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Anderson Zouaves Research

The New Zouave Regiment [Early 1861]

The New Zouave Regiment

[Early 1861]

 

The Zouave feature is, as everybody knows, one of the most prominent of those marking our present national conflict. Originating in the necessities of African warfare during the reign of Louis Philippe, at first recruited by native Algerians, then from the dregs of the Parisian populace, anon from the French commonalty in general, it proved its efficacy at Sebastopol, Solferino and Magenta, thereby obtaining lexicographic recognition and world-wide notoriety. The late Colonel Ellsworth perceived its advantages and the possibility of nationalizing it, and since the formation of his Chicago corps it has become a recognised part of American warfare. We have Zouave regiments of various descriptions and degrees of divergence from the Gallic original. Among those approximating closest towards it is the regiment forming the subject of the present article. 

Anderson's Zouaves, so named, of course, in compliment to the hero of Fort Sumter, were organized by their Colonel, J. Layafette Riker, Esq.; Lieutenant-Colonel Tisdale, Quartermaster Yates, Major Isaacs and Mr. George Shay, at whose cost, in combination with that of other patrons, the regiment has hitherto been maintained. Comprising upwards of nine hundred and fifty able-bodied men, recruited from this city and the interior of the state, particularly from Warren, Washington, Essex and Rensselaer counties, and containing one entire company of French adopted citizens, it was mustered into the United States service on Sunday last, by Capt. Wakeman, United States Army, the oaths having been accepted without a dissentient voice. Since then orders have arrived from Washington to forward the regiment to the seat of war immediately. It only waits the receipt of arms and clothing to start at once for active service. 

Camp Lafayette, a name adopted in honor of the French element in the regiment, is pleasantly situated at Newark Bay, near to the village of Saltersville, at five miles distance from Jersey City. It is a closely wooded locality, its shore commanding a view of the broad bay and city of Newark, and "that singular mound called Rattle-snake hill, which rises out of the centre of the salt marshes a little to the east of Newark Causeway," and which, according to Diedrich Knickerbocker, forms the mausoleum or the aboriginal inhabitants of Communipaw, who were literally frightened to death and into the marshes by the sound of the Low Dutch language projected through a speaking-trumpet. Ordinarily a watering place of modest pretensions during the summer season, its hotel, like most of its class, is a large, white, wooden building, two stories in height, encircled by a spacious piazza and environed by trees. Its many apartments, "up stairs, down stairs, and in my lady's chamber," including a billiard and bail room, are at present occupied by the Zouaves, about half of the regiment finding accommodation within its walls, the remainder domiciling themselves in outhouses and barracks erected for that purpose. The most characteristic of these are the quarters of the French Company. 

Consisting of a large and exceedingly clean and spacious barrack, entered from the centre and surrounded on the inside by berths or sleeping-places filled with loose straw, which, when frequently renewed, the men find infinitely cleaner than if sewn up in the shape of mattrasses. These berths are overlooked, at the ends of the barrack, by those of the officers, who thus have the entire company beneath their eye. Unlike the rest of the regiment, the French corps performs its own cookery. It claimed and has received the promise of being the advanced guard when in action. The majority of its members are already equipped at their private cost, or that of their officers. Many have seen service in Europe. Indeed the general appearance of this company is essentially Parisian. 

As before said the regiment has yet to receive both its clothing and arms, but the costume of the French soldiers alluded to above affords us a sample of what is intended. The Anderson Zouaves, then, have adopted the genuine unmistakable Zou-Zou uniform, the red fez or skull cap with its long blue silk tassel, the immensely loose, red, baggy breeches, the leggins, gaiters, long blue scarf worn round the middle, the queer, tight cloth waistcoast with only one arm-hole--the left--in it, fastening on the right, and the short jacket. They wear their hair closely cropped and their necks bare. The officers appear in dark blue uniforms, similar to those worn in the United States army. The regiment will be armed with the Enfield rifle and sabre bayonet. 

These are almost exclusively young, sturdy, healthy fellows who have passed a strict examination by the surgeon and received his unqualified encomium. Though young men, some of them are old soldiers, exhibiting medals given by the English and French governments, bearing the world famous names of Alma, Inkerman and Sebastopol. They drill at least six hours a day, devoting their leisure to gymnastics, quoit-playing, wrestling and an occasional sparring-match. The propinquity of the bay, too, affords opportunities for bathing and oyster and clam-bakes, which are by no means neglected. 

 

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