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Do Zouaves get a bad rap?


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A couple of months ago I was at Fort Point in San Francisco on what turned out to be an annual Civil War reenactor gathering. One of the first reenactors I saw was a Zouave in a brilliant red and blue uniform. Of course I had the same thought we are all supposed to have - "great uniform but suicidal in the Civil War". Thinking about Zouaves in light of the ACW and Papal army threads, I have to wonder. Were the brightly uniformed Zouaves really at such a great disadvantage? Is there clear evidence that they suffered more casualties due to visibility or are the criticisms based on bias against sartorial splendor and light infantry panache?

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Since none of us were there, we can only speculate, but I wonder if the kind of "formation fighting" that was typical of that era would have made much difference? There wasn't a lot of "stealthy" movement in the major engagements, and while any one individual might have been more conspicuous, would it really have mattered?

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Highly visible uniforms being suicidal against long range rifle/MG fire was something the French learned in the fall of 1914. Were average firing ranges in the ACW long enough to matter already? AFAIK they weren't. And also AFAIK no-one did major battles in skirmish line yet either.

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Guest aevans

The Zouave uniform was a symptom of naivete. It was adopted by enthusiastic volunteers early in the war. But while zouave style jackets seem to have been retained by some state volunteer regiments quite late into the war, the full zouave panoply was just too expensive and hard to maintain in the field.

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Guest aevans
Looks like not all Zouaves wore red pants.

 

The cantiniere in the second picture looks like a dude, not a chick.

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The Zouave uniform was a symptom of naivete. It was adopted by enthusiastic volunteers early in the war. But while zouave style jackets seem to have been retained by some state volunteer regiments quite late into the war, the full zouave panoply was just too expensive and hard to maintain in the field.

 

Certainly there was misplaced enthusiasm for colorful uniforms and parade ground maneuvers, but at their best the American units that followed the Zouave and Chasseur models were both enthusiastic and well drilled. As you and others have noted over on the ACW thread, expertise in formation movement was sadly lacking in many volunteer regiments, so skilled Zouave units, although inexperienced, could be significant assets on the battlefield ( eg 5th NY).

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Guest aevans
Certainly there was misplaced enthusiasm for colorful uniforms and parade ground maneuvers, but at their best the American units that followed the Zouave and Chasseur models were both enthusiastic and well drilled. As you and others have noted over on the ACW thread, expertise in formation movement was sadly lacking in many volunteer regiments, so skilled Zouave units, although inexperienced, could be significant assets on the battlefield ( eg 5th NY).

 

I didn't realize that there was a correlation between zouave uniform and battelfield utility. Would you care to put some hair on that?

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I didn't realize that there was a correlation between zouave uniform and battelfield utility. Would you care to put some hair on that?

 

I think the notion was that in the early part of the war, the Zouave units had been organized on a volunteer basis and had been drilling together for some time prior to hostilities. While the "militia" prior to the war was unpaid, some units formed and drilled on a volunteer basis and thus were better prepared to take the field on the outbreak of war. Not all of these units were Zouave units, but they were popular and colorful. Units with a head start on drill were more effective than other hastily formed units until time and experience brought the other units up to the same level.

 

Virginia had a large number of "organized" militia units. Tennessee did not. McMurry in his book "Two Great Rebel Armies" noted that this was one of the reasons the Army of Northern Virginia with a high percentage of Virginia units was so much better than the Army of Tennessee (and other western rebel armies) with a high percentage of Tennessee units. Also, the other southern states sent some of their best pre-war units to Virginia as a part of defending the capitol in Richmond.

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I'll go with what Richard wrote! (Although I didn't know about the material in his 2nd paragraph, and his 1st paragraph is far more eloquent than anything I can write.) :)

 

Colin:

 

Here is where you can get the book. It is certainly well worth reading.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Two-Great-Rebel-Armi...e/dp/0807845698

 

TIA: Shameless plug for my college roommate.

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Guest aevans
Virginia had a large number of "organized" militia units. Tennessee did not. McMurry in his book "Two Great Rebel Armies" noted that this was one of the reasons the Army of Northern Virginia with a high percentage of Virginia units was so much better than the Army of Tennessee (and other western rebel armies) with a high percentage of Tennessee units. Also, the other southern states sent some of their best pre-war units to Virginia as a part of defending the capitol in Richmond.

 

The AoT was apparently fielding a considerable number of green units as late as the summer of 1863. Foote recorded in his segment on Chickamauga that veterans of Longstreet's corps were appalled by the casualties that green AoT regiments endured.

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It was propably no worse than the austrian using white tunics, Sachsen using light blue and brits using red in the same time period.

 

In the mid-19th century the British became interested in concealment as rifles opened up engagement ranges, so they tested various colours. At close range (300 yards) the brighter colours were more noticable than the darker ones (i.e. white, bright red etc.). As ranges increased to 800 yds the order altered, and is roughly in line with the spectrum; blue was by far the most noticable, and red the least (beating even rifle green ISTR), although white was the most noticable at all ranges.

 

None of this really matters for the ACW, where ranges seldom went about 100 yds, and firefights above 200 yds are exceptionally rare. For example, in the killing area in front of the angle during Pickett's charge only 2 regiments (7th Michigan and 20th Mass.) opened fire at ca. 200 yds, the vast majority opened fire at ca. 100 yds, with some being closer (the smootbore armed regiments of the Irish Brigade holding fire until 50 yds and the smoothbore armed 12th NJ reserving fire until 20 yds).

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In the mid-19th century the British became interested in concealment as rifles opened up engagement ranges, so they tested various colours. At close range (300 yards) the brighter colours were more noticable than the darker ones (i.e. white, bright red etc.). As ranges increased to 800 yds the order altered, and is roughly in line with the spectrum; blue was by far the most noticable, and red the least (beating even rifle green ISTR), although white was the most noticable at all ranges.

 

Interesting...for once (even a stopped clock... :lol: ). Of course you have a reference for that?

 

None of this really matters for the ACW, where ranges seldom went about 100 yds, and firefights above 200 yds are exceptionally rare. For example, in the killing area in front of the angle during Pickett's charge only 2 regiments (7th Michigan and 20th Mass.) opened fire at ca. 200 yds, the vast majority opened fire at ca. 100 yds, with some being closer (the smootbore armed regiments of the Irish Brigade holding fire until 50 yds and the smoothbore armed 12th NJ reserving fire until 20 yds).

 

Then immediately back to the broken record I see... :rolleyes: Badly broken in this case. :rolleyes:

 

So "seldom went about 100 yds", when your fav, Paddy G., says the averaage in 1862 was 104 yards, and 64-65 was 141 yards (and Nosworthy, in his roundabout hemming and hawing way, confirms that 141 yards might be generally accurate), your other fav, Grimsley, reports 116 yards, and Bilby, for Gettysburg, gives 200 yards...just how the hell does that work? In Tiggerlandspeak if every figure is greater than 100 does that mean that they are all less than 100? :rolleyes:

 

Hess states that the 14th Connecticut opened fire at "about 200 yards" (Gettysburg p. 210). The 1st Delaware and 12th New Jersey at a range that was "as little as fifty yards, according to some eyewitnesses" (ibid p. 211). The ranges that the 6th Ohio, 125th and 126th New York (when it wheeled into line) fired on Pettigrew may also be inferred as opening at about 200 yards. The 14th Vermont "opened fire on Kemper at a range of about 300 yards" (ibid p. 222)...and etc. :rolleyes: In other words, a five minute perusal revealed another five to add to your "only 2" and indicates that your 12th New Jersey reference is off as well. :rolleyes:

 

Oh, and BTW, I'm curious, just which regiments of the Irish Brigade (i.e., Kelly's Brigade of Sunken Road, Stone Wall, and Wheatfield fame: the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York, 116th Pennsylvania, and 28th Massachusetts) does your fevered imagination believe participated in the repulse? "Holding their fire until 50 yds"? I'm really excited to find out about this hitherto unreported exploit by those regiments... :rolleyes:

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Interesting...for once (even a stopped clock... :lol: ). Of course you have a reference for that?

 

It's in the RUSI Journal, go and look.

 

Then immediately back to the broken record I see... :rolleyes: Badly broken in this case. :rolleyes:

 

Take it up with the authors of the AARs contained in the OR.

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It's in the RUSI Journal, go and look.

 

I will translate for those unversed in Tiggerworldspeak:

 

"I remember reading something, sometime that may have sounded sort of like what I just wrote, and RUSI Journal sounds pretty authoritative, so that's what I'll toss out, since it might not actually say what I claimed it said." :lol: :rolleyes:

 

Take it up with the authors of the AARs contained in the OR.

 

More Tiggerworldspeak translation:

 

"I don't know how to answer your questions or how to resolve the inconsitancies in my own claims." :lol: :rolleyes:

 

So just who is the "author" in the AARs who claims that the Irish Brigade was engaged repulsing the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge? Just which reports in Volume XXVII, Chapter 39, validate your claims? You must be able to come up with those answers since you are apparently now claiming you read about it in the OR? :rolleyes:

 

And just to be clear, I'm taking it up with YOU, since YOU are the one incapable of supporting your argument or proving the various idiotic claims YOU have been making. This is the King Sargent Military History Forum, not the 67th Tiggers Military Fantasy Forum. :rolleyes:

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So just who is the "author" in the AARs who claims that the Irish Brigade was engaged repulsing the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge? Just which reports in Volume XXVII, Chapter 39, validate your claims? You must be able to come up with those answers since you are apparently now claiming you read about it in the OR?

 

Rich, I would also take the AAR's in the OR with a grain of salt.

 

What sounds better or more career-enhancing?

 

1. We opened fire as soon as they came within range of our muskets and continued the fire until they retreated.

 

or

 

2. My brigade held their fire and stood like rocks until the enemy came into point blank range, then we released volley after volley and sent the remnants of their force retreating in confusion.

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Rich, I would also take the AAR's in the OR with a grain of salt.

 

Certainly, but if claims are going to be based upon them it would be nice if those claims were actually based upon them, instead of some fantasy of what they say. Which is something for that matter that could be said for any source... :lol:

 

What sounds better or more career-enhancing?

 

1. We opened fire as soon as they came within range of our muskets and continued the fire until they retreated.

 

or

 

2. My brigade held their fire and stood like rocks until the enemy came into point blank range, then we released volley after volley and sent the remnants of their force retreating in confusion.

 

Neither really, since that isn't the general sense that in my experience comes across from most reports in the Official Records or almost any AAR for that matter. Usually what you find is either a literary opus that doesn't say a whole lot but spends a long time saying it - yes, there is a lot of Sturm und Drang in many of them - or a very brief statement of A, B, and C, leading to Z... :lol: Supposing that they were written for personal gain is over-generalizing in the extreme...I think the evidence from the way many are written is that they were written to fulfill a command requirement - Army Regs says you gotta, so might as well get it over with. Heck, in quite a few it's hard to tell that the unit was even in a battle, let alone what it did in the battle. :o

 

And of course memory is fallible. IIRC Bilby found that many of the distances he found by measuring were grossly different from what was reported, which isn't unexpected if you combine the difficulty of measuring distance by eye with the neccessity of remembering what that distance was days, weeks, or sometimes months later when the report was written.

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  • 4 weeks later...

One thing I would like to add about the Zouaves is that many were formed from fire brigades. Fireman basically. I believe the North had alot more then the South. The one unique unit I can think of from the South is the Louisiana Tigers. They had striped pants similiar to the picture posted. Zouaves weren't considered elite units, but the had plenty of guts to cover themselves in glory. Not to say that some were above the rest in abilities, anyone who could stand in a line and fire at each other at less than 100yds, gets my respect!

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  • 4 weeks later...

One thing I would like to add about the Zouaves is that many were formed from fire brigades. Fireman basically. I believe the North had alot more then the South.

 

Stopped Armisted and his boys cold.

 

 

http://www.gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/PA/72Pa.php

 

http://firelink.monster.com/topics/8016-the-72nd-pennsylvania---the-fighting-firemen/posts

 

http://philazou.home.mindspring.com/

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Er, um, no, sorry, it was the 69th Pennsylvania that did the cold stopping, not the 72nd, which was in reserve. The 69th held the stone wall to the left of the angle adjacent to the eight companies of the 71st Pennsylvania supporting Cushing. When the 71st broke the 69th refused their three right companies and continued to fight on, without support on either left or right. The 72nd famously took position fronting Armistead's breakthrough but refused to advance, ostensibly because they did not recognize Webb/failed to hear his orders/etc., and only advanced when the Confederates began to recoil. They then had the gall postwar to sue to have their memorial placed at the angle instead of where their line was for most of the engagement...and succeded.

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Er, um, no, sorry, .. They then had the gall postwar to sue to have their memorial placed at the angle instead of where their line was for most of the engagement...and succeded.

 

Unless you've read the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case decision, your snark fizzles.

 

I have. Their monument is up to the wall, behind Cushing's battery. Deal with it.

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Unless you've read the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case decision, your snark fizzles.

 

I have. Their monument is up to the wall, behind Cushing's battery. Deal with it.

 

Snark? No it was a comment epressing my opinion; sorry I didn't make it clearer. It's true there was a battle over the placing, yes it went to the Supreme Court, yes they won...and yes, it took gall for them to push it, given that they advanced to the wall to mop up. That has nothing to do with their actual performance in the battle, which was actually quite good. But their main monument should have been placed where they accomplished their significant role in the action and a secondary marker at their forward position. Deal with it.

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