American Civil War Zouave Regiments

What is a Zouave?

114th PA
Zouaves of the 114th PA Volunteers
(Miller's Photographic History)
ZOUAVE (zoo-ahh-vah) was the name given to native North African troops employed by the French Army as fighters and mercenaries. Their dash, spirit, and heroic style of warfare caught the fancy of many military observers worldwide in the 1800's, including a young American named Elmer Ellsworth. Ellsworth organized the "US Zouave Cadets", the first zouave organization in this country, and toured the north where they participated in parades and drill competitions. The popularity of the cadets caught on in other areas of the nation and it was this idea that gave birth to "zouave regiments" during the American Civil War. A number of zouave regiments were organized in the North and South in 1861, modeled after the zouave regiments of North Africa and Ellsworth's Cadets. The uniforms of these regiments were very distinctive and made them stand out in camp and on the drill field. Regrettably, their bright red trousers and sashes also made them good targets on the battlefield. Never the less, a number of zouave regiments were raised, uniformed, and marched off to war to serve both sides.

Soldier of the 95th PVI
A Zouave of the 95th PA Infantry.
(Miller's Photographic History)
Zouave uniforms were difficult to obtain in America, so manufacturers of specialty clothing were employed to make the uniforms. There were many distinct styles and colors, depending on the design submitted by the benefactor of the regiment. Friends of the organizer provided money to pay for the uniforms along with donations from the town where the regiment was organized. John M. Gosline, a prominent citizen of Philadelphia who raised the 95th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry ("Gosline's Zouaves"), secured sufficient funds to purchase a full set of clothing for 1,000 men with enough cash left over to insure that the uniforms could be replenished as they were worn out. When the uniforms of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry began to wear out, Colonel Charles Collis used his influence with political friends in the state legislature to secure state money to supply new uniforms to those men who needed them. Despite these efforts, a zouave regiment only retained its distinctive dress if the men repaired their clothing and the distinctive zouave uniforms slowly disappeared from the army as time passed. By the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, many of these regiments had lost or worn out their original uniforms and adopted the standard Union uniform. Still, there were a handful of regiments that still had a portion of the zouave uniform- the jacket- such as the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry and the 95th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Even though many original zouave regiments had gone to standard Union uniforms, there some Union regiments that became zouave regiments. The 146th New York Infantry did not start the service in zouave uniforms, but adopted them in June 1863 jus before the Gettysburg Campaign began. Some of the other regiments in that brigade, including the 140th New York and 155th Pennsylvania Infantry, adopted zouave uniforms later in the war.

Mary Tepee
French Mary
A unique presence in zouave regiments was the vivandiere (vi-van-de-air). This was a special person in the regiment because they were female and dressed in a uniform similar to the men. Many zouave regiments had vivandieres who performed a variety of duties, most notably nursing on the battlefield. Mary Tepee, or "French Mary" as she was called, was the vivandiere of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Mary was present on almost every battlefield where the regiment fought and acted as a battlefield nurse and aide. She carried water and bandages into battle and was wounded during the war. Mary was present with the regiment at Gettysburg and was one of the few women with the army to ever experience combat. Her regiment, the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry or "Collis' Zouaves", were one of the more well known zouave regiments of the war, heralded for their precision on the drill field dressed in flashy zouave-style uniforms featuring bright red trousers, white leggings, blue jacket, and red fez. The 114th fought in almost every major battle of the Army of the Potomac, including Gettysburg. In 1864, the regiment was appointed headquarters guard for General Meade. One of the original uniforms that belonged to a solder of the 114th Pennsylvania is currently on display at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Elmer Ellsworth as commander of the Cadets
Ellsworth in his Zouave Cadet uniform, 1860
The young man who started the zouave craze in America did not live long enough to see the zouave regiments his example inspired, march to the battlefield. In 1861, Ellsworth returned to New York (his home state) and organized the 11th New York Infantry, "Ellsworth's Fire Zouaves". The men in the regiment recruited from the many different fire departments in New York City. The 11th New York moved to the defenses of Washington that April where their commander, Colonel Ellsworth, paid a courtesy call on the president. Ellsworth had become an acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln while living in Illinois, and the president was very fond of the dashing 24 year-old officer, viewing him as a symbol of Union and patriotism. On May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia seceded from the Union, the 11th New York Infantry was ordered to seize Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington. While securing the city, Colonel Ellsworth personally removed a Confederate flag from the front of an inn known as the Marshall House and was gunned down by the furious innkeeper. A grief stricken President Lincoln ordered Ellsworth's body be laid in state at the White House before the body was taken home to New York for burial. Ellsworth's tragic death became a symbol of the Union cause while northern newspapers and politicians eulogized him as one of the North's greatest patriots. Soon after his burial, his old regiment changed their nickname to "Ellsworth's Avengers".

Kids Zone Exhibits
Battle of Gettysburg
Sanitary Commission
Confederate Flags
Civil War Cooking
Civil War Exhibits
Women in the War
State Battle Maps

American Civil War Young Reader Book Titles

The Journal of James Edmond Pease: A Civil War Union Soldier, Virginia, 1863
James was only 15 when he joined, but he was able to get in. Nobody really liked him cause he was unlucky. One day in the confusion he charged ahead of his company and scared off all the Confederates single handed. After that, he became well liked by most people and soon rose Corporal. He showed his bravery when he spent a week in enemy territory. By the end of the war he rose up to Second Lieutenant.
Night Boat to Freedom
Night Boat To Freedom
Night Boat to Freedom is a wonderful story about the Underground Railroad, as told from the point of view of two "ordinary" people who made it possible. Beyond that, it is a story about dignity and courage, and a devotion to the ideal of freedom.

Behind the Blue and Gray
The Soldier's Life in the Civil War

Civil War reading can be very dry, but not this book. Delia Ray takes us on a soldiers journey beginning with enlistment and ending with a soldiers life after the war, using quotes from actual letters and diaries strategically placed throughout the book.

Grace's Letter to Lincoln
Many important details of the time period help to make the reader understand what life was like then. It also includes photos of the actual letters written between Grace and Mr. Lincoln

Turn Homeward, Hannalee
During the closing days of the Civil War, plucky 12-year-old Hannalee Reed, sent north to work in a Yankee mill, struggles to return to the family she left behind in war-torn Georgia. "A fast-moving novel based upon an actual historical incident with a spunky heroine and fine historical detail."--School Library Journal.

My Brothers Keeper
Virginia Dickens is angry. Her father and brother Jed have left her behind while they go off to Uncle Jack's farm to help him hide his horses from Confederate raiders. It's the summer of 1863 and Pa and Jed believe 9-year-old Virginia will be out of harm's way in the sleepy little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Kindle Available

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina 1865
Not only is 12-year-old Patsy a slave, but she's also one of the least important slaves, since she stutters and walks with a limp. So when the war ends and she's given her freedom, Patsy is naturally curious and afraid of what her future will hold.

Numbering The Bones
The Civil War is at an end, but for thirteen-year-old Eulinda, it is no time to rejoice. Her younger brother Zeke was sold away, her older brother Neddy joined the Northern war effort,. With the help of Clara Barton, the eventual founder of the Red Cross, Eulinda must find a way to let go of the skeletons from her past.


National Park Service
Gettysburg National Military Park
97 Taneytown Road
Gettysburg, PA 17325