Monday, March 2, 2020

Booknotes: American Zouaves, 1859-1959

New Arrival:
American Zouaves, 1859-1959: An Illustrated History by Daniel J. Miller (McFarland, 2020).

As for me, I wouldn't have been caught dead wearing a Zouave uniform, but it's undeniable that significant swaths of volunteers from both sections were inspired by the example (or at least the look). I'll save details for the review, but Daniel Miller's American Zouaves, 1859-1959: An Illustrated History looks to be a pretty comprehensive register of the great multitude of units raised before, during, and after the Civil War.

From the description: "The elite French Zouaves, with their distinctive, colorful uniforms, set an influential example for volunteer soldiers during the Civil War and continued to inspire American military units for a century. Hundreds of militia companies adopted the flamboyant uniform to emulate the gallantry and martial tradition of the Zouaves. Drawing on fifty years of research, this volume provides a comprehensive state-by-state catalog of American Zouave units, richly illustrated with rare and previously unpublished photographs and drawings. The author dispels many misconceptions and errors that have persisted over the last 150 years."

The book begins with brief histories of both French Zouaves and the phenomenon of "Zouave Fever" that hit U.S. militia organizations before the Civil War. The great bulk of the study is a massive encyclopedia of Zouave units (companies, battalions, and regiments) arranged in chapters by state. Emphasized in the text are organization history and uniform descriptions. The volume is profusely illustrated with extensively captioned B&W photographs as well as color plates. It's reference book priced and really should have been a hardcover, but I would imagine that anyone with a heavy interest in Civil War Zouaves will want to get a personal copy sometime.

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