History of the 7th Infantry Regiment

Cottonbalers by God - Cottonbalers at the Battle of New Orleans painting by Dale Gallon
Image courtesy of Gallon Historical Art , Gettysburg, PA www.gallon.com

History Synopsis:

The rich heritage of the 7th Infantry Regiment spans 200 years and 12 wars with 76 campaign streamers earned and 14 unit decorations received. The Regiment has served in more campaigns than any other Infantry unit in the United States Army. It was initially organized in response to the “quasi-war” with France during the summer of 1798. The first major conflict in which the Regiment was engaged was the Indian War of 1811 where it fought under General William Henry Harrison in Ohio and Indiana. Its first encounter against foreign troops took place in the War of 1812 where the 7th Infantry saw action in Canada, Florida and Louisiana.

It was the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, while being commanded by Andrew Jackson, who later became President of the United States, that the 7th Infantry was dubbed the “COTTONBALERS.” During that battle the 7th successfully held their position against the British forces from behind a breastwork of cotton bales. The nickname “Cottonbalers” was proudly accepted by the Regiment and a cotton bale was incorporated into the Regimental Coat of Arms and to the Distinctive Unit Insignia. Subsequent to the War of 1812 the 7th Infantry served in Florida and on the Arkansas frontier. Thereafter, it saw action in the Mexican War in such famous battles as the battle at Monterey, Cerro Gordo, and Vera Cruz. Following the Mexican War, the Cottonbalers were busy with such frontier tasks as building forts and roads, and protecting settlers. Between 1815 and 1846 the 7th Infantry participated in several campaigns climaxed by the Florida War against the Seminole Indians.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Cottonbalers went into action, and by 1865 had added 14 campaign streamers to the Regimental colors. In 1898, the Spanish-American War began, and the 7th Infantry was sent to fight in Cuba at El Caney and San Juan Hill. In 1901 the Regiment was shipped to the Philippines to quell the insurrection there, serving in Samar and Luzon.

During World War I, a well-prepared 7th Infantry landed in France as part of the newly formed 3d Infantry Division. It participated in the Aisne Defensive, the struggle at Chateau-Thierry, the Champaigne-Marne Defensive, and proceeded onward in offensive actions at Aisne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne, and St. Mihiel. Following distinctive action in seven campaigns, the French Croix de Guerre with Star was added to its ever-increasing number of unit honors.

With its outstanding record of achievement stretching out over almost half a century, the Cottonbalers plunged into World War II by being among the first to land in North Africa in 1942 with their assault on Morocco. This was the beginning of a series of victories during WWII that added ten more battle streamers to their colors. The 7th Infantry pushed onward from North Africa through Italy and France to Germany, where the Cottonbalers capped their efforts by capturing Berchtesgaden, Adolph Hitler’s mountain fortress.

Five years after the end of WWII, the 7th Infantry was deployed from Fort Devens, Massachusetts to action in Korea where it rejoined the other elements of the 3d Infantry Division. Landing at Wonsan, North Korea on 17 November 1950, the Cottonbalers took up positions between Wonsan and Hamhung while they fought a courageous rear guard action receiving elements of the First Marine Division as it withdrew from the Chosin Reservoir, controlling the escape route to Hamhung and the sea for UN forces mauled by the entry into the war by the Chinese. Fighting with zeal and spirit all the way through the Korean War, the Cottonbalers earned three Presidential Unit Citations and several foreign awards. Following the truce with the North Koreans the Regiment returned to Fort Benning, Georgia.

Following an Army reorganization in which regiments ceased to exist as tactical elements, the three battalions of the 7th Infantry began life as separate entities. The 1st Battalion remained with the 3d Division in one form or another until its inactivation on 15 December 1992. The 2d Battalion was assigned to the 10th Infantry Division from 1957 until 1963 when it was assigned back to the 3d Division. It was in an inactive status from 1 May 1966 until 16 December 1987 when it was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division and reactivated at Fort Stewart. The 3rd Battalion was inactivated on 1 July 1957 and transferred to the Army Reserve two years later, where it remained until 1966 when it was returned to the Regular Army and assigned to the 199th Infantry Brigade. The 3d Battalion served in Vietnam with the 199th until returning to Fort Benning and inactivation in 1970. It again returned to active duty in 1973 as part of the 197th Infantry Brigade, where it remained until its assignment to the 24th Division on 16 December 1987. It remained a part of the 24th until the 3d Division replaced the 24th in 1996. A 4th Battalion was created by the redesignation of the 4th Battle Group on 16 December 1987, and participated in the Gulf War, along with the 1st Battalion, as elements of the 3d Division. Following that action the 4th Battalion was inactivated on 15 May 1992 in Germany.

In 1990 the 2d and 3d Battalions deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the 24th Infantry Division, attacking into Iraq the following February as it lead the 24th into the Euphrates River Valley. Victorious, the 24th moved back into Saudi Arabia on 9 March 1991 and subsequently redeployed to Fort Stewart.

In early 2003 the 2d and 3d Battalions returned to the Middle East as fighting resumed in Iraq, distinguishing themselves once again as elements of the Army’s Premier Regiment. Today, as ever, the 7th Infantry Regiment stands by its motto, “Willing and Able,” to defend freedom at a moment’s notice, anywhere in the world.

The 7th Infantry ranks first on the Army’s Order of Merit List in terms of date constituted, awards and decorations received, and campaign streamers earned.

The Association's Historian, Dr, John McManus, has written a Two-Volume History of the 7th Infantry Regiment.
History of the 7th Infantry Regiment
Volume 1, was published in May 2008. Volume 2 will cover the Regiment's History from the unit's inception thru World War 2.

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