HISTORICAL MINIATURES BY GEORGE GRASSE
FRENCH 2nd EMPIRE INFLUENCE ON AMERICAN CIVIL WAR ZOUAVE UNIFORMS
PUBLISHED BY GEORGE GRASSE
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR ZOUAVES
RESEARCH NOTES FOR MODELING 54mm SCALE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR ZOUAVES SUPPLEMENT No. 1
FRENCH ARMÉE D'AFRIQUE OF THE 2nd EMPIRE
This brief narrative will provide background information on the American Civil War Zouave uniforms. The influence is entirely from the French Army of the 2nd Empire 1816-1870. It should be understood that "Zouave uniform" as used by me in "American Civil War Zouaves" series is also associated with American infantry units that wore uniforms of other French infantry regiments namely the Tirailleurs and Chasseurs. The following table lists the regiments in the French army which had a direct influence on the uniforms of America Civil War infantry.
In the period preceding the American Civil War (ACW), or antebellum, both northern and southern states expanded their militia organizations which was already in effect since the earliest American colonial days. A district which could be a village, a town, a county, depending on population, was authorized by the U. S. Constitution and implemented by their respective states to raise and maintain a militia. These units were organized at the "company" level. A district with a large population might raise two or more companies. In the state, overall, each company was further assigned to a regiment. In some cases, all of the companies for a state regiment might come from the same city or county. Other regiments might consist of companies brought together from several counties. In time of national emergency, the Federal government would authorize the activation of some or all of the militia units. When the ACW broke out, the state regiments were immediately "nationalized" and fell under Federal control.
THE MILITIA UNIFORM
There was never a prescribed state or national uniform for the militia. This was left in the hands of the organizers and supporters of the individual militia companies. In order to attract young recruits, the uniforms became increasingly colorful. Usually, a benefactor of the company provided much of the clothing and the state provided much of the equipment and arms such as they were. America grew increasingly close in their foreign relations with France having a distant one with Great Britain and not much of a relationship with Germany or Italy who were both, antebellum, unorganized nations. French uniforms of the 2nd Empire, 1816-1870, were gaudy for a purpose. Élan or "l'attaque outrance" (all-out attack or offensive spirit) was the underlying drive of the moral of the French Army; and the brightly colored uniforms reflected this boldness at the expense of making the soldiers easy targets. It helped in recruitment, though. Most of the early militia uniforms in America up to the 1820s, were based on American influences. However, this changed in the 1840s and 50s as a result of exposure to the uniforms of the French Armée
THE FRENCH ARMÉE D'AFRIQUE
Of significant importance in the influence of French uniforms on American militia is the special case of the French Armée d'Afrique. In the early days of the French 2nd Empire, 1830-1840, France developed an imperialist drive to assimilate North Africa in what is today the area from Algeria to Tunisia. To control the provinces there, a special corps of troops was created that could only serve overseas. This was the genesis of the Légion Étrangère or French Foreign Legion (FFL). It became necessary to raise indigent regiments to supplement an otherwise over-extended FFL that relied on foreign volunteers and this led to the creation of four types of Armée d'Afrique regiments added to the existing FFL. There were two all-indigent regiments: Regiment de Tirailleurs (infantry) and the Regiment de Spahis (cavalry). There were two mixed indigent/foreigner regiments: Regiment de Zouaves (infantry) and Regiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique (cavalry). All five of these regiments formed the Armée d'Afrique. Table 1 below of color prints shows the infantry styles of the French Armée d'Afrique followed by American equivalents in Table 2.
TABLE 1: FRENCH 2nd empire INFANTRY UNIFORMS OF THE ARMÉE D'AFRIQUE
|Regiment de Zouaves
|Regiment de Tirailleurs
|This print by La Lauze depicts a bugler of a French Zouave Regiment painted by Lalauze from Gloire a L'Armée d'Afrique by André Figueras, page 68 (see bibliography). Three regiments were raised in 1851-52. They participated in two major campaigns before the American Civil War: Crimea 1854-55 and Italy 1859.
|These Tirailleurs were painted by Edouard Detaille wore brightly colored light blue articles piped in yellow. Three regiments were raised in 1852 and they participated in the Crimean War 1854 and in Italy 1859. This print was taken from Gloire a L'Armée d'Afrique by André Figueras page 65 (see bibliography).
TABLE 2: AMERICAN CIVIL WAR ZOUAVE INFANTRY UNIFORMS COPIED FROM THE ARMÉE D'AFRIQUE
|From the Regiment de Zouaves
|From the Regiment de Tirailleurs
|This print by Don Troiani shows an infantry private of the 5th New York "Duryea's Zouaves" in a nearly identical copy of the French Armee d'Afrique Zouaves. Painting by Don Troiani (now in a private collection), from page 72 in Don Troiani's Regiments & Uniforms of the Civil War, art by Don Troiani, text by Earl J. Coates, Michael J. McAfee, and Don Troiani. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002
|This print by Don Troiani shows an infantry private of the 146th New York "Garrard's Tigers" in a nearly identical copy of the French Armee d'Afrique Tirailleurs. Painting by Don Troiani (now in a private collection), from page 93 in Don Troiani's Regiments & Uniforms of the Civil War, art by Don Troiani, text by Earl J. Coates, Michael J. McAfee, and Don Troiani. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002
THE FRENCH METROPOLITAN ARMÉE
The basic style of French infantry uniform as worn by the metropolitan or home army was of a contemporary mid-19th Century style but with dark blue jacket, red trousers, and the blue-rimmed, red-crowned kepi. The French Infanterie de Ligne regiments were the specific "models" for the American "Chasseur-style" militia uniform. One famous Union infantry regiment that wore a stylized, short jacket version of the Chasseur-style infantry uniform was the 84th New York (14th Brooklyn State Militia) Infantry Regiment. The key elements in the American Chasseur version that was not a Zouave uniform was the short jacket closed at the front usually with many small brass ball buttons and the long straight trousers.
TABLE 3: FRENCH 2nd empire INFANTRY UNIFORMS OF THE FRENCH METROPOLITAN ARMÉE
|French Chasseur-style Uniform
|American Chasseur-style Uniform
|This plate by Richard and Christa Hook appears in Osprey Men-at-Arms Series #237, French Army 1870-71, Franco-Prussian War Volume 2: Republican Troops. Although a few years beyond the American Civil War, it shows the unique flair of the French uniform style. On the left is a sergeant-major of the 1st Battalion Infanterie Légère d'Afrique. The middle figure is a private of the French Foreign Legion of the Armee d'Afrique. The figure on the right is a Colonel of Spahis.
|This print by Keith Rocco depicts members of the 84th New York (14th Brooklyn) on the Chambersburg Pike just outside the town of Gettysburg, 1 July 1863. This is sometimes referred to as the "Chasseur-style" uniform especially with regard to the trousers. Original painting by Keith Rocco (now in a private collection), from page 104 in The Soldier's View - The Civil War Art of Keith Rocco. See bibliography below.
Figueras, André. Gloire a L'Armee d'Afrique. Fontenay sous Bois: Editions de L'Orme Rond, 1987.
Rocco, Keith with text by Robert I. Girardi. The Soldiers View - The Civil War Art of Keith Rocco. Berkeley, CA: The Military History Press, 2004.
Shann, Stephen and Louis Delperier, illustrated by Richard and Christa Hook. French Army 1870-71 Franco Prussian War 2: Republican Troops, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series No. 237. London: Osprey Publishing, 1991.
Troiani, Don with text by Earl J. Coates, Michael J. McAfee, and Don Troiani. Don Troiani's Regiments & Uniforms of the Civil War. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.
© Copyright by George Grasse