"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Civil War Bivouac with Loree Huebner - Zouaves!

I’ve had a few requests, so it’s time I do another Civil War Bivouac. In this edition of the Civil War Bivouac, I wish to introduce you to a dear friend who will be presenting a guest post today.

Skip Griffiths and Loree Huebner
Remembrance Day - Gettysburg, PA - On Little Round Top
With General Warren
Photo by Eric Huebner

I met David (Skip) Griffiths online over 10 years ago. Yes, this was back in the day when chat rooms were popular…but it wasn’t the “pick up” kind of chat room. We were part of a group of history hosts in a Civil War chat room for AOL’s infamous, Mason/Dixon Line Room. This chat room on AOL’s, Research and Learn, was dedicated to the history of the Civil War only. As hosts, we monitored conversations and debates, keeping the peace between the North and South. We also presented Civil War trivia twice a week to a large online audience, and hosted cyber round tables, as well as interviews with famous Civil War historians and authors. Skip was Host General GK Warren, and I was Host Hardtack.

After the chat room closed, Skip and I kept in touch through email. Eric and I finally met Skip and his lovely wife, Arlene, in person—in Gettysburg. We’ve been great friends since. The four of us have actually spent a few weekends together in Gettysburg, walking the battlefields and sharing the history.

Loree Huebner with Arlene and Skip Griffiths
O'Rorkes - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Eric Huebner

When I met Skip, he was a re-enactor in the 5th New York Duryee Zouaves—the very same regiment that the late, great, popular Civil War historian, Brian Pohanka was Captain. Skip was also president of the organization before Brian Pohanka passed away in 2005. Nowadays, when he isn’t organizing a reenactment, Skip is a Civil War historian, speaking and educating history fans on the Zouave. The Zouave units were notable for their bright colored uniforms and participation at Fort Donelson, Gaines Mill, Antietam, Gettysburg to name a few. I can already tell that we will have to call Skip back for a second guest post on the Zouaves sometime in the future…but for now, please welcome my friend and Civil War Historian/Zouave expert, Skip Griffiths. Take it away, Skip!


Thank you, Loree! Welcome everyone!

When I was a kid in school I discovered that my favorite subject was American History. I learned at the age of nine that my favorite period in time was the Civil War. When I became an adult, I learned the cold hard truth that my history teachers lied to me. They told me that the Union wore blue uniforms and the Confederacy wore gray. They never mentioned the soldiers who wore red, green or butternut. They also never mentioned that during the first Battle of Bull Run, so many different uniforms were worn that it became confusing and regiments on both sides fired at friendly regiments. Had these teachers, many I still call friends, told me the truth, I might have become obsessed with Zouaves earlier instead of later in my life.

What is a Zouave you might ask? I define a Zouave as a French infantry soldier that was originally composed of members of nomadic tribes of North Africa, who wore the baggy trousers, braided jackets and tasseled fez. They were well trained soldiers and fierce fighters who only succumbed to the overwhelming better weapons of the French. After France completed their foray into Africa, Louis Napoleon III, the emperor, created three corps of Zouaves in the French army. The best soldiers of those corps formed a fourth corps that became his Imperial Guard. They became the best trained soldiers in the world in the nineteenth century.

Skip Griffiths and Eric Huebner
Remembrance Day - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner

How did they come to the United States? In 1854-1855 a war between France, Britain, and Russia broke out on the Crimean Peninsula. It was here that the Zouaves validated their reputation as the best soldiers in the world. In numerous charges with the bayonet they were able to secure key cities and positions to defeat the Russians. As with many wars in the nineteenth century, other countries sent observers to learn new tactics and discover new inventions. The United States was no different. They sent a young captain named George B. McClellan (later Major General of the Army of the Potomac during the CW), with others to watch. Captain McClellan thought that the Zouave “was the beau ideal of a soldier”. Although the War Department dismissed the Zouave as too expensive to outfit and train, the idea for Zouaves in the military did not end there.

Loree Huebner with Skip Griffiths
Remembrance Day - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Eric Huebner

A young man from upstate New York had moved out to Illinois and taken a position of a law clerk in the law offices of Herndon and Lincoln. His name was Elmer E. Ellsworth. While in Chicago, Ellsworth had met a veteran Zouave of the Crimean War. He convinced the man to train him in the tactics and drill to become a Zouave. After months of training, Ellsworth formed his own militia unit, the U.S. Zouave Cadets. They became one of the best trained militias in the country. In 1860, Ellsworth took his militia around the country and competed in competitions of tactics and drill. The Zouaves never lost a competition, and when the Zouave Cadets left a city, a Zouave regiment was established. Captain Elmer E. Ellsworth had firmly established the Zouave into the American culture. When the Civil War started in April 1861, Ellsworth and many other men formed Zouave regiments. Unfortunately, for Ellsworth, he has the distinction of being the first officer killed when he shot retrieving a Confederate flag from the roof top of the Marshall House in Alexandria, Virginia. It happened that President Lincoln could see that flag being flown from the White House.

There were about 50 Zouave regiments formed throughout the American Civil War on both sides during the war. Many of the Northern Zouave regiments came from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. The southern Zouave came out of Louisiana, because of the heavy French influence. There were northern Zouave regiments present at Lee’s surrender of Appomattox. The Zouave ended in the United States after the Civil War, except for a band of Zouaves in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. In France, the Zouave lasted until the middle of World War.

Skip Griffiths is a Civil War Re-enactor, Civil War Historian and Speaker
He resides in New York State with his family
Photo courtesy of David (Skip) Griffiths private photo album 

Thank you Skip! Thanks for giving us a brief history of the Zouave—so fascinating!

Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

What do you think of the Zouave uniforms?

We would love to hear from you!

Between you, me and the gatepost,



Jessica Nelson said...

What a fascinating post! I knew nothing about this. Thanks Skip and Loree! :-)

Oh, and cool uniforms. I bet they're fun to wear.

Julie Ann Walker said...

Whoa. Absolutely fascinating! Thanks Loree and Skip!

amorvincitomni said...

Really cool, Loree and Skip my son Enjoyed it too!

Victoria Lindstrom said...

This is amazing. Being a quarter French I'm surprised I've never heard of the Zouaves. Also there is a road six blocks from my home named Ellsworth - now I know where the name came from. Thanks Loree and Skip!

Brandi Boddie said...

I just love how involved you are with Civil War reenactments, Loree! Thanks for the information, Skip!

Melissa Tagg said...

Ooh, cool stuff! I love how history comes alive at your blog, Loree. Thanks for the guest post, Skip!

Loree Huebner said...

Jessica: Glad you enjoyed the post!

Julie Ann: Glad you liked it! Interesting stuff, huh?

Anna: So happy your son enjoyed it too!

Victoria: Isn't it funny how you learn something new everyday! and now you know all about Ellsworth Rd...lol!

Brandi: You're welcome, Brandi. Just happy to share the history.

Melissa: We've got to keep the history alive!

Thanks for stopping in everyone...and Skip sends out a huge thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Jenny Sulpizio said...

So great and I love the "history" you both have together. Fascinating post, guys. :)

Lindsay Harrel said...

How fun to be a reenactor! Interesting post. :)

troutbirder said...

Very interesting. I recently read a book about Ellsworth and how he taught his group acrobatic marching which dazzled the crowd along the parade route in New York...;)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I learned a lot today! I always thought all the uniforms were either blue or gray.

Lynda R Young said...

Oh wow! What a brilliant post!! I love the photos of everyone dressed up.

Eric J. Huebner said...

Excellent post, Loree and Skip! Outstanding presentation on the Zouaves.

Loree Huebner said...

Jenny: As friends, we do share the love of the history. It's a passion we can't fully explain!

Lindsay: Re-enacting is fun! We have such a great time playing Yankees vs Rebs...Lol! I also love when I can get dressed up in my ball gowns or afternoon dresses. I take a step back in time. I just love the Zouave uniforms. So much detail!

trout: I would love to know the name of the book! It might be one Skip or I haven't read yet. I'll touch base with you.

Susan: That's what Skip thought too until he stumbled on to the Zouaves. Makes the army more interesting I think.

Lynda: Glad you enjoyed it!

Eric: Thanks for stopping in, babe. Always love when you comment. I know it's a good post.

A big thanks to everyone for popping in! Skip and I love reading your comments.

Jen J. Danna said...

Very interesting post. I thought I knew quite a bit about the Civil War, but this was totally new to me. Thanks for sharing your insight with us!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

I loved learning about the Zouave! Fascinating info. And I didn't know that there were other uniform colors besides blue and grey--huh. Those Zouave uniforms look great!

Julie Jarnagin said...


Rhonda Schrock said...

My son would love this. He's intrigued by re-enactors who've performed at our small town's festival. I'm glad they're preserving history like this.

Shelley Sly said...

I'd never heard of the Zouave before. I'd also only been told about the North wearing blue and the South wearing gray. Nice to learn something new!

Loree Huebner said...

Jen: So glad to see you here, Jen! Glad you enjoyed the post!

Gwen: You are right, Gwen. The Zouave is one of the interesting units. They were on both sides...

Julie: So glad you stopped in!

Rhonda: Glad your son enjoyed it. Preserving and teaching the history is so important.

Shelley: Happy you learned something new today. I learned several things from Skip's talk that I didn't know.

Thanks for dropping by everyone! Skip and I are enjoying all of your comments.

Maria I. Morgan said...

Love the uniforms! Thanks for introducing us to your friend, and historian Skip. What a fascinating wealth of information the two of you shared! I had no idea there were uniforms other than the blue and grey either...Appreciate the history lesson! God bless you both!

STAG said...

As a former "grunt" for real, I have never much cared for "elite" units...they tend to get the extra equipment, training and money that the average infanteer would like to have. That being said, the Zouave's earned their elite status, and nobody can take that away from them.
Good thing too...with some seventy Zouave and Chausseur regiments in the North, and 25 companies of Zouave in the south, they provide a bit of colour for sure. There were also highland regiments (in plaid trousers, sorry ladies, no kilts!) and a hundred other minor infantry "guards" and such.

I recommend Don Troiani’s Regiments and Uniforms of the Civil War for more information. You would not regret the time spent perusing this fine book. (and no, I have no vested interest in book sales here, just a deep and abiding interest in the topic.)

Loree Huebner said...

Maria: Happy you stopped in and enjoyed the post. The Zouave uniforms were so unique and detailed.

STAG: Welcome here! So nice of you to chime in on the history and the uniforms. I've seen Troiani's book. Great recommendation to all of our readers! His Civil War art work is absolutely amazing. I get lost in his paintings. I see something new each time I look at one. I could do an entire post on him and his dedication to accurately recreating the history through his art alone.

Maria and STAG, thanks for stopping by! Skip doesn't have a blogger profile but sends his thanks and appreciation to all who have left comments.

Stacy Henrie said...

Super interesting! I'd love to see one of these reenactments one day.

Arlee Bird said...

Fascinating post. There is so much about the Civil War most of us don't know and I keep learning more. This week my wife and I have been watching a 15 hour documentary about the War. The doc is presenting some interesting history, but since the filmmakers used a lot of footage shot a reenactment events I'm amazed by the number of reenactors who do this.
What a love for the history.

As a side point, I am related to the great Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Recently I participated in a DNA test and according to the results my kinship to Stonewall is 96% certain. I'm not directly descended, but in the same lineage that would make me a distant cousin I suppose. He was quite a heroic figure and not just for his participation in the Civil War.

Tossing It Out

Loree Huebner said...

Stacy: You must go if you have an event near you. Pretty fun stuff.

Arlee: Welcome here!
There are a lot of re-enactors out there. We all do it for the love of the history!

How very interesting that you are related to Stonewall Jackson. Should be fun to trace your roots back! I always remember his final words on his death bed ~ After he ordered A.P. Hill into action...a serene smile rest upon his face as he said, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

Stacy and Lee, thanks for dropping by. Skip and I loved hearing from you!

Carol Riggs said...

Hey, nice photo of you, Loree, with your hair down! :) And thanks to David/Skip for the informative post. I think the uniforms are neat--baggy trousers paired with fez, cool! Although on further thought, they look a little like Santa outfits, since they are red. LOL

Loree Huebner said...

Carol: I was waiting to see how long it took someone to say that LOL! They do look a bit like Santa suits at first glance. I just don't understand why they would wear such bright red into battle. TARGET!

Thanks for stopping in, Carol!

Misha Gericke said...

So interesting! I never knew about the Zouaves, although I was aware of the many different uniforms. :-D

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Wow! I love learning little known facts about American history. Thank you for sharing!

Loree Huebner said...

Misha: The Zouaves are interesting. I would have loved to have seen the real Zouaves doing their demonstrations and competitions.

Gabrielle: Glad you learned something new!

Misha and Gabrielle, thanks for visiting! Skip and I love reading your comments!