Stuart’s Report…and “Zouaves”!

20 01 2008

 

14th-bklyn.jpg

There’s a curious bit in Stuart’s report that is part of some confusion that permeates much of the history of the battle.  He mentions charging on a regiment “dressed in red”, and later identifies that regiment as the Fire Zouaves, the nom de guerre (gee, I hope I’m using that term correctly) of the 11th New York.  Stuart’s description was a little vague, but his subordinate W. W. Blackford was more detailed in his memoir, War Years with Jeb Stuart (from page 28, emphasis is mine):

 

Colonel Stuart and myself were riding at the head of the column as the grand panorama opened before us, and there right in front, about seventy yards distant, and in strong relief against the smoke beyond, stretched a brilliant line of scarlet – a regiment of New York Zouaves in column of fours, marching out of the Sudley road to attack the flank of our line of battle.  Dressed in scarlet caps and trousers, blue jackets with quantities of gold buttons, and white gaiters, with a fringe of bayonets swaying above them as they moved, their appearance was indeed magnificent.

This illustrates a common thread of confusion that runs through much of the documentary evidence which has served to construct the First Bull Run narrative.  Stuart’s conclusion that this unit was indeed the 11th NY is based not on his observation, but on what he was told afterwards.  While it’s not positively known when Blackford wrote his memoir (D. S. Freeman thought it was “considerably before” 1896) and his memory could have been affected by inumerable influences, Blackford’s account contradicts Stuart, and himself, with his detailed description of the uniform of the enemy.

The 11th NY at Bull Run by most accounts was clad in red firemen’s shirts and standard issue blue pants.  Their original Zouave uniforms, which by the way featured gray coats and pants, had worn out by July 1861.  Blackford’s description matches quite well the uniforms of the 14th New York State Militia (later the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry), known as the 14th Brooklyn, who were clad in an outfit of the French chasseur pattern.  (The photo at the top of the page, which is from this 14th NY, Co. E reenactment website, shows the men in uniforms that could have used Blackford’s description as a design template.) But folks seem to have commonly referred to the uniform as a Zouave uniform.  Since the 11th NY was the only wholly Zouave New York unit on the field that day (even though they weren’t wearing Zouave uniforms), the New York regiment in the Zouave uniforms with red pants has over time become the 11th NY.

There are reports of red trousered Fire Zouaves that may be referring to the 14th B’Klyn, or that may be referring to the 11th NY with the author tossing in red pants for effect, or that may be pure flights of fancy.  I even found one account that referred to the Brooklyn Fire Zouaves!  Adding to the confusion is the fact that the 14th B’Klyn fought on the same part of the field as the 11th NY, the 1st Minnesota regiment (red shirts), the 4th Alabama (red shirts), and a whole bunch of artillerymen who were commonly known as “redlegs” due to the red trim on their coats, hats and, yes, pants which denoted their arm of the service.

This is not something to be resolved overnight.

Next up for the Confederate ORs is #84, P.G.T. Beauregard.  This one takes up 31 pages!  It may be the only report I put up next week.

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10 responses

21 01 2008
Mike Peters

Harry,

Nice post! :)

FOr what it’s worth, I’d say that Blackford was referring to the 14th Brooklyn, a regiment I’ve seen described in more than one account as the “Brooklyn Fire Zouaves.” I guess it could be “artistic license.” We’ve talked about this before & the only Union soldiers in red pants on 21 Juky 1861, of which I’m aware, were the men of the 14th Brooklyn.

Mike

21 01 2008
Harry Smeltzer

I didn’t set out to make this a Zouave post, but it kind of worked out that way. I think for sure Blackford was describing the 14th Brooklyn. Stuart may have been as well. But most narratives of the battle ID the federal regiment that bore the brunt of the charge described by Stuart and Blackford as the 11th NY. There are even illustrations in Harper’s Weekly of 11th NY Zouaves returned from the battlefield in full Zouave attire, whcih they were not wearing on the field. Go here.

Hey, how do you like the way I’ve been capitalizing the word Zouave?

21 01 2008
Mike Peters

Harry,

Blackford says the unit in question was “dressed in scarlet caps and trousers, blue jackets with quantities of gold buttons, and white gaiters.” That’s a nice description of the 14th’s uniform. The classic Zouave head cover was the fez/turban. Since Blackford writes about a scarlet cap, I think this is further evidence that he was referring to the 14th Brooklyn & their kepis. There are pictures of captured 11th NY soldiers clad in the classic fez.

Mike

21 01 2008
Mike Peters

Harry writes:

Hey, how do you like the way I’ve been capitalizing the word Zouave?

Harry,

I like it a lot.

Mike

21 02 2008
Kershaw’s Report « Bull Runnings

[...] command fought together.  Kershaw wrote his report five days after the battle.  But as discussed here, there’s a good bit of confusion surrounding the Zouaves of the 11th NY and the Chasseurs of the [...]

6 03 2008
Frank

Thats a great photo, and you can see me in it as well! I’m third from the left, the big corporal with the blanket roll! Ah the good ol days of being a Non Com! But on topic, Stuart was totally describing the 14th Brooklyn’s Uniform. I just can’t stand when they refer to the 14th as Zouaves or even worse the 84th New York! Thankfully McDowell Stepped in and fought the governor of new york state and helped the 14th Brooklyn keep their name! Needless to say the governor of New York didn’t like the 14th at first, and tried keeping them out of the war, hence the reason Lincoln called on them personally.

16 03 2008
Rw Boileau

Harry…I am trying to find information on reenactment and the luminaries for 2008. I’m a southern Jersey boy below the Mason Dixon line and would like to attend the event.
Thanks for any help….little b.

16 03 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Not sure exactly what you want to know, but the NPS site for whatever battlefield you’re interested in is a good place to start. Without more info for me to go on, that’s about all I can suggest.

13 05 2008
Out, Damn’d Spot! Out, I Say! « Bull Runnings

[...] also only members of the 14th Brooklyn.  As discussed several times on Bull Runnings (most notably here), the 11th New York Fire Zouaves were not wearing red pants at Bull Run.  Most of their Zouave [...]

20 07 2008
Fire Zouaves: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words « Bull Runnings

[...] know, I go on and on about the uniform of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves at Bull Run, including here, here, and here.  To recap, despite numerous, even eyewitness accounts to the contrary, the [...]

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