The Battle of Lundy’s Lane, fought July 25, 1814, was one of the mostly deadly battles fought during the War of 1812, and the worst ever on Canadian soil. The battle began around 6 PM and continued on until midnight. Throughout the battle, the two forces gained and lost ground repeatedly, with artillery pieces on both sides changing hands multiple times. At times, soldiers resorted to fighting hand-to-hand with bayonets. By the end of the battle, neither the American nor the British had gained ground, but the American forces had suffered over 34% losses and retreated to reorganize.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment traces its lineage back to the 1st Infantry. In 1815, after the War of 1812, an Army re-organization caused several units (1st, 5th, 17th, 19th & 28th Infantry Regiments) to consolidate and form the new 3rd Infantry.
On July 5, 1814, 1,300 American soldiers under General Winfield Scott defeated British forces under General Phineas Riall near Chippewa, Canada. As battle lines formed, Riall mistook the grey uniforms worn by the Americans to be those of militia troops, who had not made a good showing in previous battles. Upon realizing his mistake, Riall exclaimed, “Those are Regulars, by God!” The American forces breached the British line by charging with bayonets fixed.
The American troops pushed the British back and would re-engage the enemy at Lundy’s Lane on July 25, 1814. The 3rd Infantry Regiment earned three battle streamers (Canada, Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane) for its role in the War of 1812.
On March 9, 1847, Major General Winfield Scott executed the first major amphibious assault in American military history. The Army of Occupation shifted from its northern campaign of the previous year. The landing at Vera Cruz, Mexico allowed for a campaign that lead straight to the capital.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment, among the first ashore, helped to secure the city. This campaign saw many Regimental traditions born, becoming officially recognized a century later.
The Mexican Army had 3,300 soldiers in what was considered one of the most secure forts in North America. An army and government in disarray negated that advantage. No reinforcements arrived to defend against Winfield Scott’s army of 9,000.
After three weeks of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, Vera Cruz agreed to surrender on March 29. The Mexican Army suffered 400 casualties, compared to the American’s 70 casualties.
On September 14, 1847, following the fall of Mexico City, Army units marched into Mexico City as part of a victory parade and review, with the 3d Infantry Regiment leading the procession. As the Regiment passed by the reviewing stand, General Winfield Scott exclaimed to his staff,
“Gentlemen, take off your hats to the Old Guard of the Army.”
The term “Old Guard” was one held in high esteem by students of military history. The term started with Napoleon. Napoleon was said to have hand-picked members of his elite bodyguard and reserve troops, known as the Imperial Guard. Within the Imperial Guard, were three classes of soldiers: the Young Guard, the Middle Guard and the Old Guard. Members of the Old Guard had to be veterans who served under Napoleon from his earliest campaigns (at least three), showed courage in the face of battle and possessed imposing physical traits (usually above-average height).
Though the name was used unofficially since 1847, it was not until 16 August 1963 that the Regiment’s official designation became the “3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).”