Wheat’s Battalion

24 07 2010

Stuart Salling hosts the blog Louisiana in the Civil War, and also wrote the recently published Louisianians in the Western Confederacy – the Adams-Gibson Brigade in the Civil War.  A contributor to his site posted this article, about the Battalion from formation through First Bull Run.   Check it out.





The Red Brick Wall was the Color of a Brick-Red Crayola

21 03 2010

Right now I’m reading On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, by Robert M. Poole – a 2009 publication.  Just getting into it, cruising along, not much to complain about (though I think I need to write up something on just who offered Robert E. Lee command of what).  But then I roll across this:

Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, commander of the 1st New York Zouaves, piled into a steamboat with his men and sailed toward Alexandria.  This dandified regiment of firemen-soldiers was hard to miss, decked out in their red pantaloons, tasselled caps and white spats and brewing for a brawl.

Jeez Louise.  I won’t go into what the 11th New York Infantry, Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves did and did not wear and when they did and did not wear it.  Click on “Zouaves” in the tag cloud at the bottom of the right hand column of this page and you’ll find lots of articles on the topic.  The most definitive one is here.

Thanks to Douglas Adams for the title of this post.

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Photo of a Fire Zouave?

20 05 2009

I received the following email early this morning, and reproduce it here very slightly edited with photos in place of links:

Dear Mr. Smeltzer,

I found your page doing some research on photograph that I recently acquired, and I am wondering if you can help me with it.

I believe, though I am by no means sure, that this is a portrait of a Fire Zouave. I will attach links to scans of the image, a sixth plate (2.5 x 3.5 inches) tintype:

1) The tintype, in its case:

firezouavefullcase

2) A larger scan of the full plate, out of its frame, showing the horn:

firezouavenomat

3) A close-up of the fire horn and kepi:

firezouavehorn

4) A reversed scan of the lettering on the horn:

firezouavehornreversed

The evidence that he might be a Fire Zouave is as follows:

A) Dark (blue?) pants, which the 11th wore.

B) Red (tinted on the image) fireman’s shirt, with plastron. Also worn by the 11th.

C) The kepi with an oilcloth cover.

Most intriguing — and maddeningly so — is the lettering on the base of the horn. I can make out two S’s, with what looks like an I between them. After the second S, there looks to be either a T or an apostrophe followed by a letter. The I is possibly a numeral 1, in which case it might be “1st”. In any event, I can’t make out what the whole word would be. Probably either a town name or the name of his engine company.

My hypothesis is that this is a new recruit, displaying his two allegiances: to his firefighting unit and to his military unit.

Any help or hunches you might have would be greatly appreciated! As you can imagine, I am dying to get to the bottom on this image….

Thanks,

Gregory Fried

Professor and Chair, Philosophy Department

Suffolk University

 I’m undecided.  The fireman’s shirt this fellow is wearing is a little different from that of Francis Brownell, on display at MNBP – the belt is different too, but I think each fire company had their own:

Francis Brownell Uniform - Courtesy Manassas NBP

It is true that after a few weeks in the field the 11th NY ditched their blue-gray Zouave togs for Union blue, but they kept the red shirts as part of their ensemble.  However, there were other regiments recruited from fire companies that may also have worn the shirts; it’s also possible this photo depicts a soldier in more casual dress.  The horn could be a fire horn, could belong to the subject, or may simply be a photographer’s prop.

I know there are some readers out there who specialize in zouves, and some in portraits and photography, and some in the 11th NY specifically.  What do you all think?





Family Ties – Kilpatrick Part V

15 10 2008

Here’s an update to the Kilpatrick Family Ties series.  I found this site the other day, which has confirmed some of the information I already had and also alerted me to a few other tidbits.  To quote the Dude: Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous, lotta strands to keep in my head, man.

You’ll notice some stuff that expands a bit on Part II and Part III.  I found it really interesting that Kilpatrick granddaughter Consuelo Morgan’s husband Benjamin’s father, Benjamin Thaw, Sr, Harry K.’s half brother, was married to a woman named Elma Ellsworth Dows, born in October, 1861.  Elmer Ellsworth, the first Colonel of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves, was one of the war’s first martyrs (see here), and there was a multitude of babies born across the North in following years named for him.  This is the first time I’ve run across what appears to be a female namesake!

You’ll also see that Consuelo is buried in the Thaw plot in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery.  I didn’t notice her grave when I made my trek there (see here), and didn’t think to look for her because she remarried after the death of Benjamin Thaw, Jr.  It turns out that she is buried not far from her other grandfather, Philip Hicky Morgan.  I guess I need to go back there.

The site has lots of interesting stuff about the Thaws that I didn’t know – though you can probably fill a thimble with the stuff I do know about them.  For instance, the family supplied two aviators to the American forces in WWI, one of whom died in action.  It seems a shame they’re remembered almost exclusively for nutcase Harry Kendall Thaw – of Pittsburgh.





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.





Griffin’s JCCW Testimony

25 07 2008

Charles GriffinI thought Charles Griffin’s testimony before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War would be a nice accompaniment to his report.  I’ll write up a little sketch of the committee, its members and its mission, and will copy it to the new page I’ve set up as an index to testimonies I post here.  Some good stuff in Griffin’s testimony – he pulls no punches when it comes to Artillery Chief William Barry or the 11th NY Fire Zouaves.





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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