Uniforms The color of the Zouave jackets and trousers of White's Tiger Rifles of New Orleans.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
The uniform details of White's Tiger Rifles of New Orleans has seemed to differ from writer to writer and artist to artist. Do we really know what the wore? When we see reenactors depicting them are their uniforms accurate?

Today I read "Physically Splendid Material Morally Dreadful"- The Uniforms of the New Orleans "Tiger Rifles" by Ross Brooks. Some of our forum members will remember him for his article Part Irish and the Rest the Flower of Southern Chivalry: Clothing, Arms, and Equipment of the 1st Special Battalion of Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1862. In this article Ross Brooks gave us some great information about their uniforms. In the last two decades Brooks has continued to study the 1st Special Battalion of Louisiana Volunteer Infantry and has come up with additional information about the color of their Zouave jackets and the stripes on their Zouave trousers. Both of these subjects have been argued by Civil War uniform 'experts' both before and after Brooks 1999 article. Some of the "new" information Brooks adds may not make some uniform 'experts' happy and could upset a few reenactors.

So my first question Brooks tells of a couple of red jackets worn by this unit, how many of the Tiger Rifles wore these red jackets? What did the Zouave trousers blue and white stripes look like? These blue and white striped Zouave trousers have been argued about over and over.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
In Major Roberdeau Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry, only one of the companies in the battalion - Captain White's Company B, the Tiger Rifles - was uniformed as Zouaves. A conventional description of Company B's uniform is:

Headgear- A red wool flannel bag shaped like a nightcap with a long tassel.
Jacket- A dark blue wool jacket.
Shirt- Red flannel wool placketed shirts with white porcelain buttons.
Pantaloons- Zouave pantaloons of blue and white bed ticking.
Long sailor socks of navy and white stripes.
Leggings-Of cotton canvas and reaching mid-calf.

On 9 December 1861 two soldiers from Company B -Dennis Corcoran and Michael O'Brien - were executed by musketry near Centerville, VA. My North-South Skirmish Association unit dug them up in 1979 under a court exhumation order obtained by the land owner since the land was going to be developed. At that time several members of the unit were Park Service rangers and several others worked for the Smithsonian Institution. The exhumation was conducted in accordance with archeological standards.

What we found: Both soldiers were buried in pine coffins which had rotted away. Based on scraps of cloth in the two graves their jackets were made from dark blue wool; a "Louisiana" blue rather than Federal blue. Their shirts were made from dark red wool with porcelain buttons. Their gaiters [leggings] had five porcelain buttons. We found no military buttons in the graves and no scraps of cloth from their pantaloons. When they were shot they were wearing and were buried in new shoes, since the soles were not worn.

Corcoran's and O'Brien's remains were reburied on 9 December 1979 in the cemetery at St. John's Episcopal Church,
5649 Mount Gilead Road, Centerville, VA.

We know of no red jackets in Company B. It is possible that their red wool shirts were mistaken for such. In designing our uniforms we concluded that based upon samples of bed ticking available in 1861 that the pantaloons were probably made from white cotton bed ticking with narrow blue stripes. Don Troiani's painting "Tiger Rifles, 1861" is probably a fairly accurate representation of what the Tiger Rifle uniforms looked like based upon contemporary descriptions and what we found in the two graves..

1622904494724.png


Regards,
Don Dixon
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Brooks in the article used three sources that indicate their jackets were gray. As Brooks states "They probably received their zouave dress in early June 1861. This featured dark steel gray jackets trimmed with red." Various authors in the past, including Brooks in 1999, have said that the wore either blue jackets, or brown jackets, or gray jackets.

Now people who study the uniforms of Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry will have to evaluate the new information that Ross Brooks presents in this article. How reliable is Brooks' new information? I will be intersted in the discussion. To add to the confusion one account gives their jackets as being red. The Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry did wear red shirts and one officer was known to wear a red tunic so this could be the reason for the 'red" jacket account.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Tonight I plan on finding the article that Ross Brooks wrote in 1999 for the Journal for the Company of Military Historian where Brooks discussed his research on the uniforms of Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry. If I remember correctly Brooks was one of the uniform "experts" which help to change the belief that instead of brown jackets, Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry wore blue jackets. Unless I am mistaken Brooks was well thought of in 1999 and his blue jacket opinion held a lot of weight. Now Brooks has changed his opinion and says he believes they wore steel gray jackets. I want to see his article from 1999 and look at what references he used to support his blue jacket theory and compare it with his new research that which led him to change his mind to steel gray jackets. I also would like to know how many other uniform researchers used Brooks' blue jackets opinion as fact instead of it being Brooks opinion based on his research up to that point. I am just not sure if in 1999 Brooks had that of huge impact on the views of what Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry jackets were. It would be helpful to see how many others used the 1999 article as foot notes or end notes.

Regardless, I would think that some Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry reenactors will stick with the blue jackets theory. I predict that Brooks' new article will raise some eyebrows. Hopefully uniform experts with much more knowledge than I will look over Brooks latest article.

For those interested in this subject I advise them to reread Ross Brooks, "Part Irish and the Rest the Flower of Southern Cheverly: Clothing, Arms, and Equipment of Wheat's 1st Special Battalion, Louisiana Infantry, 1861-1862, MC&H, vol. 51, no. 3 pages 98-110 and compare it with Ross Brooks, Physically Splendid Material Morally Dreadful"- The Uniforms of the New Orleans "Tiger Rifles", MC&H, vol.73, no. 2, pages 177-180.

I would be interested in others opinion.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Some period images of Tiger Rifles; black and white of course...

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and a drawing by Captain Fremaux of the 8th Louisiana:
1622947793012.png


Just a speculation on my part, but given the varying accounts of blue or brown/gray jackets, I always wondered if they were not shoddy which faded in camp and field...

Here is Mr. Brook's compilation of period descriptions of their dress, chronologically:

1622948540160.png


in Mr. Brooks' 1999 article mentioned above he notes the recovered jacket fragments from the graves were "steel gray"
1622948164843.png


1622948231202.png



J. Marshall,
Hernando, FL.
 
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major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Mr. Brooks use the 2nd image in his new article but colorized it. Mr. Brooks used a period color watercolor done by a captain in the Louisiana Regiment from a private collection for the colors to recolor the black and white image. He states the jackets in the period watercolor are steel gray. I have to think about this period watercolor. I guess we must trust Mr. Brooks as to the steel gray jackets in this period watercolor. A period watercolor would be a rather solid piece of research. information.
 
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