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Tennessee State Guard: 4th Infantry Division, Chattanooga, TN

The Tennessee State Guard is the state defense force of the state of Tennessee under the Tennessee Military Department. The Tennessee State Guard is an all-volunteer force. The creation of a state military force is recognized under Tennessee Code Annotated 58-1-401. The mission statement of the Tennessee State Guard sums up their responsibilities, namely: "The purpose of the Tennessee State Guard is to provide a professional complement of personnel to support the State mission of the Tennessee National Guard, by assisting the Tennessee Army National Guard as a force multiplier, and at the direction of the Adjutant General, to assist civil authorities with disaster relief, humanitarian causes, ceremonial service, religious and medical support for the well being and safety of the citizenry of Tennessee."


The Tennessee State Guard traces its origins to the American Revolution. During the Battle of King's Mountain, approximately four hundred volunteers from the area known today as Tennessee crossed the mountains into North Carolina to fight against the British Army and Loyalist militias. They contributed significantly to the Patriot victory.

Tennessee militias would serve in battle again in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. After fighting and winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814), they served with distinction in the Battle of New Orleans alongside other state militias, federal soldiers, local volunteers, slaves, and pirates against the British Army.

It was during the Mexican-American War where the nickname "The Volunteer State" became associated with Tennessee. When asked by President Polk to provide two infantry regiments and one cavalry regiment, only to find approximately ten times that number volunteered.

During the American Civil War the confederacy took advantage of the many state based militias to fight their war. Tennessee's location on the border of Kentucky, which was a Union state, and the strategic hub of Memphis made the residents of Tennessee in constant need of forces to protect them from Union incursions. Tennessee units served in many battles of the Civil War, notably the Battle of Shiloh in which the 4th Tennessee Infantry served with distinction and lost nearly half of its members.

During both World Wars, when National Guard units were federalized, state defense forces became the replacement military for guarding the home front. Although State Guard units could not be directly drafted, many individual members were either drafted or volunteered for battle through the federal military. One famous Tennessean, Alvin York, belonged to the Tennessee State Guard, helping to reorganize it for modern times in 1941.

By 1948 The State Guard went inactive. It wasn't until the latter half of the twentieth century, with National Guard units becoming increasingly federalized, that the need for a local force who would not be sent abroad in a time of emergency was present. In 1985 the Tennessee Defense Force was formed to provide a trained military reserve force for use of the Governor's use in times of emergency, and in 1998 the name was changed by the legislature to the Tennessee State Guard. In 2005, Governor Phil Bredeson activated the Tennessee State Guard to assist with relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina.


Falling under the discretion of the governor of Tennessee, the Tennessee State Guard can be used to augment National Guard units in times of emergency, provide medical aid, security, funeral honors and other responsibilities generally covered by the state National Guard. Since they are not a part of the United States National Guard, they cannot be drafted as a unit into the military though individual members are not exempt from being drafted. Aside from deploying to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, State Guardsmen also participated in Operation Vigilant Guard in disaster preparation through drills organized as an earthquake disaster zone response.


Tennessee does not directly provide any training for the Tennessee State Guard. Rather, members are recruited from honorably discharged members of all four branches of the United States military. One must be a resident of Tennessee, have graduated high school or obtained a GED, clear a criminal background check and meet standard educational requirements for commissioned officer duties. As most of these are also prerequisites to join the military most of these requirements are covered by the training and service under the United States military. Drill days are held one day per month, and there is an annual three day drill. Civilians with specific professional skill sets such as doctors, attorneys or engineers may be considered for membership without prior military service.


The Tennessee State Guard is organized as a Directorate Headquarters with four regiments. The headquarters are based in Nashville, Tennessee. The regiments include the 1st Tennessee Regiment baseed in Millington, TN; the 2nd Brigade Support Team based in Nashville, Tennessee; the 3rd Tennessee Regiment based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the 4th Tennessee Regiment based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


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