Blogging A-Z Z Is For Zouave

I appreciate more than you all know how you have supported me through this. I know the posts have been long and windy, taking up valuable time. Bless you for it.

Zouaves were originally certain French light infantry regiments, which served in French North Africa. Not only did they have distinctive uniforms, but they had unusual battle tactics. While many armies advanced side by side, firing and then dropping back for the next line to step forward to fire while the line behind them reloads and swapping positions. Rinse and repeat. Zouaves would fire, then drop down to the ground out of the line of fire and advance on their stomachs, reload, jump up and fire. This was pretty radical thinking when the firing was so heavy in some battles men were literally shredded due to the amount of bullets and Minie balls hitting them.

The Federals fielded about seventy Zouave units while the Confederates had twenty-five. The 5th New York or Duryee’s Zouaves, Col. Elmore’s 11th New York Volunteer Infantry the Fire Zouaves, and the 14th Brooklyns, Lew Wallace’s (Yes, Lew Wallace of Ben Hur fame.) Zouaves were some of the better known northern units.

Col Elmore’s uniform.

Elmore’s Zouaves were among the first into Alexandria, VA when Virginia seceded. There had been a large rebel flag flying from a property there and he was determined to tear it down. The owner said it would come down over his dead body. Elmore ripped the flag down and the owner shot him, whereupon Elmore’s men killed him. Officer’s usually wore kepis and frock coats as opposed to the waist jackets and fezzes or turbans of the regular uniforms.

The Brierwood Pipe by Homer Winslow 1864 depicting two Zouaves from the 5th NY.  (Yes, Brierwood is how the painting is titled.)

The 5th New York suffered the highest percentage of casualties in the least amount of time of any Civil War unit. They lost 120 killed and 300 wounded in less than ten minutes out of 525 men at Second Manassas.

Louisiana Tigers.

From Louisiana came White’s Company B Tiger Rifles. Georges Augustus Gaston De Coppens, who was originally from France and settled in New Orleans with his family, raised the Coppens Zouaves.

Since most of these units were raised individually, they could determine their own uniforms. As funds and supplies ran low later, they might be replaced with standard issue, but the men took great pride in their unusual garb. The 14th Brooklyn received the nickname “Red-Legged Devils” from Stonewall Jackson when they continued to attack his men and Jackson yelled, “Hold On Boys! Here come those red-legged devils again!”

In the final post of the Blogging A-Z Challenge, we return to Lorena and Imogene who are with the Zouaves being searched for contraband. Imogene has sprained her ankle and was tended to by the Zouave doctor a Frenchman and volunteer. I knew I would use Zouaves in Rain Crow. The trick was to figure out which unit would be where to search them when they returned with the contraband. I really need one of those big battle maps to move people around on.


The doctor stood and bowed. “Mademoiselle, enchante’. Mademoiselle Boudreaux has a badly sprained ankle. I have massaged some oil and will wrap it for her. She must not walk on it when you return home. Get her some crutches if she must move about. I have shown her some exercises to do when the ankle she is better. We must have her dancing again. She has promised me a dance. Many of them. Do not wrap the ankle too tightly. Rest with it up, like this.” He kicked his heel up chest high. “It drains the humors.” He wagged a finger at her. “Remember the exercises and the massage. And the letters.”

“Letters?” I asked.

“I promised to write him and let him know how I’m doing.”

“Well, I’m not sure how you’re going to do that since our ink is being confiscated.”

The doctor looked scandaled. “Who is confiscating your ink?”

“Your captain seems to think it’s contraband.”

“Nonsense. Come. I will see about this.” He set about wrapping her ankle and straightened the fez on her head. “To remember me by.”

“But what about you?” Imogene protested. “Won’t you get in trouble for being out of uniform?”

“I have another. It looks better on you anyway.”

From her pupils, I guessed he’d also gifted her with some laudanum. She was feeling little pain. I followed the doctor who marched through the camp carrying his patient to where Jacob was reloading the trunks. The captain stood waiting for me, chewing on the end of his unlit cigar, eyes narrowed, leaned against the carriage with one hand on his hip. He touched the brim of his kepi to Imogene. “Ma’am. I hope your feeling better.”

She giggled.

Lawsy. How much laudanum did the doctor give her?

“Much better. Thank you, sir. Paul has lovely hands.”

The captain raised an eyebrow. “Does he now?”

“I massaged her foot with oil before I wrapped it!”

The captain took the cigar out of his mouth and spit out a bit of tobacco. “Well, if I ever sprain my ankle, just wrap the damned thing. Don’t be rubbing on it.” He nodded to the carriage. “I think you can set her down now.”

The doctor rather reluctantly unloaded his patient and explained to her again how to care for the ankle. Then he drew himself up to all 5′ 7″ I judged and addressed the captain. “I understand you are taking their ink?”

“I am.”

“Then you will find a new doctor. Au revoir.”

The captain’s eyes widened. “The hell you say.”

“The hell I say. I am not enlisted. I serve at my pleasure. My pleasure is not to serve someone who would steal ink from innocent teachers.”

The captain stabbed his cigar in my direction. “That woman is about the farthest thing from innocent you may ever see, Doctor.”

“Captain! I must protest! I have done nothing to you.”

“Madam, you have done nothing but rankle me from the moment your size three hit the dirt and now you have my doctor in mutiny. Take your damned ink and be gone with you.”

“Jacob, will you load the ink, please?”


I gave the doctor a polite kiss on the cheek and thanked him in French for saving our ink and treating Imogene.

He beamed. “It was my pleasure to serve, mademoiselle.”

“Captain, I’m sure you inspected the box on the seat in the carriage?”

He struck a match against the wheel and lit his cigar. “I did. It appears to be about a thousand cookies.”

“Six hundred, actually. Jacob, when you’re done with the ink would you get out the cookies?”


He handed me the box of cookies, which I presented to the good doctor. “My mother always loads us down with cookies for the girls. I’d like you to have these as thanks for rescuing my ink and treating Imogene so tenderly. You may distribute them as you see fit.” I cut my eyes to the captain.

“Oh, I could not take these!”

“Of course you can. The girls can bake for themselves and you have well earned them.”

“Then I shall pass them out to the men. They shall sing your praises.”

I smiled at the captain. “And shall you sing my praises?”

“I’ll sing something about you, madam, trust me. Tell me, are you married?”

“That’s quite personal, Captain. Are you asking?”

He growled.

“It’s Miss McKenzie.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised. Might I make a suggestion? Should you find a man so inclined to propose matrimony. When the preacher asks, ‘do you take this man?’ the proper response is, ‘Yes’. I know you’ll want to say, ‘I must protest!’, but the answer is, ‘yes’.”

“Captain, I . . . of course. I shall heed your advice.”

And in case you’re interested in the song Lorena.

17 comments on “Blogging A-Z Z Is For Zouave
  1. Another fascinating entry and now we are done. Finish that book. Julie, you would be a heck of a professor. You really bring the history alive in your fiction, and I love that. Sometimes there really is more truth in fiction than there is in textbooks. A great story is a brilliant way to get people interested in history, learning what really happened instead of the scrubbed non-sense being taught in schools these days. Fantastic job.

    • Elise,

      Thank you so much for sticking with me to the end. Yay, us! Yes, I should see about finishing the book. I do appreciate more than you know your kind words and support.

  2. Dena Pawling says:

    I agree with EM. You really know your history, and it shows. What also shows, is how interesting you make it. For my first year of college [many many many many years ago], I had to take World History for my GE requirements. I thought it would be a snoozer class, and I had the 8am class, which for college is NOT fun. But my professor surprised me by making the class fun and interesting. He LOVED history and it showed.

    Congrats on completing the challenge!

    • Dena,

      I would have loved to have taught history. I adore it when teachers find a way to make it come alive as it should be. There are too many fascinating characters and events to let it remain bone dry.

      Yay, us for completing the challenge. Aren’t we big damned heroes?

  3. Colin says:

    Another fascinating article, Julie. Whatever you think of your A-to-Z posts this month, it’s done three things for me: taught me many things about the Civil War, solidified your expertise in this area of history, and made me want to read your novel. Thank you so much for taking part and sharing from your vasts stores of knowledge.

    • Colin,

      You’re off the hook. There will be no flogging A-Z challenge for you. Your kind words mean so much at a time when I was flagging a bit in confidence.

  4. Me says:

    I agree with Colin and EM: when will we be able to read that novel??
    I’d never really thought of the meaning behind the expression used in Tintin: faire le zouave. I never thought Zouave was a real word. But I checked it out and now I get it. 😛

    • Me,

      You all make me smile. thank you. It’s good to know I will have at least a few readers if it ever gets published.

      Zouaves were very hard-fighting units, both the French and later units, and certainly colorful.

      Thanks so much for hanging with me.

  5. For the first time in my life I find the Civil War interesting, Julie. I’m absolutely fascinated by your story, and I can’t wait to read your novel. You are a wonderful writer! <3

  6. Scarlett Braden says:

    Congratulations on completing the challenge!
    @ScarlettBraden from
    Frankly Scarlett

  7. Ceridwyn says:

    Wow, Julie. How beautiful was this! I’m with everyone else, saying ‘thank you’ for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us. I have truly enjoyed this A to Z journey (although I’m also glad it’s over!) and YAY US! We made it! 🙂

  8. Kae,

    thank you so much for your loyalty and kind words. Yes, I’m glad it’s over. It was interesting, but I need to get back to work on the Rain Crow.

  9. You really have to finish that novel, Julie! I’ve learned so much over this month of reading your posts, and now I really want to read that finished book.

  10. You should feel so exuberant, Julie. The final chapter of the A to Z finished, and I can tell from all the reading I did on your blog you really put your heart into it. Your writing is so fresh and so vivid, it makes it seem simple which I know it isn’t.

    I’m reminded of the Nathaniel Hawthorne like, easy reading is damn hard writing. I think of your stuff when I remember that line. Your writing is so smooth and effortless reading that the reader doesn’t stop to think about how hard it was to get it into that shape.

    Great stuff, and I agree with those before me that you bring history alive. Congratulations on making it to the finish line, but better luck in getting your other stories completed.

    Keep writing.

  11. Donna Everhart says:

    Are you thinking of a hiatus since QOTKU is off this month? I’m supposed to be writing. But – as you can see – I’m stalling instead. I’ve started a new project. I love the title. That’s how it goes – come up with a title and try to find the story around it. Hence the stall.


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