The 1 st Rhode Island Volunteers was organised around Providence, and commanded by Ambrose Everett Burnside, later to become General. The 1st Rhode Island engaged for a three-month enlistment beginning 20 April 1861 and ending on 2 August of the same year. It served at First Bull Run, where, though performing well in the early stages of the action, became entangled in the general rout which followed.
The uniform was remarkably different from other Union volunteer corps, both 1 st and 2nd Rhode Island wearing at least two and possibly three distinct styles of blouse, known as 'Burnside' or 'Rhode Island' blouses. One, of plain blue cloth, very nearly resembled the classic 'hunting shirt' beloved of American 'backwoodsmen' for generations; another similar blouse had a pleated front and very wide collar was referred to as a 'hunting jacket' ; the third was of the same length but with a buttoned-on 'plastron' front and standing collar, probably inspired by the dress of the numerous volunteer fire-fighting companies from which many volunteer regiments were raised. Trousers were either grey or light blue; the red blanket, normally worn rolled across the body, could be worn as a 'poncho' by means of a slit cut in the middle to act as a neck-hole.
The 1st Rhode Island had a Vivandière (sutleress), one Kady Brownell, daughter of a British soldier, born on campaign in Africa. She followed her husband, Robert S. Brownell, into the 1st Rhode Island, though forsook her appointment to fight alongside the men with rifle and sword. Transferring into the 5th
23 a) Officer, 1st Rhode Island VoJunteers.
b) Private, 1st Rhode Island Volunteers.
c) Private, 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers.
Rhode Island at the end of the three months' enlistment, Kady left the army when Robert was invalided out after being wounded at New Bern, when she returned to being a housewife, complete with discharge certificate signed by Burnside and her sword! The officer illustrated is carrying a Beaumont-Adams revolver.
The 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers served in Burnside's Brigade at First Bull Run, where the regiment, though involved in the rout, was able to withdraw from the flight and reform in good order. Thereafter it served in every major engagement fought by the Army of the Potomac until mustered out on 19 December 1865. The regiment wore one of the most archaic uniforms of the war in the early months of its service, consisting of a long tailcoat with red turnbacks, lining, and piping, the whole being of volunteer grey. Leather equipment was apparently either white or black. Officers probably wore a similar style of dress, or perhaps the more regulation dark blue frock-coat.
24. U.S.A.: a) Sergeant with marker flag, 14th New York Volunteers, b) Sergeant, Company <D', 19th Illinois Volunteers (Ellsworth Zouave Cadets).
Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth (after whom Company 'D' of the 19th Illinois was named as Ellsworth's Zouave Cadets) could be considered the instigator of the 'Zouave move-ment' in America. Before the war he was famous for the spectacular drill displays given by his Chicago Zouaves (Companies 'A' and 'K' of the 19th Illinois when the war commenced) in tours throughout the country, which without doubt was the main reason for the popularity of the Zouave style among militia companies of both North and South, all wishing to emulate Ellsworth's gaudy unit. In August i860 the Zouave Cadets gave a display on the White House lawn; when war threatened, Ellsworth raised the 11 th New York Volunteers, known as Ellsworth's Zouaves or the 1st New York Fire Zouaves, the latter name coming from its composition, the recruits being drawn mainly from volunteer fire-fighting companies. On 24 May 1861 Ellsworth was removing a Confederate flag from the roof of the Marshall House Tavern in Alexandria when he was shot and killed by the proprietor, a Southern sympathiser named James T. Jackson. Jackson himself was immediately killed by Private Francis Edwin Brownell of 'A' Company of the nth New York, for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour. Insignificant though the incident was, it was witnessed by a correspondent of the New York Tribune, whose report caused a sensation and turned Ellsworth into a national hero overnight, doing much to arouse war sentiments in the North as well as to popularise the Zouave-style of unit even further.
The 14th New York Militia (later 84th New York Infantry [The
Brooklyn Chasseurs]) were uniformed to resemble the Chasseurs à Pied (light infantry) of the French army, though contemporary reports of 'red-legged zouaves' of the 14th at Antie-tam confused the two French styles. The képi of the 14th bore the numerals '14' on the front, and was further distinguished by the blue circle on the crown. Though the jacket appeared to have been worn over a red shirt, the jacket and 'shirt' were in fact one garment, the blue sewn onto the red, the buttons on the blue being puiely decorative. The detachable 'trefoil' epaulettes were worn by all ranks; the canvas gaiters buttoned up the side. The cap-pouch on the waistbelt was ornamented with a brass State device consisting of an eagle with outstretched wings over a shield, over a scroll; the waist-belt plate bore the State device of 's.n.y.' ('State of New York', interpreted by the Confederates as 'Snotty-Nosed Yanks' !) Officers wore a more regulation uniform or frock-coat, but with the regimental red trousers which had a gold lace stripe down the outer seam.
The sergeant illustrated is carrying a marker flag attached to the muzzle of his rifle; these small standards were used to enable the men to keep their 'dressing' in action; based upon the National flag, the blue canton contained the regimental number surrounded by thirteen stars, indicative of the original thirteen colonies forming the United States.
The 14th New York (and the 84th which it became) included an engineer company, Butt's Company of Sappers and Miners. Though not as fashionable as Zouave units, there were a considerable number of Chasseur corps in both armies - for example, the 7th Battalion Louisiana Infantry of the Confederacy were known as Chasseurs k Pied or the St Paul's Foot Rifles, the latter being an unusual 'anglicization' of the original French name.
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