Before I begin to repeat soldiers from a certain time period I thought I would try and cover most of the re-enactors groups that were at Army Heritage Day in Carlisle.
As we approached these men Shane asked me what country they were from, my reply was New York. I then began to tell him a little about the history of the New York firefighting Zouaves. I informed him that they were volunteer firemen from New York city and like most firemen they were very colorful, rowdy and loved to fight. I went on to say that while they were off fighting the war in 1865 the powers to be in New York decided it would be a good time to do away with volunteers in the city. It would be easier at this time because the men would not be there to fight for their existence. Of course by the time I finished the gentleman informed me that my history was correct but that they were a different outfit. So much for my history lesson.
The original Zouaves were native North African troops serving in the French Army in the 1830s. They wore distinctive uniforms. The uniforms usually consisted of a fez and turban, very baggy pants, a vest, a short jacket that was cut away from the top with only one button or clasp at the throat and a sash. They also wore leggings. The uniforms were usually brightly colored and had much trim and/or braid and many brass buttons on them.
These soldiers fought in North Africa for French interests. Later Zouaves fought in the Crimea and Italy in the 1850s. These troops were well trained and disciplined and were famous for great feats on the battlefield, and often mischief and rowdiness off the battlefield.
Zouaves disappeared at the end of the Civil War in the US, except for veteran's groups. They continued on in the French Army until World War I when the ability to blend into the battlefield required more traditional green uniforms.