In 1863 and 1864, three Union regiments (146th New York, 140th New York, and 155th Pennsylvania) were issued with Zouave uniforms to reward their proficiency in drill and battlefield performance. Difficulties in supply and replacement meant that Zouave and other exotic militia uniforms tended to be replaced by standard issue uniforms throughout the conflict. However, the tradition remained strong, and the last Union casualty of the fighting in Virginia was reported to be a Zouave of the 155th Pennsylvania, killed at Farmville, Virginia on the morning of April 9, 1865.
A number of Confederate Zouave units were also raised. In contrast to the many Federal units, most Confederate Zouaves were not full “regiments”: many were companies within larger units. The cognomen “Louisiana Tiger” dates from the Mexican War, and refers to any Louisiana state trooper (and more recently, to the state’s athletic teams). But none of the Mexican War Louisiana “Tigers” were Zouaves. The earliest, and most famous, Louisiana Zouave unit was White’s Company B (the “Tiger Rifles”) of Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s First Special Battalion, Louisiana Volunteers, aka “Louisiana Tigers“. Another notable Zouave regiment on the Confederate side was “Coppens Zouaves”, which were raised by Georges Augustus Gaston De Coppens in 1861, and saw action in the Peninsula campaign and at the battle of Petersburg, all the while being constantly in need of supplies. They were disbanded in 1865.
Among the Louisiana Zouaves were the “Louisiana Tigers” or “Coppen’s Zouaves”. These names have been confused with “Louisiana Tigers at Gettysburg”. Coppen’s Zouaves were at Gettysburg, but they were not then known as “Louisiana Tigers”. Captain White’s Company B, “Louisiana Tigers”, of Major Wheats’s First Special Battalion, were not at Gettysburg, having been disbanded after Wheat’s death at Gaines Mill in 1862.
Post Civil War
Zouaves gradually vanished from the U.S. military in the 1870s and 1880s, as the militia system slowly transformed into the National Guard. As an example, the Wisconsin militia still included one zouave unit in 1879, but the following year, in 1880, a standard Wisconsin Guard uniform was adopted, and the traditional distinctions of title and dress ceased. After the Civil War, veteran groups sometimes dressed as zouaves during honor guard ceremonies such as funeral processions, since zouave dress was considered colorful and distinctive. Modern American Civil War reenactments often feature zouave units.
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