The briefly loved and beautiful zouave uniform

Print shows a French zouave in 1853, wearing uniform and holding rifle, on cigarette card issued by Kinney Tobacco Company as an insert with the Sweet Caporal brand cigarettes.

Print shows a French Zouave in 1853, wearing uniform and holding rifle, on cigarette card issued by Kinney Tobacco Company as an insert with the Sweet Caporal brand cigarettes.

When the French went into Algeria in the 1830s, they encountered the Zouaoua people, a Berber tribe along the Djurdjura mountains. Allying with these tough mountain people when possible, metropolitan French officers fell in amour with their costume of flowing colorful breeches, short jackets, turbans or fez, and capes– soon borrowing these for locally raised troops and even for European units.

By the Crimean War, French Zouave units were engaged in combat and, being the first modern European conflict since 1815, caught the imagination of those who were military minded on the other side of the Atlantic.

A French cantinière attached to a Zouave regiment during the Crimean War, 1855 - photo by Roger Fenton

A French cantinière attached to a Zouave regiment during the Crimean War, 1855 – photo by Roger Fenton

Zouave of the 2nd French Zouave Regiment poses with battle standard after the Battle of Solferino, 1859

Zouave of the 2nd French Zouave Regiment poses with battle standard after the Battle of Solferino, 1859

By the 1850s many fashionable “marching units” of militia in the U.S. were patterned on Zouave gear which led to an explosion of units on both sides of the Civil War.

Zouaves of Company G, 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Petersburg, Virginia.

Zouaves of Company G, 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Petersburg, Virginia.

Louisianian Tiger by Pierre Albert Leroux

Louisiana Tiger by Pierre Albert Leroux

Zouave de la Louisiane - Pierre Albert Leroux

Zouave de la Louisiane – Pierre Albert Leroux

Sergeant Henry G. Lillibridge of Co. H, 10th Rhode Island Infantry Regiment, in zouave uniform with saber bayoneted rifle

Sergeant Henry G. Lillibridge of Co. H, 10th Rhode Island Infantry Regiment, in Zouave uniform with saber bayoneted rifle

Manhattan Rifles recruiting poster, 1862

Manhattan Rifles recruiting poster, 1862

Colls Zouaves

Colls Zouaves

An unknown private, supposedly with the 114th Pennsylvania (Collis Zouaves)

An unknown private, supposedly with the 114th Pennsylvania (Collis Zouaves)

It wasn’t just in the U.S, North Africa, and France that the Zouaves caught on. During the 1863 Polish Uprising against the Tsar, there was a unit of black-robed Death Zouaves in the free Pole forces.

How cool is a name like the Zouaves of Death?

How cool is a name like the Zouaves of Death?

The French, for their part, maintained Zouave units, especially among North African troops, into the 1960s. While forces in other countries were very popular until as late as the early 1900s.

1888 French Zouave

1888 French Zouave

111-SC-74974 French Zouaves during the Chinese Relief Expedition (Boxer Rebellion), 1900

French colonial Zouaves on maneuvers with M1886 Lebel rifles, in 1909

French colonial Zouaves on maneuvers with M1886 Lebel rifles, in 1909

Posed shot of french zouaves firing hotchkiss machinegun note the assistant gunnner catching brass in canvas feedbucket

Posed shot of French Zouaves firing Hotchkiss machine gun note the assistant gunner catching brass in canvas feedbucket

Autochrome of a French Zouave eating a meal, Valbonne, 1913. He is wearing medals for service in Tunisia and Morocco

Autochrome of a French Zouave eating a meal, Valbonne, 1913. He is wearing medals for service in Tunisia and Morocco

French Zouaves during the early days of WW1 postcard

French Zouaves during the early days of WW1 postcard

Evolution of Zouave dress from 1830 to 1955

Evolution of Zouave dress from 1830 to 1955

Today, North African countries, to include Morocco and Algeria, still maintain Zouave influence in certain dress uniforms while the Italian Bersaglieri, with a lineage of service that included Libya and Tunisia as well as Spanish paramilitary Regulares assigned to the country’s legacy enclaves of Céuta and Melilla, retain red fezes.

Italian soldiers stand guard at Chiaiano cave a quarter of Naples on 10 July 2008. The cave was declared by the Italian government a military zone and is to become the site for a new rubbish dump. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, elected in April, promised to resolve the overall rubbish crisis in three years, and his conservative government has begun opening 10 new dumps under military guard in the region. AFP PHOTO / FRANCESCO PISCHETOLA

Italian soldiers stand guard at Chiaiano cave a quarter of Naples on 10 July 2008.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCESCO PISCHETOLA

North African deployed Spanish Regulares

North African-deployed Spanish Regulares

The Library of Congress has more than 270 vintage Zouave images online covering not only U.S./Confederate units but also French, Brazilian and Ottoman troops.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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