4th US Infantry History from 1796 to 1845
The Fourth U.S. Army Infantry regiment was organized on May 30, 1796 from the Fourth
of the United States Army. From 1796 until being disbanded in 1802 (by act of Congress) the Regiment
served in Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia, providing protection for the frontier inhabitants against
Indians. At that time each regiment had 8 companies, each authorized 62 enlisted men and 3 officers.
From 16 March 1802 until May 1808 the regiment did not exist.
After being reformed in May and June of 1808, with troops from New Hampshire, Vermont,
Massachusetts (by act of Congress dated 12 April 1808), the Fourth U.S. Infantry was 1 of 5 regular U.S.
Army regiments. By that act each regiment was to consist of ten companies; with each company having
84 officers and enlisted men.
From 1808 until 1810 the regiment was stationed along the east coast, from Maine
to Connecticut(Fort Griswold). During this period the regiment was never stationed in one location
and apparently never formed into battalions.
In 1811 several companies moved to Lazaretto Barracks (south of Philadelphia) and
by late May 8
companies were at Lazaretto Barracks. These 8 companies marched to Pittsburg in July of 1811 where
they remained for 10 days. Moving several times over the summer and early fall, by September 1811
were near where present day Terra Haute, Indiana now stands. Here they established a fort, later named
Fort Harrison. About a month later, under General Harrison, the Fourth U. S. Infantry regiment was part
of the forces that participated in the famous “Battle of Tippecanoe”.
In 1812 the Regiment was under the command of Brigadier General Hull. In August of
1812 General Hull
surrendered his entire command (Detroit, Territory of Michigan, etc.). After the surrender by General Hull,
the Fourth U.S. Infantry Regiment lost it’s organization. General Hull was later tried by General Court
Martial and found guilty of multiple charges of cowardice, neglect of duty, and unofficer like behavior.
The court declined to give an opinion on charges of treason. On March 25th, 1814, the court sentenced
General Hull to be shot to death, making him the only American general grade officer sentenced to death.
Because of prior service the court recommended mercy and on April 25th, President Madison remitted
the death sentence.
Most surrendered troops of the Fourth were paroled in early 1813 and the Regiment was
recruitment started to bring the regiment up to size (over 30 had died while in captivity). Companies were
returned to duty after the 1st of Foot (The Royal Scots) were paroled and returned to Canada. Organized
companies participated in the battle of Chateauguay River in October of 1813 and in 1814 companies of the
Fourth were present at the battles of La Cole Mill and at the siege of Plattsburg.
After the war of 1812 the number of infantry regiments was reduced to seven. There was no
regard to, and
no effort to preserve honors, traditions, or pre war designations. What had been the Fourth Infantry was merged
with the Ninth, Thirteenth, Twenty-first, Fortieth, and Fourty-sixth to become the new Fifth Infantry. The
new Fourth Infantry was formed, in 1815, by combining troops from the Fourteenth, Eighteenth, Twentieth,
Thirty-sixth, and Thirty-eighth Infantry regiments (one source lists the Twelfth, Fourteenth, and Twentieth).
In 1817 the Regiment, the smallest of the 8 infantry regiments with just 350 men, was stationed in the
Alabama Territory and Georgia.
From 1815 through 1845 the Fourth Infantry Regiment was in the Southeast United States
Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida) building military roads, forts, and cantonments. During these
years companies from the Regiment had several battles and skirmishes with the Seminole Indians. Until
1821 the Regiment was under strength, consisting of companies A, B, E, F, and G. In August and September
of 1821 additional companies were organized when the Eighth U. S. Infantry was disbanded. At that time the
Fourth US consisted of just under 550 officers and enlisted men. Additionally, when the Eighth Infantry was
disbanded the number of enlisted men per company was reduced to fifty-one. The company stayed at fifty-one
enlisted men until the second Seminole Indian war (1835 – 1842) when, in 1838, the company size was
increased by thirty-eight privates and one sergeant.
In general early army life was harsh,“pay” was low, disease wide spread, and desertion rates high. During
the 1820s and 1830s regiments were always under strength. Desertion was a major problem for the army.
Between 1823 and 1829 the Secretary of War published statistics showing over 5,000 desertions. Of
these, almost 2,800 took place during the first year of enlistment. These desertion rates took place during
a time when the entire army, in any given year, was between 5,000 and 6,000 men.
In 1832 two companies were sent up the Mississippi, at the start of the Black Hawk War,
to reinforce the
command of General Atkinson at Fort Crawford (Prairie du Chien), Wisconsin.
During the Seminole War the Fourth Regiment fought in the following battles, skirmishes,
and sieges: “Dade's
Massacre”, December 28, 1835; Withlacoochie, December 31; Gaines’ Pen, February 27 and March 5, 1836;
Olaklikaha, March 31, 1836; Thlonotassa, April 27, 1836; Clair River, February 9, 1837; "Okeechobee",
December 1837, and Pilaklikaha, April 19, 1842.
In May of 1838 Companies D, G, I, and K (joined in late June by Headquarters and the
were in route to the Cherokee nation, Tennessee, to help in the removal of Cherokee Indians by General
In September, 1842, the regiment was ordered to take station at Jefferson Barracks, Mo.
It remained at
Jefferson Barracks until the proposed annexation of Texas, in 1844, led to rumblings of war with Mexico. As
a part of the "Army of Observation" the regiment was moved to Grand Ecore, La., where it remained until
July, 1845, when it was moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, as a part of the "Army of Occupation."