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Re: [Uniforms] Coppen's Zouaves
In Response To: [Uniforms] Coppen's Zouaves ()

The initial zouave style uniform worn by members of Coppen's Zouaves is probably the best documented Confederate unit uniform. In my article "Red Petticoats and Blue Jackets" I drew mainly on contemporary accounts from newspapers. However, soldiers and civilians noted the appearance of the Zouaves' uniform.

The uniform played a part in the history of the unit. At the same time as the Zouaves were seeking recruits the State of Louisiana was trying to raise two regiments of regulars. The rapid enlistment and formation of the Zouaves while the regulars struggled to get men was credited to their showy uniforms. But further, as the condition of their clothing deteriorated so did their effectiveness as a military unit.

So the uniform. This was paid for by the father of one of the Battalion's officers. The attachments show the pattern of the Battalion's initial uniform. The photograph was taken in mid May 1861. The illustration was drawn in early July 1861 [Couldn't get this to appear so address appears at the base of this - Sorry]. While many would like the trim to be yellow, veteran J. W. Minnich stated categorically that it was red. The voice of an actual member of Coppens' Battalion is good enough for me. If you don't believe me look in the Confederate Veteran magazine. Its there in black and white - "our gingerbread trimmings on jacket and vest, of dark blue, were of red [underlined] tape instead of yellow." Contemporary newspapers further back him up by never mentioning yellow in connection with the Battalion's first uniform. Its all red and blue.

Enlisted men:
Calotte - Soft red flannel with deep blue tassel
Jacket and Vest - Dark blue flannel trimmed with red tape. Contemporary images show that the jackets had no tombeau. The jacket had vents in under cuff seam and two back seams.
Pants - Bright red
Jambieres - Black "gutta percha" leather fastened by three buckles.
Gaiters - White hemp canvas.
Black shoes.
Accoutrement - black leather, belt with oval plate. Cartridge box and belt.
Blanket - Grey worn over shoulder. Doubled as a knapsack.
Musket - Model 1842 (apparently marked Springfield 1845) percussion conversions.
Issued to each man - White metal (pewter) plate and mug; knife, fork and spoon; 1 dozen white bone buttons, red, white and blue thread; 1 piece of leather; 1 wooden box containing: mirror, brush, razor, shoe brush, small comb and a pair of scissors.
Rank - Used the French zouave style.

Vivandiere - Black hat with plume and hat cord, blue jacket with seven buttons up the lower seam of each full cut sleeve, blue apron, blue knee length skirt with two broad bands around the hem, red zouave style drawers, black jambiere, white gaiters and black high heel shoes.

Officers - After the French zouave officer style - kepi - red crown and light blue band with gilt lace trim; Dark blue (almost black) frock coat and pants with broad red seam stripe.

The uniforms were coarse and service wore them out. By July 1861 grey zouave style pants had replaced at least some of the original red pants. In September 1861 the Battalion recieved an issue of clothing from Louisiana. This included grey jeans padded jackets and pants. A photograph of two Louisianans taken wearing this uniform in camp in Virginia during this time indicates that the jacket had six buttons and buttoned epaulettes. A naval officer recalled seeing the Zouaves in Richmond during May 1862. At that time they were back in Zouave style uniforms "elaborately trimmed with yellow braid."

While stationed at Pensacola, Florida they were judged by Generals Bragg and Boggs as the best troops - they were Bragg's provost. By the time they reached the Yorktown area they were judged by many as the worst. In attempting to explain this to the Secretary of War Coppens laid the blame on his officers who had become demoralised by disagreements with the War Department regarding rank. They had let discipline slip and their regard for their men. The officers lack of care for their men reflected in the indifferent food and clothing the men recieved. This, in turn, led to disease, demoralisation, desertion and death. Demoralisation got to the stage that the men refused to march out on picket until they were harangued and shamed by one of the Battalion's vivandiere. Casualties arising from the battles on the Peninsula further wore away at the Battalion. By the beginning of the Maryland Campaign they were reduced to a handful of men. However, not even Coppens' death at Sharpsburg finished off the Battalion. In January 1864 two youths enlisted in the Battalion. At that time they were issued uniforms that had "a wide red stripe down the bright blue trousers."

Hope that that helps.


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[Uniforms] Coppen's Zouaves
Re: [Uniforms] Coppen's Zouaves
Re: [Uniforms] Coppen's Zouaves Sash
Re: [Uniforms] Coppen's Zouaves - Officers
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