Fire Zouaves: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

20 07 2008

I recently purchased Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine by Ira M. Rutkow (2005).  On page 12:

Poised at the foot of Henry House Hill, the Eleventh New York Infantry, best known as the First Fire Zouaves, may never have seen Johnston’s troops as they gathered at the ridge’s crest, but Johnston’s men could not miss the Yankees.  Advancing up the slope, the 950 or so Northerners were a colorful lot.  Sporting dark blue waistcoats accented in red and gold trim, bright red blouses, flowing crimson bloomers with blue piping and white spats, all capped off by a red fez, these warriors were the height of mid-nineteenth-century military haute couture.

Double Yoi.  I’d tell you what Rutkow’s source for this description is, but he neglected to note it.

I know, I go on and on about the uniform of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves at Bull Run, including herehere, here, and here.  To recap, despite numerous, even eyewitness accounts to the contrary, the regiment’s enlisted men did not wear red pants during the battle.  In fact, at no time were red pants ever a part of their uniform, though officers wore red pants of the chasseur pattern.  But don’t take my word for it:

Above is a photo of the 11th NY Zouave uniform of Private Francis E. Brownell of Company A, on display at Manassas National Battlefield (thanks to Jim Burgess at the park).  Notice the color (gray-blue), the name of Brownell’s New York fire company on his belt, and his red fireman’s jersey.  This is the same uniform Brownell was wearing on May 23rd, 1861, when he accompanied his colonel Elmer Ellsworth into Alexandria’s Marshall House hotel to pull down a secession banner flying from the building and visible through a glass from the White House.  As Ellsworth descended the stairs with the flag he was killed by a shotgun blast fired by the hotel’s proprietor, James Jackson.  Brownell, who was with Ellsworth, quickly shot Jackson in the face, then drove his saber bayonet through his body.

Ellsworth became a dead hero in the North, mourned by his friend Abraham Lincoln.  Jackson received similar posthumous honors in the south.  Brownell became a living celebrity, whose photo, complete with Ellsworth’s blood stained banner, became a popular item.

Brownell left the unit before First Bull Run, accepting a commission in the 11th US Infantry, and in 1877 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action at the Marshall House.  You’ll find his death notice here.

As you can read on this great website on the 11th, the regiment’s worn-out, gray-blue Zouave uniforms were grudgingly exchanged for standard union blue jackets and pants before First Manassas.  Many men continued to wear their distinctive red firemen’s shirts, and some may have worn red fezes, though the official uniform headgear as seen with Brownell was a kepi with company insignia and “1Z” for First Zouaves.  I think this image of the regiment fighting alongside the 69th New York Militia probably gives a good idea of what they looked like on the field at First Bull Run.

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Contest!

18 07 2008

 

Brett and his pack of wacky funsters at TOCWOC are having a contest – complete with prize!  Check it out.  Note that Brett is looking for what you feel are the five most important books you have read on the Civil War.  Not the five best; not the five most fun; but rather, the five most important.





Everyone Has an Angle

15 07 2008

 

A friend passed on this article by Lt. Col. Robert Bateman.  A good look at what historians do, how their job differs from that of a journalist (ideally, anyway), and how their opinions are just as biased as anyone else’s.  In summary:

In other words, while journalists may write the first draft of history, among historians there is no such thing as a “last draft.” There is only the most current, and the one certain thing within history is that it will change again soon enough. – R. Bateman

Check it out.





Anniversary Events

15 07 2008

The Friends of Manassas National Battlefield Park have posted the NPS flyer for events at the park this coming weekend.  Check it out.





Matthews Hill Trail and a Bonus

15 07 2008

Craig over at To the Sound of the Guns has posted a great photo tour of the Matthews Hill Trail at Manassas Battlefield Park.  Check it out.  Thanks, Craig, for all the fine work you do.  But as often happens with thread pulling, this three sentence post has turned into something different.  (Follow the links please; this ain’t yer gandpa’s blog.)

Craig’s photo essay includes a shot of the George T. Stovall monument (see below, courtesy of Craig – notice that WordPress has prettied up our photos, but they’ve added some glitches to the image posting process).  I found this interesting tidbit, which sheds some light on how life continued on for those left behind.  George’s sister Louisa petitioned the court to appoint her husband trustee of railroad stock and four slaves in the wake of the death of the former trustee (George) and of her father who had originally bequeathed the duty to George.  It’s most interesting I think in light of the fact that the petition was granted on May 4, 1865!  Remember that Jefferson Davis was not captured until six days later, on May 10, near Irwinville, GA.  At least until then, it appears to have been business as usual in the courts of Georgia.

George T. Stovall Marker Detail

George T. Stovall Marker Detail

 

 





Sorry…

14 07 2008

 

…for the lack of posts over the past eleven days.  I got swamped with work and also went on a family vacation to Lake Erie, where I had no web access.  I have lots of stuff to write about, mostly First Bull Run related.  As things calm down, I’ll post more regularly.  Thanks to all you folks who have been tuning in anyway, even if it’s just to find a picture of Buddy Holly or an N. C. Wyeth illustration.





Reader Contributions

3 07 2008

 

Thanks to reader Terry Johnston, former editor of North & South magazine.  Terry sent me some great contemporary articles from the Scottish American Journal on the 79th NY (Cameron Highlanders) and their experiences at Bull Run.  If any of you are inclined to pass along any similar info you may have gathered up on your regiments or people of interest, I’m runnin’ a post and wide open.








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