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The Perryville Zouave Connection

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Eleventh Indiana Infantry - Trioani

The Western Theater is not normally thought of as having a lot of flashy units in terms of uniform, yet numerous infantry companies that served in the theater were indeed either fully or partially dressed in the North African inspired Zouave outfit. One of the most noted would be Lew Wallace's original regiment, the Eleventh Indiana Infantry, known as Wallace's Zouaves. Of course many of the early war companies and regiments that were initially attired in such garb would have their gaudy uniforms replaced by more practical clothing as the Zouave jackets and pantaloons wore out.

Not many men who fought in the bloody battle of Perryville, Kentucky would have been in a Zouave uniform, but several units engaged in the fighting did have either Zouave roots or a Zouave legacy. What follows is a brief summary of those engaged regiments with such a connection, albeit in many cases a tenuous one.

Fifty-Ninth Illinois (Gooding's Brigade) - Company D was initially intended to be a Zouave company, but instead was organized and equipped as a standard infantry company.

Twenty-Second Indiana (Gooding's Brigade) - was later reorganized as a veteran regiment, and wore the veteran shell jacket.

Eighty-Eighth Indiana (Lytle's Brigade) - later reorganized as a veteran regiment, and wore the veteran shell jacket.

Fifteenth Kentucky (Lytle's Brigade) - Company A, known as the Shelby Zouaves. It is not known if or when these men wore Zouave influenced uniforms, but it would be interesting if they did as they might have had contact with the following unit.

Thirteenth Louisiana (Adam's Brigade) - Known also the Avegno Zouaves, this might the only unit to have actually worn a Zouave style uniform at Perryville. Six companies wore ‘red bloomers’, blue tunics and jaunty little red caps’. The regiment was a mix of various nationalities, including French, Spanish, Mexican, Italian, German, and Chinese, along with the hodge-podge of Creole and other influences in the region from which it was recruited. Two companies (the Southern Celts and St. Mary Volunteers) were Irish. These brightly dressed companies were engaged in the afternoon of October 8th, fighting near and west of the Bottom House. Amos J. Herald, who faced off against these men from Louisiana, would write, "At the time I was in Company D, 3d Ohio. Our regiment formed on a little elevation overlooking Dry Creek (Doctor's Fork). We waited for the enemy–not in vain; not long. They weren’t tardy at all, and they came thick, fast and plenty–no other than the Louisiana Tigers! I was shot down and fell into their hands."

Second Minnesota (Steedman's Brigade) - Company D was known as the Western Zouaves. Most likely the company was not wearing a Zouave style uniform at Perryville as the regiment had seen several months of campaigning by this time.

Sixth Tennessee (Maney's Brigade) - Company D (later Company B) was the Gotten Zouaves. Their original Zouave coat might have been as follows: Homespun and made of brown jean with 3/4" red cotton broadcloth tape around the top of the collar. The body and sleeves were lined with red and white stripped calico cotton fabric. Two interior applique pockets, with the left breast pocket made of the lining material and the right breast pocket were made of jean material. Nine buttons on the front of the jacket were brass coin buttons. This would be another example of a unit that had seen much service and hence unlikely to have a Zouave uniform at Perryville.

154th Tennessee (Smith's Brigade) - In 1860 the Harris Zouave Cadets, also known as the Memphis Zouaves, wore Zouave fatigue dress consisting of flowing pants with a scarlet stripe, blue roundabout with blue binding, and a plain blue cap. This unit would later be Company E in the 154th. As the 154th had seen hard service by Perryville, it is unlikely that Company E wore Zouave uniforms by October, 1862.

First Wisconsin (Starkweather's Brigade) - Company D had been formed under the name National Zouaves. The Tenth New York, of Second Manassas fame, also carried that moniker. As the First had been in service for over a year it is doubtful if Company D was still in any sort of attire beyond what the rest of the regiment wore.

If anyone has insight to the units listed above, both as to what their uniforms might have looked like, and if they might have still had elements of a Zouave uniform by the time of Perryville, please leave comments below as I would like to update this post with more information.

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