The 3rd Tennessee Infantry was organized in May of 1861 at Lynnville, beneath a sugar maple, in Giles County, TN, and John Calvin Brown was chosen as Colonel. The unit first went to Camp Cheatham, but after measles set in they moved to Camp Trousdale, where illness followed.
When first organized the unit was under control of the State of Tennessee, which had not yet seceded from the Union. In June, after a second vote, Tennessee seceded and in August the unit was accepted into service of the Confederate States of America. They reported to Gen. Buckner in Bowling Green, KY and were evacuated to Fort Donelson when Buckner gave up the city to Federal forces (who shelled the city from Fort Baker not realizing the Confederates had abandoned it!) In February Fort Donelson fell after heavy fighting, and the remaining men were captured and enlisted men sent to the Federal prison Camp Douglas. Col. Brown was offered his freedom but elected to share in the fate of his men.
After seven months, and dozens of deaths, the men were taken down river from Camp Douglas to be exchanged at Vicksburg. Col. Brown was promoted to Brig. Gen. and Calvin H Walker replaced him as Colonel. In December of 1862 the 3rd were involved in the Battle at Chickasaw Bayou, after which they moved to Port Hudson to suffer bombardment by Federal forces. In May of 1863 they participated in the Atlanta Campaign, moving through Raymond into Jackson, MS, to meet Sherman's forces. Before battle Col. Walker said, "We will soon be engaged in a battle and before we begin I wish to say that I do not command you to go, but to follow this old bald head of mine..."
In July of 1863 the 3rd found themselves in Vicksburg again, and when the city was surrendered they moved back into Jackson suffering 3 killed, 6 wounded and 13 captured during fighting there. In September they fought at Chickamauga and then in November at Missionary Ridge. In December, after camping in Georgia, they began the retreat to Atlanta, fighting in places such as Rocky Face Ridge, New Hope Church and Jonesboro, among other places.
When Atlanta fell they followed Gen. Bell into Tennessee, but arrived too late for the disaster at Franklin. They were given to Gen. Forrest as rear guard for the retreating army after the Battle of Nashville. A report from December of 1864 says the 3rd only had 17 soldiers present as they moved with the Army of Tennessee into North Carolina where they were surrendered and paroled.
Colonel John Brown had become General John Brown, and was a twice elected Tennessee Governor in 1870 and 1872.
Remnants of the flag are currently
on display at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.