring of 1814, General Wilkinson decided to start the Campaign by
crossing the river and meeting the British at a place called La Colle Mill. General Wilkinson again decided to withdraw taking his troops to Plattsburg.
From this position he again advances into Lower Canada and meets the British in a less than successful engagement at Odelltown on July 3, 1814.
After this we find the 12th Regiment being withdrawn from this theatre of operations and being involved in 2 Battles in the Campaigns along the
Chesapeake Bay. The 12th Regiment now plays a prominent role in the Battle of Bladenburg, Maryland August 23, 1814 and in the Defense of Fort
McHenry. Part of the campaign ended with a brave but futile attempt to save Washington against an enemy with vastly superior numbers. Even so the
British Reported, "that the Regulars retired in such order after a spirited defense that would give honor to any Regiment." It was also at this Campaign
that the Regulars were present when the seed of the National Anthem were planted in Francis Scott Key's mind. This was also the last campaign of
the War of the 12th Regiment.
After the Peace Treaty was signed the Regular Army was again reduced, this time to only 8 regiments. In May of 1815 the 12th Regiment was
consolidated along with the 13th and the 20th. Regiments to form part of the 4th Regiment of Infantry.
Note: There appears to be a conflict from this author of whom the 12th was consolidated with - See note below
In 1846 with the War with Mexico the 12th Regiment was again reorganized, for the third time, under the Acts of February 11, 1847 and march
3,1847 being assigned to the Brigade lead by General Pierce. This Brigade was to be part of the Division Commanded by General Pierce. This Brigade
was to be part of the Division Commanded by General Gideon J. Pillows that was to join General Winfield Scott's Army, already in Mexico. From June
of 1847 to five weeks later when the Division joined General Scott, they had been involved in four engagements. The 4 engagements were the National
Bridge twice, Paso de Ovejas and Plan de Rio.
General Pierce's Brigade consisting of the 9th, 12th, and 15th Regiments of Infantry finally reached General Scotts's Army on August 9, 1847.
On August 19 Scott's Army fought the Battle of Contreres, where the Americans drove the Mexicans from a fortified position commanding the road to
Mexico City. The 9th And 12th Regiments, attacking in a frontal assault, drove the Mexicans from their position and then pursued their shattered
army. During the assault, Colonel Bonham Commander of the 12th Regiment, was wounded causing the Command of the Regiment to be passed to
Captain Wood of Company C. August 20th., the Brigade defeated the Mexicans at a village named Churubusco an again into the Forts of Tete du
Pont. It was at this engagement that the 12th. Regiment held back the "flower of the Mexican Army" for one and one half hour until re-enforcements
could be brought in to finally defeat the enemy.
Due to the losses sustained in this battle the 12th Regiment was sent to garrison the key position at the town of Mixano. After an Armistice was
granted on August 23, hostilities again broke out on September 7. The 12th Regiment after bearing the renewed attacks of the Mexican Army, further
depleting their numbers, was pulled out of the line and was to see no further action in the war. However, at the Mexican Surrender on September 13,
1847, general Scott requested the 12th Regiment to join in the triumphal entrance into Mexico City because of their fine service to the Army. After the
Peace Treaty was signed, the 12th Regiment was again mustered out of the service on June 8, 1848 only to be reorganized for the fourth time when
danger for our nation loomed in the summer of 1861.
During the demobilization that occurred immediately following the war, thirteen infantry regiments were abolished, while eight new
infantry regiments, numbered 1 through 8, were formed by consolidating various combinations of thirty-five of the forty-eight regiments
that had existed during the war, as follows:
1st Infantry formed by consolidation of the 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 44th Infantry Regiments;
2nd Infantry formed by consolidation of the 6th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd and 32nd Infantry Regiments;
3rd Infantry formed by consolidation of the 1st, 5th, 17th, 19th and 28th Infantry Regiments;
4th Infantry formed by consolidation of the 14th, 18th, 20th, 36th and 38th Infantry Regiments;
5th Infantry formed by consolidation of the 4th, 9th, 13th, 21st, 40th and 46th Infantry Regiments;
6th Infantry formed by consolidation of the 11th, 25th, 27th, 29th and 37th Infantry Regiments;
7th Infantry formed by consolidation of the 8th, 24th and 39th Infantry Regiments; and
8th Infantry formed by consolidation of the 10th and 12th Infantry Regiments.
The new 8th Infantry was abolished soon after its formation.
The new regiments numbered 1 through 7 resulting from these consolidations still exist, and they perpetuate the lineages of thirty-three
regiments that served during the War of 1812. These seven regiments are the only current infantry regiments with credit for participation
in the War of 1812. It was not until 1838, in anticipation of the War with Mexico, that additional regiments were created.
Note that the numbering of the seven new infantry regiments formed during this contraction of the Army did not correspond to the
numbering of the seven infantry regiments that existed before the contraction. The numerical designations of the new regiments were
determined by the seniority of the commanding officers, i.e., the regiment with the most senior commanding officer was designated as
the 1st Infantry, while the regiment with the next most senior colonel became the 2nd Infantry, and so on. This reorganization caused
considerable consternation among many in the Army, who considered it an attack on regimental traditions. At the core of this dispute
was whether the seven new regiments shared a heritage with the older regiments with the same numerical designation (the veterans of
the War of 1812 felt strongly that they did), or whether a regimentís heritage followed its organizational history no matter what changes in
numerical designation might have occurred (the official War Department policy).
This contradiction between sentiment and logic went unresolved, and was largely ignored, for the next fifty years, during which time the
soldiers in the seven infantry regiments continued to claim a shared heritage with the earlier units with the same number, while the
official policy was that heritage was defined entirely by organizational history. A resolution of this smoldering conflict was forced upon the
Army in the aftermath of the Civil War, when it became official policy that regiments would display their battle histories on their colors or
in the form of streamers representing participation in specific battles or campaigns. Infantry regiments numbering 1-7, in direct violation of
War Department policy, proudly claimed credit for campaigns earned by the older regiments with the same numerical designation.
Finally, in 1896, the War Department yielded to sentiment and ordered that the new regiments formed in 1815 could claim credit for
campaigns awarded to earlier regiments with the same number.
But the last word had not yet been spoken, and during the 1920s there was a series of reversals of policy and reversals of reversals. In
1920 the War Department reversed the 1896 policy, issuing a ruling that forbade existing regiments from claiming credit for campaigns
earned by earlier units on the basis numerical designation and denying any historical linkage between units based upon numerical
designation. Needless to say, this announcement caused great anguish among the soldiers in the regiments. The official edict is
reproduced below in full.
II. Rules for tracing history of units (Cir. No. 80, W. D., 1920). - It has come to the attention of the War Department that there is
some divergence of understanding in regard to the method of tracing the history of troop units. To settle the practice, the
following rule is announced for the guidance of all concerned. The numerical designation of a troop unit does not in itself entitle
that unit to inherit the history of any previous unit having that number; the organization itself will be traced through its changes,
regardless of number.
But in 1923 the War Department issued a new policy that totally reversed the policy of 1920. According to this announcement, not only
would the regiments formed in 1815 be allowed to claim campaign credits earned by the earlier units with the same number, but it also
asserted that historical continuity between units could be claimed solely on the basis of identical numerical designations.
IV. History of certain regiments. - In the application of the principles stated in Section II, Bulletin No. 13, War Department, 1920
(Rules for tracing history of units), the records of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Regiments of Infantry up to and
including the reorganization of the Army in 1815 substantially as approved by the Secretary of War, October 30, 1896, and
published in the Army Register from 1897 to 1912, will not be disturbed. The history of those seven regiments prior to 1816 will
be credited in accordance with similarity of numerical designations, and will not be considered to have passed to another
regiment because of the "muster for selection" incident to the reorganization of 1815; however, battle honors that may have been
awarded to any one of the first seven regiments of Infantry because of the reorganization in 1815 will not have to be withdrawn.
In 1926, the 1923 policy was rescinded, and yet a new revised set of rules for determining both the lineage and the honors for the current
1st-through-7th Infantry Regiments was established. This policy was a compromise, and in common with so many compromises it really
isnít logically consistent but has the virtue of satisfying both parties in the dispute. According to this edict, lineages were to be
determined strictly according to accepted genealogical principles: lineages would follow organizational changes and redesignations,
regardless of numerical designations. But the current 1st through 7th Infantry Regiments would be allowed to claim battle honors earned
by the earlier infantry regiments having the same number: the powerful feelings of members of the new regiments of a shared heritage
with their counterparts in older regiments with the same number were recognized and officially enshrined.
I. History of certain regiments - Section IV, Bulletin No. 8, War Department, 1923, relating to the foregoing subject is
rescinded; but battle honors that may have been awarded to any of the first seven regiments of Infantry in compliance with the provisions
thereof will not be now withdrawn.
An interesting reflection of this dispute will be described in more detail in the discussion of the Distinctive Unit Insignia of the 7th Infantry
Regiment, in which the DUI commemorates events in the histories of the old 7th Infantry Regiment, which is not in the lineages of the
current 7th Infantry.