Battle of First Bull Run Online Exhibit
Fire Zouave on Sentry
Caption: Fire Zouave on Sentry at the Extreme of the Federal Lines, on the Road Between Fairfax and Alexandria.
Source: Illustration from New York Illustrated News, July 29, 1861, page 205
Originally, Zouave referred to certain French light infantry regiments serving in North Africa, but the name was also adopted by units in other armies, including several volunteer regiments created during the American Civil War. These units often adopted the light infantry tactics of the original Zouaves, as well as the distinctive North Aftrican elements of their uniform style, which consisted of a short, open-fronted jacket, baggy trousers and sometimes elaborate sashes and headgear.
In May of 1861, Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, the man who had popularized the Zouave style of drilling in America, recruited firemen from several different New York City fire companies to form the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, often referred to as either the Fire Zouaves or the Ellsworth Zouaves.