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On the 2nd day of May, 1861, ten companies were mustered into service at Nashville and known as the First Regiment Tennessee Volunteers:

Company ARock City Guardsof NashvilleCaptain T. F. Sevier
Company B Rock City Guardsof NashvilleCaptain J. B. Craighead
Company C Rock City Guardsof NashvilleCaptain R. C. Foster
Company DWilliamson Graysof Williamson CountyCaptain James P. Hanna
Company ETennessee Riflemenof NashvilleCaptain George Harsch
Company FRailroad Boysof NashvilleCaptain John L. Butler
Company GBrown Guardsof Maury CountyCaptain Geo. W. Campbell
Company HMaury Grays of Maury CountyCaptain A. M. Looney
Company IRutherford Riflesof Rutherford CountyCaptain Wm. Ledbetter
Company KMartin Guardsof Giles CountyCaptain Hume R Field

The Rock City Guards were originally formed as a State militia company in March 1860, taking their name from the ancient nickname for Nashville, "The Rock City". Recruiting in April 1861 swelled their numbers sufficiently to form three companies.

Company K was the first military company raised in Giles County and was known as the Martin Guards, in honour of Thomas Martin, who was too old to go to war. Thomas Martin had been outspokenly opposed to secession, but with Lincoln's announced invasion of the South, had made the choice to support the Confederacy. It is believed that he furnished the funds to outfit and equip The Martin Guards.

At the election of field officers, Captain George Maney was elected Colonel; Captain T. F. Sevier, Lieutenant-colonel; Captain A. M. Looney, Major. Lieutenant R. B. Snowdon, of Co. C, was appointed Adjutant; Dr. Wm. Nichol, Surgeon; and Dr. J. R. Buist, Assistant Surgeon. Lieutenant Jos. Vaulx was elected Captain of Co. A in place of Captain Sevier, and Lieutenant R. W. Johnson Captain of Co. H in place of Captain Looney.

Being fully organised, armed and equipped, the regiment went into camp at Alisonia, in Franklin County, seventy-six miles from Nashville. This camp was named Camp Harris in honour of the Governor of Tennessee, Isham G. Harris. It was at Camp Harris where they were officially mustered into the service of the Confederate Army. After a short while they moved to Camp Cheatham, in Robertson County, six miles from Springfield. Here they received their military training and instruction in Hardee's tactics. On 10th July 1861, they received orders to go to Virginia. After a railroad journey of several weeks, they reached their destination and joined the Army of the Northwest under General Robert E. Lee. They arrived too late to take part in the First Battle of Manassas.

At Valley Mountain, Virginia, the 1st was joined by the 7th and 14th Tennessee Infantry Regiments to form Brigadier-General Samuel R. Anderson's Brigade of Brigadier-General William W. Loring's Division, Army of the Northwest. Capt. Craighead, of Co. B, forwarded his resignation, and Lieut. John Patterson was elected Captain in his stead. Capt. Johnson, of Co. H, resigned, and Lieut. Henry Webster was elected Captain of this company.

As part Anderson's brigade, the regiment took part in the abortive Cheat Mountain Campaign in West Virginia, lasting from September 10 to 15, 1861. Although a minor action, this campaign is of interest because it was General Robert E. Lee's first campaign of the Civil War. Lee's biographer wrote: "His first campaign had ended ingloriously."

The regiment took part in no further actions until it was ordered on December 8, 1861 to Winchester, Virginia, where it formed part of the forces which Major-General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson led on his expedition to Bath, Virginia, and the banks of the Potomac River. After this campaign, the regiment returned to Winchester, where it remained until February 1862. After the fall of Fort Donelson, the regiment was ordered West to report to General Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of the Army of Mississippi (later Army of Tennessee). Leaving Winchester, Virginia, on the 17th of February, they headed for Corinth, Mississippi.

On reaching Knoxville, the right wing, (Companies A, B, C, D and E) was detached by Major-General E. Kirby Smith, and sent to Cumberland Cap. The left wing (Companies F. G, H, I and K) was sent on to Corinth and took part in the Battle of Shiloh on 6-7 April 1862.

Following his gallant actions at Shiloh, regimental commander Colonel George Maney was promoted to Brigadier. Capt. Hume R. Field, of Co. K, was elected Colonel; Capt. John Patterson, of Co. B, Lieutenant-colonel; and Lieut. John L. House, of Co. D, Major; Lieut. W. D. Kelly was elected Captain of Co. A; B. P. Steele, Captain of Co. B; Lieut. John F. Wheless, Captain of Co. C; Lieut. Oscar Adkinson, Captain of Co. D; Geo. Leascher, Captain of Co. E; Capt. Butler retained Captain of Co. F; Lieut. Irvine, Captain of Co. G; Henry Webster, Captain of Co. H (he obtained a furlough shortly afterward, and was captured and died in prison, and Lieut. Jo. P. Lee became Captain of this company); Capt. Wm. Ledbetter was retained Captain of Co. I; Lieut. W. C. Flournoy was elected Captain of Co. K; and Lieut. McKinney, Co. H, appointed Adjutant. Three companies from Nashville, known as the Hawkins Nashville Battalion, after their initial commander J. M. Hawkins, consolidated into one company under command of Capt. Joseph W. Fulcher, were attached to the regiment and constituted Co. L. and were known as The Stevenson Guards.

The 1st Tennessee was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of Major-General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's Division, Army of the Mississippi. Maney's Brigade, on June 30, consisted of the 1st, 6th, 9th and 27th Tennessee Regiments, and Smith's Mississippi Battery. General Maney continued in command of the brigade until August 31, 1864, when he was given leave of absence on a surgeon's certificate of disability.

During August 1862 they took part in General Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky where it suffered heavily at the Battle of Perryville in October, later retreating into Tennessee to be involved in the Battle of Murfreesboro in December. Before Murfreesboro, General Braxton Bragg had reorganised his force and renamed it the Army of Tennessee.

In January 1863, due to heavy casualties and difficulties in recruiting from occupied Tennessee, the 1st Tennessee was consolidated with remnants of the 27th Tennessee Infantry to form a field organisation known as the 1st/27th Consolidated Regiment. The 27th consolidated into three companies, whilst the 1st consolidated the Rock City Guards into one company, under command of Captain W. D. Kelly; Companies E and F were joined, under the command of Captain Ben Smith; as were Companies G and H, under Captain Joseph P. Lee. This was a field organisation, and the regiments continued to be mustered separately except for one period of about two months, when there exists a muster roll of the 1st/27th Consolidated. This field organisation continued until the end of the war under the command of Colonel Hume R. Feild. The consolidated regiment was placed in Maney's Brigade, Major-General B. F. Cheatham's Division, in Lieutenant-General William J. Hardee's Corps.

General Maney relinquished command of the brigade August 31, 1864, and Colonel Hume R. Feild was in command of the brigade at the battle of Nashville. The brigade at this time consisted of nine Tennessee regiments consolidated into three field organisations : the 1st and 27th; the 4th, 6th, 9th, and 50th; and the 8th, 16th and 28th.

After defeat at Nashville in December 1864, the army made the long journey to join General Joseph E. Johnston at Bentonville, North Carolina. In the final re-organisation of Johnston's Army in April 1865, the 1st/27th was consolidated with the 6th, 8th, 9th, 15th, 28th and 34th Infantry Regiments, and the 24th Battalion of Sharpshooters to form the 1st Consolidated Regiment of Tennessee Infantry. The consolidated regiment formed part of General Joseph E. Palmer's Brigade, Cheatham's Division, in Hardee's Corps. After the Battle of Bentonville, it was surrendered by General Johnston at Durham, North Carolina on 26 April 1865, and was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina on 1 May 1865.