Gettysburg Fix

10 08 2008

This past Thursday I decided, on the spur of the moment, to make a quick trip to Gettysburg.  The wife and son would be out of town for the weekend, things are a little slow work-wise, so I figured what the heck.  Wifey reserved a room for me at the Hampton Inn on York Street for Friday night, I wrapped up a few things that needed wrapped up, and I hit the road for Gettysburg Friday afternoon.  I got into town a around 6:30 and made a B-line for the the parking lot behind the Travel Lodge.  The Horse Soldier was closed, of course.  I guess the Visitor’s Center relocation has not affected their business to the point where they will stay open past 5:00 pm on a Friday night during the busiest season for the town.

And busy the town was!  After talking a bit with Licensed Battlefield Guide Andy Ward (I ran into him in the parking lot when he was on his way to take more of his fine battlefield pictures), I took a walk down Steinwehr Ave, past all the T-Shirt shops, ghost tour booths, and throngs of tourists.  At The Farnsworth House book store I picked up a copy of the new biography of Francis T. Meagher.  Later that night I stopped into the Reliance Mine Saloon for a couple or three Yuenglings.

Bright and early Saturday I made my way to the new Gettysburg Visitor’s Center, which I had not had the opportunity to visit.  It’s big.  Really big.  Lots and lots of space in this sucker.  The museum is nice, and the whole story of the war is laid out for what is undoubtedly the overwhelmingly typical visitor.  And it is the visitor’s center, after all.  The bookstore offers a nice selection for that same typical visitor, though there are also a few obscure titles (the reprint of Phisterer’s New York in the War of the Rebellion was a bit too pricey for the quality, though I thought about it).  I also took a walking tour from the VC to Cemetery Ridge, designed again for the typical visitor.  In this case, lucky typical visitors because it was led by Ranger and author Gregory Coco.  Ranger Coco offered an unusually candid and humanistic narrative as he led our group to the Widow Leister house and The Angle, admonishing us all to take time to think of all the good things we have, and not to focus on the negatives.  It was a beautiful day, so after the tour I wandered about a bit.  The 20th Mass. “Pudding Stone” monument (the last photo) is one of my all-time favorites.

      

As I headed back to my car, I passed this kiosk.  Yep, that face peering at you is non-other than Francis Brownell of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, profiled here.

I returned to my favorite parking lot and, after a quick bite at O’Rorke’s Pub (named for the fellow whose account of his experience at Bull Run can be read here), set off for a long walk around town.  I was pleasantly surprised to run into old friends Jim and Kathy Semler and we had a nice chat.  Before heading home I returned to The Horse Soldier and purchased a print of Don Troiani’s New York’s Bravest, which depicts the 11th NY and the 69th NYSM at Bull Run.  I’m not a big fan of Troiani, but the subject appealed to me.  Now to get it framed and find a place to hang it.





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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