Research Zouave language

Woodlands

Cadet
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Did the Zouaves fighting on the Union side speak French? Or did they speak English? It looks like the Zouave regiments had Americans in the regiment too...?
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
Most Civil War Zouave units were composed of Americans and commands were given in English.

Louisiana was, of course, the exception. English, French, and Spanish were all legal languages there at the time of the Civil War, and legal documents were published in all three languages. Major John McGrath wrote of the Avengo Zouaves, the core of the 13th​ Louisiana Infantry ["Gibson's"], that it was composed of “Frenchmen, Spaniards, Mexicans, Dagoes, Germans, Chinese, Irishmen, and, in fact, persons of every clime known to geographers or travellers [sic.] of that day…The official language of our battalion was French; we were drilled in French, commanded in French, and orders were issued in French.” When the regiment was finally ordered to use English, even the English speakers were confused, because they only knew the drill manual in French. As one might expect of a Zouave unit, Cantineire Susan Francis, Company C, went to war with her regiment [Francis's CSR].

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

Howitzer

Private
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
As someone from Germany who has always identified militarism with Prussia, the fascination of Americans, both Union and Confederates, for Zouave uniforms, Zouave drill etc. is somehow a little bit odd. I assume that given the French military achievements in the Crimea, in northern Italy, in Mexico many Americans (as many Europeans) saw the second french empire as a role model in military terms. The Prussian victory over Fance in 1870/71 came as a surprise for many.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
As someone from Germany who has always identified militarism with Prussia, the fascination of Americans, both Union and Confederates, for Zouave uniforms, Zouave drill etc. is somehow a little bit odd. I assume that given the French military achievements in the Crimea, in northern Italy, in Mexico many Americans (as many Europeans) saw the second french empire as a role model in military terms. The Prussian victory over Fance in 1870/71 came as a surprise for many.

From the Revolutionary War through the Franco-Prussian War the U.S. Army essentially followed French military thought. From the Franco-Prussian War to the beginning of the First World War the influence was Prussian/German. Between the First and Second World Wars the influence was British. Since World War II we've essentially expected everyone else to follow our model.

Regarding Zouave and Chasseur influences, the uniforms were neat, the drill was snappy, and the militia and volunteers who constituted the vast majority of both armies were impressed. I belong to Wheat's Tigers in the North-South Skirmish Association. The ladies love the Zouave uniform. Interestingly, many state militia units continued to use Zouave or Chasseur dress uniforms up to the Spanish American War.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

Howitzer

Private
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
From the Revolutionary War through the Franco-Prussian War the U.S. Army essentially followed French military thought. From the Franco-Prussian War to the beginning of the First World War the influence was Prussian/German. Between the First and Second World Wars the influence was British. Since World War II we've essentially expected everyone else to follow our model.

Regarding Zouave and Chasseur influences, the uniforms were neat, the drill was snappy, and the militia and volunteers who constituted the vast majority of both armies were impressed. I belong to Wheat's Tigers in the North-South Skirmish Association. The ladies love the Zouave uniform. Interestingly, many state militia units continued to use Zouave or Chasseur dress uniforms up to the Spanish American War.

Regards,
Don Dixon
Many thanks!
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
As someone from Germany who has always identified militarism with Prussia, the fascination of Americans, both Union and Confederates, for Zouave uniforms, Zouave drill etc. is somehow a little bit odd. I assume that given the French military achievements in the Crimea, in northern Italy, in Mexico many Americans (as many Europeans) saw the second french empire as a role model in military terms. The Prussian victory over Fance in 1870/71 came as a surprise for many.
By 1860 Prussia was not considered a great military power. The only real fighting their army had done again a regular enemy since 1815 was a small force involved against Denmark in 1848-49... and they did not do well.

French was seen as the most advanced military force in Europe. And this goes back to the late 18th century.
Loosing the Napoleonic wars in the end, did not change this.

By 1814 the US had made a clear decision to base their military on the French military. With Scott being one of the main actors in this decision. (as opposed to the British/Prussian system used before)
So the drill books was just translated/plagiarized and the uniforms was strongly influenced by the French style.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
From the Revolutionary War through the Franco-Prussian War the U.S. Army essentially followed French military thought. From the Franco-Prussian War to the beginning of the First World War the influence was Prussian/German. Between the First and Second World Wars the influence was British. Since World War II we've essentially expected everyone else to follow our model.
I would argue that French influences was not that great during the revolutionary war. Sure they send arms and supplies, and later regular army units.
But The drill used by the continental army was based on Prussian drill and the "blue book " stayed the official drillbook until after the war of 1812.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
Thomas,

For clarity I should have said "between the Revolutionary and Franco-Prussian Wars."

Revolutionary War drill was based on the Prussian system. One should never forget the contributions of Baron von Steuben. Working with the colonists must have been a never endingly frustrating experience.

Regards,
Don
 

Lampasas Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Zouaves units were popularized in the United States by Elmer Ellsworth, an Illinois militia officer who became fascinated by the French Zouave regiments. In 1859 he converted an Illinois militia company into the "United States Zouave Cadets," which toured the U.S. in 1860. Their unique costume and spirited demonstration of the French Zouave light infantry drill created a sensation which led to the organization of Zouave units throughout the North and South, just in time for the Civil War.
 

Howitzer

Private
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
As someone who is researching for a book about Zouaves I have already dug into the history of the said Zouaves. From my point of view there is a certain distinction between the European Zouaves and the American Zouves.
Elite military units have a certain appeal and draw followers, whether it is the French Foreign Legion, the British SAS or off course the Special Forces or the Navy Seals. There is a certain romantic thrilling appeal around them.
In the 1860s there was no difference: the British Highland Regiments, Garibaldi´s Redshirts or the Imperial French Zouaves drew a lot of attention and affection.
In Europe there was a special appeal for catholics: the Papal Zouaves got plenty of volunteers from all over catholic Europe, Poland, Ireland, Belgium, Spain. In countries where catholicism made the distinction between the populace and a foreign ruler (e.g. in Poland) a Zouave movement sprung up very easily.
Dutch recruits from the mostly catholic southernmost provinces of the Netherlands jumped aboard a train in Oudenbosch (there is a Zouave museum today) and travelled via Brusseles to Rome. Most lost their Dutch citizenship in doing this.
From what I know American Volunteers for Zouave Units in the Civil War were deeply impressed from what they knew about the achievements of the French Zouaves in the Crimea or in Northern Italy.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
I forgot to mention another reason why some units were uniformed as chasseurs. They may not have had too much choice. In the fall of 1861 Federal Minister Resident [ambassador] Dayton in Paris purchased 10,000 complete sets of ready-to-wear chasseur pattern uniforms and equipment in France which had been requested by Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs, the Federal Army Quartermaster General, for $500,000.

For the "correct" uniform geeks, I don't have a description of the uniforms and equipment. But, clearly French manufactured chasseur uniforms and accoutrements would be historically correct for early 1862.

Regards,s
Don Dixon
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
I forgot to mention another reason why some units were uniformed as chasseurs. They may not have had too much choice. In the fall of 1861 Federal Minister Resident [ambassador] Dayton in Paris purchased 10,000 complete sets of ready-to-wear chasseur pattern uniforms and equipment in France which had been requested by Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs, the Federal Army Quartermaster General, for $500,000.

For the "correct" uniform geeks, I don't have a description of the uniforms and equipment. But, clearly French manufactured chasseur uniforms and accoutrements would be historically correct for early 1862.

Regards,s
Don Dixon

Besides Zouave there were American militia units that adopted French style chasseur uniforms. Often these chasseur uniforms are confused with Zouave uniforms.
 
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