Firemen Zouaves

Karl\ in 1861, Ellsworth was commissioned a second lieutenant in the regular army, but he resigned this post shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter and the beginning of war. I le headed back to New York with the romantic idea that his native state should supply the first Zouave unit to go to Washington and be mustered in for the conflict.

F.llsworth had been a martinet with his Zouave Cadets: his men had to be of sound moral character and they were not allowed to drink (ideas that would have appalled roguish French Zouaves, whose speciality in the Crimea had been plundering broken-down supply carts laden with food and liquor). For his new regiment, the lltli New York Volunteer Infantry, Ellsworth's First

New York Fire Zouaves, Ellsworth turned to the tough firemen of New York City for recruits. 'I want the New York firemen for there arc no more effective men in the country and none with whom I can do so much,' lie said.

The firemen agreed with him and recruiting went splendidly. Within 4<S hours the muster rolls of the 11th New York were full. The Fire Zouaves arrived in Washington on 7 May 1861, spoiling for a fight. Many of them had their heads shaved, and some even sported patriotic emblems, such as eagles, carved into the stubble.

The regiment was quartered in the Capitol's House of Representatives, and the men amused themselves by swinging on ropes from the unfinished Rotunda's cornice and hanging like monkeys from the edge of the dome. Hungry Fire Zouaves seized a stray pig and cut its throat, while other members in boisterous mood bought some shoes at a bootmaker's and asked for the bill to be sent to President Lincoln.

The Zouaves also stole a fire engine, towing it triumphantly around town, and they set fire to an effigy of Confederate president Jeff Davis suspended from a tree, starting rumours that they had hanged and burned an innocent passer-by.

Ellsworth dressed his men down, and they redeemed themselves by putting out a fire at a

Fire Zouaves

Despite their brief career, the Fire Zouaves carried no Jewer than Jive colours, displayed in this period I larpcr's Weekly Illustration. The most well known is the colour second left, Heautifully illustrated with firemen's equipment, this colour was given to the Zouaves by the \ew York• Fire Department. The original regimental colour of the Fire Zouaves was presented by Mrs John J. Astor and embroidered with the words 'US National Guards, First Regiment Zouaves Xew York'. (Ron Field)

tailor's shop next to the famous Willard's Motel. Grateful citizens had a collection for the daring Zouaves and the Willard's Hotel proprietor presented the regiment with 500 dollars.

On the night of 23 May 1861 the regiment moved out of Washington and crossed into Virginia, taking part in an action to seize Alexandria, a Confederate-held town in the predawn hours of 24 May. Incensed at seeing a Confederate flag flying from the Marshall House, a tavern in Alexandria, Ellsworth impulsively rushed into the building, marched upstairs and tore the flag down. As he came downstairs, James

Jackson, the owner of the building, shot Kllsworth dead. Jackson was in turn fatally shot by Fire Zouave corporal Francis H. Brownell, who had followed Ellsworth into the building.

The Fire Zouaves threatened to torch Alexandria, and the news that the dashing young Zouave commander was dead devastated

Francis Brownell

Few men who have never seen a battle can have had such a profound effect on military thinking as Elmer E. Ellsworth. This picture of the gallant commander of the I Hi ted States Zouave Cadets, the flashy outfit who did so much to popularise Zouaves in America, was taken in Sew York in I860 while the Cadets were on tour. The former struggling law student looks every inch a gallant soldier and we can only wonder what he would have achieved during the civil war, if his life hadn't been ended by a shotgun toting tavern owner, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities. (Michael jf. McAfee)

Francis Brownell

This lough-looking character is Corporal Francis E. Brownell, the /'ire Zouave who gunned down Colonel Ellsworth's killer, James Jackson, in an Alexandria tavern. This photo may have been taken before the incident, though, as later photos show BrowneH wearing a black armband in mourning for his dead commander. Just visible under Brownell's jacket is liis bell bearing the wont 'Premier', the fire company Brownell served with before the war. ( Michael J. McAfee)

Lieutenant Colonel Xoah Turnham, the second commander oj the Tire Zouaves, walked arm in arm with Ellsworth when the regiment left Sew York, but here he wears a black armband after his comrade's demise. Turnham wears a grey Fire Zouaves officer's /rock coal, embellished with gold trim on the cuffs. He was mortally wounded at Firsl Hull Run, but won praise for his conduct during the battle. ( Michael J. McAfee)

was commissioned a lieutenant in the regular arm\ and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour for shooting Ellsworth's killer down. After Ellsworth's demise Noah E. Earnham, the lltli New York's lieutenant colonel, assumed command of the Eire Zouaves. Serving with the 7tli Regiment New York State Militia, Earnham became Ellsworth's close friend after watching the United States Zouave Cadets in action. Just before liis death, when the 7th and the l ire Zouaves were posted to Washington, Ellsworth had offered Earnham a command with his unit.

This lough-looking character is Corporal Francis E. Brownell, the /'ire Zouave who gunned down Colonel Ellsworth's killer, James Jackson, in an Alexandria tavern. This photo may have been taken before the incident, though, as later photos show BrowneH wearing a black armband in mourning for his dead commander. Just visible under Brownell's jacket is liis bell bearing the wont 'Premier', the fire company Brownell served with before the war. ( Michael J. McAfee)

W ashington. I'lags w ere low ered to half mast and Ellsworth's body lay in state at the engine house in the Washington \av\ Yard. Ellsworth had been a favourite of President Lincoln, and his funeral service was held in the East Room of the W hite I louse. 1 kindreds of mourners filed past his coffin to gaze at the gallant colonel, dressed in his uniform with white lilies pinned to his frock coat. Songs were written in his honour, and he became a martyr for the Union cause. Corporal Brownell

Lieutenant Colonel Xoah Turnham, the second commander oj the Tire Zouaves, walked arm in arm with Ellsworth when the regiment left Sew York, but here he wears a black armband after his comrade's demise. Turnham wears a grey Fire Zouaves officer's /rock coal, embellished with gold trim on the cuffs. He was mortally wounded at Firsl Hull Run, but won praise for his conduct during the battle. ( Michael J. McAfee)

5th \eip York officers it I mess, I'ort Schuyler IHhl. In I he foreground, with his right hum/ raised, is adjutant Joseph II. Hamhlin, one of the more popular officers in the 5th \eii' ) ink. Ill the officers wear lull dress uniform, including dark blue frock coals. ( Michael J. Uc [fee)

Zouave Battles

Farnham led the dispirited 1 ire Zouaves into their baptism of fire at the Battle of first Bull Run in July 1X61. With a battalion of Marines, they were ordered to give support to two Union artillery batteries getting into position on 1 lenry House Hill, ready to open up on the rebel line. The Zouaves and the Marines were crossing the crest of the hill when the batteries came under fierce Confederate fire. Nearly every cannoneer was cut down, and the unnerved Zouaves and Marines broke and ran. It wasn't complete panic though: some Zouaves made a stand, firing over the heads of their retreating comrades.

Colonel I'arnham and his staff tried to rally the regiment, but at the height of the action Farnham's horse was shot out from under him and lie was struck a glancing blow on the head by a bullet, from a screening line of woods to the right of the Union position the famed 1st Virginia Cavalry, led by the dashing Jeb Stuart, saw an opportunity and charged the mass of Zouaves.

The 11th New York were unaware of the cavalry until they were nearly upon them, and again they ran. However, Stuart's cavalry did little damage, and several were unhorsed by Zouave bayonets. Carried from the field, Colonel Farnham seemed to make a recovery from his wounds, but on 14 August, a few weeks after Bull Run, he died.

As untested troops, the fire Zouaves did no better or worse than many regiments ai First Bull Run, and if Kllsworth had been with them it might have been a different story. However, they did win some praise. Colonel O.B. Wilcox of the Isi Michigan Infantry wrote: 'The Zouaves, though broken as a regiment, did good service under my own eyes in the woods, and detachments of them joined other regiments in the light.' Farnham and his staff were also singled out for compliments, but after First Bull Run the fire Zouaves would never have the opportunity to prove themselves; some months later the regiment was disbanded.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment