Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Regimental Fire and Fury - ACW Project Blog Pt 2

Hello out there!  Welcome to the first real installment of this blog series.  Two Union regiments down, plus a Confederate cavalry unit and it's foot compliment.  Let's get into that as we go though.

11th New York Fire Zouaves ambush a passing Confederate Georgia state cavalry unit as it marches by, led by Elmer E Ellsworth himself.  More on all three in a moment, but can't help but feel the utility of the light infantry volunteer unit against such a valuable enemy element taken by surprise.

These newfangled stars and stripes, and the regimental banner, led by Ellsworth.

 “It was not possible for Ellsworth to be neutral in anything, or idle while others were working,” -John Hay. 

The Zouaves were a French unit who saw action in North Africa, Algeria, and often seen fighting the Ottoman Empire from the early 19th century well up to the 1950s.

Elmer Ellsworth modelled the 11th New York Fire Zouaves after these units.  Volunteers, light infantry, unique uniforms,  unique men of comraderie.  These men were New York Firefighter volunteer units, who did so for their country two fold.  These are rarely known, but a very special group of men who came together under two banners and in a way unlike any other unit gave their lives twice for their country. They are my favorite unit personally and why I started with them.

The 11th New York charges uphilll at dismounted Georgia cavalry as fresh mounted presses their right.  It seems insurmountable, but with assistance from the 1st sharpshooters...

11th focuses, ignoring the threat and pressing forward.  The Georgian unit seems massive, but the sure rifles of Berdan's balance the scales.

Cavalry in the Civil War are often misunderstood.  They were used as a harassment, and the horses were also more of a quick means of deploying an infantry unit, than what many of us think of as mounted cavalry. In the middle you can see the horse holders, the one in many held back from the lines to mind the horses until a new deployment was needed.

Georgia state cavalry in full charge.

An interesting point about the Civil War in general but especially the south - horses were a very valuable asset.  A vast majority of horses across the war died. For the north, horses had a regimental standard at least until the attrition set in.  For the south, horses were often commissioned or reimbursed to their owners for bringing them to battle.  This led to a large mix of breeds especially for the south.  

Cavalry were more often used as a mobile infantry unit.  Sometimes a mounted harassment, but for the general equipped unit, it was more a method of quickly deploying a mass of infantry.

1st US Sharpshooters "Berdan's" repel Georgia cavalry harassment.  What looks like insurmountable odds, is just a moment before camouflaged sights find their targets.

Berdan's Sharps were a special unit of US infantry that were truly the beginning of the US Marine sniper units.  Moving in alternating fire and move, much more similar to later WW2 unit movement than anything seen in the Civil War, and unlike anything seen at the time, the Berdan green was often picked as a target by Confederates out of fear and legend.

Berdan's fought one time in true rank and file, and because of this Confederate fear, in that battle the 2nd US suffered heavy losses, almost half.  They never again were used to fight in rank and file, instead their true trained purpose.

The Berdan green uniform is a sort of pine green.  At least, when created from scratch.  Often, with supply issues deeply affecting both sides, the green dye would be applied to an existing blue Union jacket, created an off green uniform.  This was called "overdyed," and acceptable but clearly stood out in the ranks of the 1st and 2nd Sharps.

Thanks for reading.  Catch you in the next one.  Hope you enjoy both the photos and history.