Chronological Summary of Service for the "Wheat's Tigers"

From / To Brigade Division Corps Army
Jun 1861 Camp Walker and Camp Moore, Louisiana (organizing)
Jun - Jul 1861 Movement from Louisiana to Virginia
Jul 1861 Assigned to Evans' Temporary Command Confederate Army of the Potomac
Jul 1861 - Aug 1862 Taylor's Ewell's n/a Army of Northern Virginia
15 August 1862 Disbanded and re-assigned to existing Louisiana regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia



In the time period preceding the American Civil War, increasing numbers of militia companies were raised and each adopted a unique name.  When organization was complete, they were assigned as a company in a local or regional militia regiment.  This tradition continued on into the war as new companies, battalions, and regiments were raised.  In Louisiana, Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat was given a grant to raise a five-company battalion of Louisiana infantry volunteers.  Although the vast majority of units raised during the war were typically ten-company regiments, a few grants were issued to raise up to six-company battalions.  Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry completed its organization on 6 June 1861 with 416 men. It consisted of Company A (Walker Guards), Company B (Tiger Rifles), Company C (Delta Rangers), Company D (1st Catahoula Guerillas), and Company E (2nd Old Dominion Guards).  A sixth company was added in September 1861 called Company E (Wheat's Life Guards) to replace the original Company E who became independent mounted infantry.

It is not clear in the sources why this battalion had the additional word "Special" added to its designation.  In addition to this "1st Special Battalion", Louisiana raised a number of battalions: 1st Battalion, 1st State Battalion, 1st Zouave Battalion (Coppens' Zouaves, previously covered in this journal), 2nd Special Battalion, 2nd Zouave Battalion (Dupiere's), 3rd through 15th Battalions, 30h Battalion, Catahoula Battalion, Keary's Battalion, and the Louisiana Defenders Battalion.  They ranged in size from four to six companies, one had seven.  Length of service for some was short due to heavy casualties and/or the inability to maintain combat strength.  Some served specifically as sharpshooter battalions attached to an infantry brigade administratively but actually provided sharpshooter service for its division.  For more detailed information on each of these battalions, consult Bergeron's Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units 1861-1865.

Initial deployment was strategic, occupying a short portion of the line along or near the Potomac watching for movement.  The battalion's short service record from June 1861 to August 1862 covered the most intensive battles and campaigns in the East including First Bull Run as part of Evans' Brigade, the special campaign of Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley as part of Taylor's Brigade, and the battles around Richmond 1862.   In the Spring of 1862, already veteran members of General Richard Taylor's Louisiana Brigade in General Richard Ewell's Division, they would march from the Richmond area defenses under the command of General Stonewall Jackson and participated in one of the most carefully studied campaigns in military history.  Jackson had the advantage of a friendly countryside thick with observers and easily out-calculated, out-marched, and out-fought the Federals, driving them out of the valley and thus protecting the upcoming harvest.

Allowing the Federals to believe that the Valley was occupied by a large Confederate force, Jackson was re-called to Richmond and participated in the fiercely-fought Seven Days' Battles that prevented McClellan from taking Richmond, 25 June to 1 July, 1862.  Initially, it was a "near run thing" but the fortuitous wounding of the Confederate commander, General Johnson, allowed General R. E. Lee to assume command and his bold and desperate movements resulted in a series of battles than ultimately drove the insecure and inept Union commander, McClellan, to change his goal from taking Richmond to saving his hide.  Although not a panic by any means and well-fought by the infantry and artillery on both sides, these battles erased an early and arguably "golden opportunity" to end the war early on.

Wheat's Tigers were by this time probably numbered around 250 to 300 men.  The battles around Richmond raised the battle casualties and lowered their strength more so with the death of Wheat at the Battle of Gaines' Mill.  At the conclusion of the Seven Days' Battles, the battalion was demoralized at Wheat's loss and apparently most likely suffered from desertions.  As a unit without leadership and dwindling numbers, it was disbanded on 15 August 1862.  



Historians agree that only Company B, the "Tiger Rifles", actually wore French-style Zouave dress. This one company has transformed all of Louisiana's infantry into "Tiger Rifles" or "Tiger Zouaves" in the minds of contemporary and modern-day followers.  However, one interesting source, Kenneth W. Noe's Perryville - This Grand Havoc of Battle, quotes a source who observed one Confederate infantry regiment in Adams' Brigade which included, "five companies of Avegno Zouaves who still wore their once dashing blue jackets, red caps, and red baggy trousers, . . . . in the ranks of the 13th Louisiana."

The uniform of the "Tiger Rifles" is in the style of the French Zouaves of North Africa but the materials and quality of the clothing were poor.  Manufactured in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the baggy pants and long socks were made from locally available bedding.  Jacket, shirt, and cap, also from local sources, was of poor quality.  The uniforms were by early 1862 badly worn and faded, some of which faded to brown.  The jacket was dark glue piped red around the edges.  The illustrator Younghusband, in Robin Smith's American Civil War Zouaves shows a "Tiger Rifle" corporal with trefoils and loops on the jacket front but Troiani does not in Don Troiani's Regiments & Uniforms of the Civil War; his version shows a Zouave-style jacket bound at the edges including the cuffs with red tape (piping).  Of the two, Troiani is most likely to be correct.

The fez and its tassel are red.  Although Troiani shows a red shirt under the jacket, this probably changed over time to either homespun or captured Union shirts.  The baggy trousers and stockings were one of the hallmarks of Company B - stripped blue bed material.  It made for a striking figure and is not easily reproduced when painting a figure.  White leggings were worn so that only the tops of the stockings were visible.  Far from Louisiana, operating in the Eastern theater in the Army of Northern Virginia, the likelihood of replacement articles of clothing and recruits was dim.  By early 1862, one can only imagine the mixed composition of the "Tiger Rifles". 


          Figure 1        



This figure (kit photo at left) is a departure from all of the other Zouaves which featured Shenandoah Miniatures kits.  As shown in Figure 1, the kit is Carolina Miniatures CM0026 to be painted to represent the "Tiger Rifles" Company B of the 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry (Wheat's Tigers. 

Figure 2 shows the kits components to which I have added a Shenandoah rolled blanket casting and a sheathed bayonet which will be replaced with an appropriate sword-bayonet. 

                          Figure 2



Figure 3


Before painting, the parts are sprayed with a fine gray primer.  One brass pin is inserted into a pre-drilled hole on one leg for extra support.  The figure positioned on its base and a pencil mark is made for the brass pin.  This hole is drilled out.  The figure is then super-glued to its base.  Painting begins with the face, hair, and the red fez.  The jacket is painted with my mix of "French Dark Blue" to which is added a bit of Andrea ANAC21 Basic Blue.  The rest of the figure is painted an off white as a base for the striped trousers, stockings, and leggings.  See Figure 3.

Figure 4 shows that nearly all of the upper half of the figure is completed including a re-do of the shirt from dark blue (see left) to red.  I painted the waist sash red for lack of any real information on whether or not one was issued.  The tin cup is an accessories item made by Shenandoah (10/pack).  Before painting the upper half, the figure was fitted for a Shenandoah rolled blanket which had to be squished a bit to conform to this figure and will show up in the next photo along with a new right arm.

Figure 4


Figure 5


Figure 5 (left) shows completion of the bed ticking stripes.  I interpreted the material as off white with alternating thick and thin light blue vertical stripes.  The demarcation of the trousers at the waist and just below the knees was painted in a thin line of brown-black.   

Figure 6 (right) shows completion of the socks with their distinctive horizontal striping.  The leggings were painted white first.  A thin wash of off white was applied.  The buttons and the side seam were painted in brown-black.  Each button was highlighted with a dot of off-white to represent cloth-covered buttons.  Shoes were painted red-brown and washed with semi-gloss black.  In Figure 2 (above), the horseshoe blanket roll was to be added but the configuration of this casting meant a new set of arms.  I opted instead for a small blanket roll which is a Historex spare part.  Note the cord from the fez as it disappears over the right shoulder.  That cord shows up in the photo below with its tassel.  The arms were glued in place and the figure was touched up as needed.

Figure 6







Bergeron, Arthur W. Jr.  Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units 1861-1865.  Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Crute, Joseph H. Jr.  Units of the Confederate States Army.  Midlothian, Virginia: Derwent Books, 1987.

Johnson, Robert U. and Clarence C. Buel, Editors, and the Editorial Staff of "The Century Magazine".  Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume II.  New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1956.

Noe, Kenneth W.  Perryville - This Grand Havoc of Battle.  Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Smith, Robin.  American Civil War Zouaves, Osprey Elite Series No. 62.  London: Osprey, 1996.

Troiani, Don.  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 (see page 82-83 for art work and text).







Copyright by George Grasse