Induction of memory CD8 T cells residing in peripheral tissues is of interest for T cell-based vaccines as these cells are located at mucosal and barrier sites and can immediately exert effector functions, thus providing protection in case of local pathogen encounter. Different memory CD8 T cell subsets patrol peripheral tissues, but it is unclear which subset is superior in providing protection upon secondary infections. We used influenza virus to induce predominantly tissue resident memory T cells or cytomegalovirus to elicit a large pool of effector-like memory cells in the lungs and determined their early protective capacity and mechanism of reactivation. Both memory CD8 T cell pools have unique characteristics with respect to their phenotype, localization, and maintenance. However, these distinct features do not translate into different capacities to control a respiratory vaccinia virus challenge in an antigen-specific manner, although differential activation mechanisms are utilized. While influenza-induced memory CD8 T cells respond to antigen by local proliferation, MCMV-induced memory CD8 T cells relocate from the vasculature into the tissue in an antigen-independent and partially chemokine-driven manner. Together these results bear relevance for the development of vaccines aimed at eliciting a protective memory CD8 T cell pool at mucosal sites.