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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