I believe Col. Elmer Ellsworth's 11th New York Zouaves was one of the first, if not the first American regiment that adopted the French Zouave style uniform, but there were many pre-war militia and drill companies (including Ellsworth's own) that were outfitted in various Zouave uniforms. Like many of us, Ellsworth had a liking to military history and was first informed of the Zouaves by his fencing instructor, Charles DeVillers, a former French Zouave. Ellsworth raised a national drill team with the Zouave style uniforms and drill, later recruiting his 11th New York Volunteers when the war began.
Thanks for all the photos, Aug351! I hate to admit I've always been curious about the whole Zouave thing (bit odd in North American theatre). Unfortunately (or fortunately for some I guess), these units seem to have been caught in the middle of a military fashion crisis! ~ polar opposites to the future "rugged and serviceable" uniforms of American combat units.
Certainly some fancy military duds came out of the Civil War (emulating grand traditions of old European armies) ~ but still, who was responsible for all this! (You know of course I'm pulling your leg, and in no way commenting on the fighting abilities of these brave soldiers, but still ........ hehe!). Engaging thread, thanks.
Today they may seem ridiculous to us compared to our modern camouflage fatigues, designed with common sense in mind over style. But 150 years ago the Zouaves were seen as the epitome of "soldierly bearing." The French Zouaves had won fame in the French conquest of Algeria and the Crimean War; they were known for their elan and esprit de corps. In a time when war was thought to be "glorious" and "dashing" then it's easy to see why the Zouave uniform appealed to many.