Chatham Roberdeau ('Rob') Wheat led a varied career; son of an Episcopal minister, he served in the U.S.— Mexican War at the age of twenty, after which he settled in New Orleans as a criminal lawyer. The call of adventure being too strong, he went to South America as a mercenary, finally being commissioned in the Mexican army. Seeking fresh fields, he joined the English Volunteers of Garibaldi's army in Italy, but returned to America upon the outbreak of war. He raised a unit mostly from Irish 'roughs' in New Orleans, officially known as Wheat's Special Battalion or the Louisiana Zouaves, but glorying in the nickname 'Tigers'.
As Major commanding the 'Tigers', Wheat alone could control the unruly elements from which the corps was composed. He led them at First Bull Run where he was shot through both lungs; told that the wound was mortal, he replied 'I don't feel like dying yet', and indeed survived to lead his tough battalion in the Valley campaign. After his mortal wound at Gaines' Mill, the 'Tigers' were never again an effective fighting unit when deprived of Wheat's leadership and discipline.
The Louisiana 'Tigers' wore a typical Zouave costume, consisting of red stocking-cap with blue tassel, dark brown jacket with red braid in varying patterns, red shirts and sashes, and trousers made from bed-ticking, sometimes white with blue stripes or mixtures of red, white and blue. Also known as the ist Louisiana Special Battalion, the 'Tigers' included the following exotically-named companies: Walker Guards ('A'), Tiger Rifles ('B'), Delta Rangers ('C'), Catahoula Guerrillas or Old Dominion Guards ('D'), and the Wheat Life Guards ('E'). The battalion formed part of the ist Louisiana Brigade, consisting also of the 6th and 8th Louisiana Regiments and The Pelican Regiment (7th Louisiana); the entire brigade adopted the nickname of Wheat's corps, calling themselves the 'Louisiana Tigers'.
An unofficial addition to the 'Tigers' uniforms were patriotic mottos inscribed upon their stocking-caps or straw hats, for example 'Tigers Win Or Die', 'Tigers Always', or 'Tigers!'
55 1 st Battalion Louisiana Zouaves.
b) 1st Lieutenant.
56 a) Private, McClellan's Zouaves.
b) Private, Chichester Zouave Cadets.
c) Cadet, Virginia Military Institute.
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