Zouave and Chasseur Uniforms

In i8(>o a fad for wearing copies of French Zouave and Chasseur dress swept the North. This had some influence in the South too; and a number of so-called Zouave units were formed in the states from Texas to Virginia. Because of difficulties in obtaining even anything like regulation uniforms, let alone copies of the elaborate and ornate Zouave dress, few of these uniforms lasted more than a few months unless kept packed away in trunks. A private in the 63rd Pennsylvania Infantry wrote home on 26 June 1862 that his unit had recently been 'opposed by the Fourth Georgians. The Georgians were dressed in a fancy French zouave uniform, which caused our men to hesitate'—so some Zouave uniforms must have lasted at least that late.

The most famous such unit were the Louisiana Zouaves, who wore short blue jackets (which appear to have been replaced with brown in late 1861) trimmed with red; red shirts; red fezzes; blue and white striped trousers; and white gaiters. A uniform thought to have been worn by an officer of the Richmond Zouaves (Co. E, 44th Virginia Infantry Regiment) has a dark blue jacket fastened by a tab at the throat and edged in gold. Each cuffis decorated with a white 'clover leaf edged in gold. There are five Virginia State buttons on each cuff and two large ones at the neck. The trousers are baggy, made of scarlet wool with a gold stripe down cacli leg. The uniform also includes a blue wool sash with scarlet fringe, and a scarlet French-style kepi trimmed in gold according to Army regulations.

To keep up the complete Zouave illusion, Southern units, like the French regiments they copied, appear to have recruited vivandières female sutlers who accompanied the units. These women usually wore short wool jackets of the same colour and trim as those worn by the men; wide-brimmed, plumed hats; and trousers which were woollen from a point just above where they would appear under the skirt, and cotton above that. They were sometimes armed with revolvers; and often carried wooden casks filled with water, or stronger stuff, for the men. A Southern society lady in Richmond noted in her diary on 13 July 1861: 'Today in the drawing room I saw a vivandière, in the flesh. She was in the uniform of her regiment, but wore Turkish pantaloons. She frisked about in her hat and feathers, did not uncover her head as a man would have done, played the piano, sang war songs. She had no drum but she gave us a rataplan!"

Confederate cannoneers haul a ia-pdr. bronze 'Napoleon' gun up a steep hill. Note that many of them are wearing only their shirts in action. (Battles & Leaders of the Civil War)

Confederate cannoneers haul a ia-pdr. bronze 'Napoleon' gun up a steep hill. Note that many of them are wearing only their shirts in action. (Battles & Leaders of the Civil War)

Regiment Chasseur
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