Blogging A-Z Z Is For Zouave

American Zouave ambulance crew demonstrating removal of wounded soldiers from the field, during the American Civil War.

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.

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


  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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 😛

  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. 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! 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. 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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