Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Search Challenge (October 26, 2011): Where did that crazy uniform come from?

I just came back from a short trip to Washington DC where I wandered on the Mall between all of the monuments and museums, taking in the whole sweep of American history and puzzling over the parts that I really don't recognize or know any of the back-story.  

One of the more puzzling bits was looking at photographs from the Civil War.  I'd seen the pictures of Matthew Brady and knew most of the generals, battlegrounds, armaments and forts.  But what really surprised me were some of the crazy uniforms the soldiers were wearing.  

Really?  These guys were fighting in the American Civil War?  But I assure you, they are, and did.  

I have to admit--these images didn't line up with my expectations of Civil War uniforms at all!  What's going on here?

Naturally, I looked it up.. and found that these unusual Civil War uniforms were inspired by a fashion craze at the time that came from another part of the world.  

The search challenge for today is pretty simple and comes in two parts: 

1.  What is the name of this style of uniform dress?  

2.  Where did this style of uniform originate?

And... for extra credit, 

Extra credit:  The original wearers of this uniform style were recruited from what group?   

Answer tomorrow.  (A little hint:  Searchers in Louisiana might find this problem fairly easy.)  

Search on! 


  1. Hmm, a quick google of "Civil War Uniform Turban" turned up that this uniform style was called "Zouave" after North African troups serving in the French army in the 1830s and until WWI. Wikipedia says these were originally recruited from the vowel-rich Zouaoua, a tribe of Berbers.

  2. Answers:

    a. zouave uniforms

    b. Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962

    c.The Zouaves of the French Army were first raised in Algeria in 1831 with one and later two battalions, initially recruited solely from the Zouaoua (or Zwāwa), a tribe of Berbers finding homes in the mountains of the Jurjura range.

    Found by searching Google with: [Louisiana civil war uniform]


  3. I started with [civil war uniforms turban] and that took me down a long path of searches that included learning about the French Zouaves and then "Louisiana Tigers" or "Coppen's Zouaves." Searching images on those didn't produce any that matched your images in the challenge.

    I showed the search challenge to a friend here at work that is from Louisiana and she suggested maybe the link was from the French Zouaves to the Acadians. The Acadians came from France to Canada then settled in Louisiana and became known as "cajuns" (her explanation).

    I searched for lots of combinations of the search terms [acadians "civil war" cajuns zouave turban uniform louisiana] but could never find images resembling those in the challenge.

    Did I get anywhere close?


  5. A: Zouave
    B: Originated in North Africa and was brought over by Elmer Ellsworth.
    C: The Zouaves of the French Army were first raised in Algeria in 1831 with one and later two battalions, initially recruited solely from the Zouaoua (or Zwāwa), a tribe of Berbers finding homes in the mountains of the Jurjura range (see Kabyles)

    I started with searching "Confederate Soldiers Turban" and found an Ehow document about US Zouave Cadets and Elmer Ellsworth.

    Here are some modern day pictures of a group Re-enacting the 5th NY Volunteer Infantry.

    Also, Zouave regiments were not just in the confederate army. The Union army had more than 70 volunteer Zouave regiments throughout the conflict, while the Confederates fielded about 25 Zouave companies.

  6. Another way to find the answers is using a Google image search feature; just drag the images into the search box.

    The first image comes from:
    Brandy Station Va. Band of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry (Zouaves) Date: c. 1864. (large version:

    The second one:
    This woodcut, "CHARGE OF DURYEE'S ZOUAVES (FIFTH REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS) AT THE BATTLE OF GREAT BETHEL," appeared in the June 29, 1861 issue of Harper's Weekly. (large version:

  7. I cheated. I did a a Google Goggles search and got results on the second one.


  9. I used Google Goggles on my phone to take a picture of the picture, the first result was Zouaves in the Civil War. Which I then Googled.

  10. Zouav d’Afrique uniforms for the Louisiana Tigers. I googled Louisiana regiment civil war uniform.

    Wikipedia had a description, but not any images.

  11. I also went the route of searching "louisiana civil war uniform turban." I tried a TinEye search on the first image with no luck, but Google's image search brought it right up. The Library of Congress has information on this regiment here:

  12. New Orleans resident George Auguste Gaston Coppens Proposed raising a battalion of Zouaves Based on those of the French Army in March 1861. The Organization , drill , orders and dress were modeled on that of the French zouaves, which made it a most distinctive Confederate command. The unit saw service at Pensacola in Florida , and in the Campaigns of Northern Virginia,
    Maryland and North Carolina. Enlisted me wore a red Flanned Skull cap with Deep blue Tassel; a Dark blue Vest Trimmed with Red; a flanned jacket similar in cut to the original 1830 French zouave uniforms, without the Characteristic 'tombeau', or false pocket, but trimmed with red around the cuff and jacket edges; sky-blue waist sash ; bright red baggy trousers or serouels; and white gaiters, over which were worn black' gutta percha' leggings, or jambieres. NCO's rank was indicated in French style with gold lace chevrons on the fore arm . Gray blanket rolls that doubled as knapsacks were worn across the body from left to right. They were armed with the U.S. Musket, Model 1842, a Smoothbore, percussion cap muzzle loader of Caliber .69, firing a round lead ball, Vivandieres, or ladies armed with barrels of brandy , were quite common in the earliest Volunteer units, both North and South.

  13. i searched "civil war uniforms french"

  14. I asked my father. Easy and, like any other military related question, he gave me a million facts on the subject.

  15. I searched: baggy trouser civil war uniform :)

  16. Zouaves were originally a French military unit comprised of North African natives and French officers organized in Algiers in 1830. They quickly established themselves as an elite unit. Zouave dress and drill was popularized in the United States by the soon to be martyred Elmer Ellsworth who took his Chicago company on a national tour. The 55th N.Y. militia was a unit formed from French immigrants living in New York City and included Zouaves uniformed as above. With the outbreak of hostilities many other Zouave regiments were formed. They tended to have distinct dress but often proved unable to consistently provide new uniform issues to their men. Many Zouave units were forced to adopt regulation dress. Knowing the mentality of the typical quartermaster it is surprising that the department did make an honest effort to supply nonregulation Zouave dress.

  17. I did a reverse google image search ( and put in the URL of the second picture. The first result gave me a page on the history of the Zouaves and the origins of the uniform.

  18. I search "american civil war strange uniforms" and it shows that
    The unit uniform style is called Zouave.
    They come from a tribe living in the rocky hills of Algeria and Morocco, and fought for the French army during 1830s.

  19. Dragged 2nd image to google search and found this

    A: Zouave Uniforms

    B: North Africa for French Interest

    C: The Zouaves of the French Army were first raised in Algeria in 1831 with one and later two battalions, initially recruited solely from the Zouaoua (or Zwāwa), a tribe of Berbers located in the mountains of the Jurjura range (see Kabyles). The Zouaoua had formerly provided soldiers for the deys of Algiers and in August 1830 the commander of the French expeditionary force which had occupied the city recommended their continued employment in this role.

  20. I searched for [civil war uniform turban] and found the Zouave links. But, as some other searchers already know, but I didn't...

    You can search using images themselves! I just spotted the little camera icon in the image search box - it lets you upload or link to an image and then search for the actual image. So I then "cheated" by downloading the image and uploading it to image search - voila! A link to the image on the page gives the same results. And as Kirsh, in the post above noted, you can drag photos to the image search box. Similar to Google Goggles on the phone. Cool, Google! Keep up the good work.