Southern Tigers

Standing six feet four and weighing a hefty 275 pounds, Roherdeau \\ heat w as an imposing figure. 1Ic needed all his strength to control the 1st Special Battalion Louisiana Infantry, better known as Wheat's Tigers. The son of an Kpiscopalian minister, Virginian-born \\ heat was a lawyer and soldier of fortune. I le had served as an officer in the Mexican war and fought in Cuba and Central America as a member of Walker's freebt>ot ing expeditions.

After serving with Garibaldi's forces in Italy, W heat had returned to America on the eve of the Civil War. General W infield Scott, his former commander, had asked him to serve the Lnion, but Wheat's sympathies lav with the South, and he went off to seek a commission in the Confederacy. None was available, so Wheat went back to his old stamping ground. New Orleans, and raised a company of volunteers called the Old Dominion Guards, who became part of the 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry.

W heat was later elected major of the 1st Special Battalion, an outfit that also boasted a company called the Tiger Rifles. Pretty soon the entire 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry became known as W heat's Tigers.

The 'Tigers became one of the most infamous outfits ever produced by the South, and boasted a number of colourfully named companies. Planters' sons of the Catahoula Guerrillas rubbed shoulders

One ojthe best photographs of Civil li ar Zouaves ever taken is this group of Collis' Zouaves, these turbuned Zoos-Zoos are Company G of the I Nth Pennsylvania photographed at Petersburg in 18l>4. Ill the men have the look of proud veterans, anil it's little wonder that General Meade selected the regiment to be his headquarters guard. ( Michael ;l McAfee)

Tiger Zouaves23rd Pennsylvania Zouaves
Many photos of the 23rd Pennsylvania, Hirney's Zouaves, show enlisted men wearing kepis with red trim, hut this Zouave spoils a fez anil tassel. The metal object on the front ojhis fez is unclear. Perhaps it's his regiment's numerals or some kind oj badge. (Michael J. McAfee)

with the soldiers of fortune of the Walker Guards, and dispensing justice with his fists was the sergeant of the Tiger Rifles, a former prizefighter who found that sorting out troubles in the battalion gave him plenty of opportunities to brush up his skills.

Rascals they may have been, but Wheat's Tigers never lacked courage in their brief but memorable Civil War service. At First Hull Run W heat's Tigers were situated on the Confederate left flank at the Stone Bridge, with the 4th South Carolina \oluntecrs of Colonel Nathan Evans' brigade. Advancing a mile upstream from the bridge, to hold back the enemy who were bearing down on the Confederate left and buy time for reinforcements to arrive, the 'Tigers took the full force of a flanking movement launched by \mbrosc Burnsidc's Rhode Island Brigade, who outnumbered the feisty /ouaves six to one.

The South Carolinians came up from the Stone Bridge in support of the Tigers, but in the smoke and confusion of battle mistook them for Yankees and fired a volley into their ranks. Outraged, the 'Tigers fired a volley back before order was restored. The Confederates were slowlv being pushed back, but there was still plenty of fight left in the Tigers. Dismounting from his horse, Wheat drew his sword and waved it in the air to rally his scattered men. But at that moment Wheat was hit by a musket-ball. Ii struck him underneath bis upraised arm, pierced his lung and passed completely through his body.

A group of Tigers rolled their stricken leader on to a blanket and started to carry him to the rear. Wheat survived the perilous journey to the field hospital, even though he was dropped on the ground when two of the men carrying him were shot. The Tigers left in action faltered when they heard about their leader, but they soon rallied, and their stout defence was stilfened by the arrival of two Confederate brigades. Shouting \\ heat's name, the Tigers charged the Yankees. It was claimed that several Tigers even dropped their muskets and went at the Union troops just nourishing their wicked Bowie knives.

With First Bull Run ending in a Confederate victory. W heat's Tigers, who had held Burnsidc's Yankees at bay until reinforcements could arrive, became the heroes of the hour. Meanwhile W heat was languishing from his wound. A surgeon said he wouldn't survive the night, but in reply Wheat said that he would make a full recovery from his wound; to his men's delight and the astonishment of his doctors, he did.

One of General Ewcll's aides had not been impressed by the Tigers at Bull Run, and rather foolishly lie voiced his opinions. Defending the Zouaves' honour. Captain Alex White, the commander of the Tiger Rifles company, challenged him to a duel. The men didn't choose pistols or swords, but rifles blazing away at each other until General I.well's aide fell mortally wounded, hit just above the hips. Celebrating White's victory, the Tigers ran amok in Lynchburg, Virginia. 'They also engaged in frequent brawls with soldiers from Kentucky and Georgia.

\\ hile Wheat w as out of action recovering from his wound, Lieutenant-colonel Charles de Choiseul was put in temporary command of the Zouaves. Determined to tame the Tigers, he had two unruly Zouaves sentenced to death. 'Whether the Tigers will devour me, or whether I will succeed in taming them remains to be seen,' he wrote. The two men facing execution were reputedly part of a gang thai had beaten up an officer and tried to rescue some imprisoned Tigers.

W heat was outraged and argued for clemency, especially since one of the condemned men had been a member of the party thai had carried him to safety at Hull Run. Hut his pleas fell on deaf ears; on 9 December 1861 the two Zouaves were shot by a firing squad made up of their fellow Tigers. Excused from watching his men die. Wheat sobbed quietly, alone in his tent.

By the time of Jackson's Valley campaign, in the spring of 1X62, Wheat was fully recovered, but he was still embittered by the execution of the two Tigers. He and his Zouaves had lost none of their reckless spirit, however. \t Front Royal the Tigers rushed across a burning railway bridge to get at the enemy, before helping to chase the Yankees through the town. Later the Tigers were part of a force also comprising some of Turner Ashby's cavalry and the Rockbridge artillery pursuing retreating Federals toward Winchester. Gleefully the Tigers kepi up with the fast pace of the trotting horses.

In June 1X62, W heat's Tigers took part in what was to become their last great fight, at Gaines' Mill, the same battlefield where the red-legged Yankees of the 5th New York were engaged. As if foreseeing that this fight would cost him his life, Wheat became melancholic on the eve of the

New York Military Uniforms

Colonel l)e II ill Clinton Baxter gave liis mime to Baxter's Fire Zouaves, the 72nd Pennsylvania. Baxter looks like the archetypal military figure here ami wrote a hook called Zouaves l.ight Infantry Tactics; lint like so many Civil li ar officers, Baxter was a civilian turned soldier. Before the war he worked us a wood engraver and customs official. Ilere he appears to he holding a McDowell-style forage cap. and it looks like he's wearing a regulation officer's overcoat with cape. ( Michael J. Wi Ifee)

Colonel l)e II ill Clinton Baxter gave liis mime to Baxter's Fire Zouaves, the 72nd Pennsylvania. Baxter looks like the archetypal military figure here ami wrote a hook called Zouaves l.ight Infantry Tactics; lint like so many Civil li ar officers, Baxter was a civilian turned soldier. Before the war he worked us a wood engraver and customs official. Ilere he appears to he holding a McDowell-style forage cap. and it looks like he's wearing a regulation officer's overcoat with cape. ( Michael J. Wi Ifee)

battle, and ordered he be buried where he fell.

During the battle W heat's Tigers were one of the units struggling across Boatswain's Swamp, taking part in an attack on (he federal right. Wheat rode ahead of his men to encourage ihem.

Wheat Tigers Bowie KnifeKeystone Zouave Uniform

The keystone Zntitives of the 7(>th I'ennsylvania saw war on two fronts in both the western anil eastern theatres. They liatl a particularly attractive uniform with a light grey 'false vest' shown particularly well by the sergeant with his jacket open shown here. On his sleeve he has a veteran's stripe, in recognition that he signed up again after his term oj service expired. I Michael J. McAfee)

hut close to the Federal lines he was shot through the eve and died instantly. The death of Wheat meant the Tigers couldn't he rallied, and they broke. 'They have killed the old major and I am going home,' cried one tearful Tiger. Without Wheat, the 'Tigers were no longer an effective fighting unit, and the remaining battle-weary Zouaves were assigned to other regiments.

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