The oldest continuous service regiment in the Virginia National Guard and seventh oldest in the United States Army is the 116th Infantry, dating from 3 November 1741. The 1st Virginia Regiment was raised July 17, 1775, in Williamsburg as a state militia unit and later for service with the Continental Army, and its lineage lives on today in the 116th Regimental Combat Team.
116th Infantry “The Stonewall Brigade” Regimental service dates from 1742, and “Ever Forward” through the French and Indian War, the American Revolution through the War of 1812, American Civil War, Spanish American War, Mexican Border Service in 1916-1917 then to World War I and II continuing today to Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
The militia regiment saw action during the Revolution, guarding the frontier and sending volunteer companies to serve in Major General Nathaniel Greene’s campaigns in the Carolinas in 1781, including battles at Cowpens and Guilford Court House. Seven companies of the regiment also participated in the final victory over the British at Yorktown.
During the Civil War, the famous Stonewall Brigade fought through virtually every engagement of the Army of Northern Virginia which is reflected in nineteen battle streamers on the 116th Regimental Colors.
The 116th Infantry, formed as part of the 29th Infantry Division, and deployed in World War I. Soldiers of the 116th Infantry spearheaded an attack in October 1918 during what was known as the Meuse Argonne Offensive. During this attack, the Regiment earned the French Croix de Guerre and Sgt. Earle Gregory of the 116th Infantry earned the Medal of Honor, the first Virginia Guardsman to receive the award.
During World War II, Soldiers from the 29th took part in the massive invasion of Normandy France that began the morning of June 6, 1944, to be known forever as “D-Day.” More than 800 members of the 116th Infantry were killed, wounded or missing during the assault on Omaha Beach, but their courage and bravery helped create a foothold that allowed follow on forces to continue the assault. The unit earned the Presidential Unit Citation and a second French Croix de Guerre with Palm for the D-Day landings in Normandy.
On June 14, after D-Day, Tech. Sgt. Frank Peregory of Company K, 116th Infantry from Charlottesville, became the second Virginia Guardsman to earn the Medal of Honor, (posthumously), for his action on or about June 8, when he single-handedly killed or captured 30 enemy soldiers defending a trench line.
During the rest of the war, the regiment participated in four campaigns, including exceptional hard fighting at St. Lo and Brest in France and Julich in Germany. The 1st Battalion received two additional awards for its role in the August 1944 crossing of the Vire River in Normandy: a second Presidential Unit Citation and a French Croix de Guerre with Silver-Gilt Star. Major Tom Howie of Staunton gained immortality as the “Major of St. Lo.” He received the Silver Star , which maybe upgraded to The Distinguished Service Medal (DSC), and the French Legion of Honor, “Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur …Posthume.”
More recently, the 116th Regimental Combat Team and other Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen served during The Sinai Peace Keeping Mission, Operation Desert Shield and Storm and since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen have served on federal active duty in support of Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Guantanamo Security Mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Soldiers of the Regiment help maintain security in the United States and further the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as serving in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Ten 116th Regiment Soldiers have lost their lives to hostile enemy contact during the Global War on Terror
1. “Brief History 116th Infantry Regiment.” Message from BG Ted Shuey. 22 Jan. 2014. E-mail.
2. “116th Infantry Regiment | The Stonewall Brigade.” 116th Infantry Regiment. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
3. The Tradition Continues: A History of the Virginia National Guard. Richmond: Taylor Pub., 1987. Print.