PROSPECT — Confederate soldiers watching an approaching Zouave charge did not always hang around to greet the Yankees clad in North African uniforms.
And members of Richardson’s Civil War Round Table recently learned why when Civil War re-enactor Rob “Maynard” Kufrovich donned his Zouave uniform and brought his rifled musket and its bayonet to a CWRT meeting at the First Congregational Church in Searsport.
“The Zouaves were considered light infantry,” and “one out of every 10 soldiers at the start of the war was a Zouave,” said Kufrovich, a member of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Because “the French army was in vogue at the time,” the Zouave regiments wore colorful uniforms “patterned after the French Zouave units involved in the Crimean War” in the 1850s.
Such uniforms “were based on those worn by Moroccan troops in the French army,” he said. He is an education technician at the Adams School in Castine.
“What made a Zouave? It was the uniform,” Kufrovich said. Among the components of his Zouave uniform are:
• A soft wool fez with a striped turban wrapped around it. The striped turban was unique to the 114th Pennsylvania (also known as “Collis’ Zouaves“);
• A rib-cut jacket that later “became a very popular fashion for women,” Kufrovich said;
• A clasp, called a “frog,” that fastened the jacket at the throat;
• Powder-blue cuffs also unique to the 114th Pennsylvania;
• The number “114” stenciled in white on Kufrovich’s knapsack;
• A gold “A” that identified a member of the original “Zouaves d’Afrique,” a pre-Civil War unit that became a company in the 114th Pennsylvania;
• A red shirt that, Kufrovich admitted, “made a Zouave a good target” on the battlefield;
• A 10-yard wool sash worn around the waist. “We put it usually with someone else helping with the wrapping,” he said;
• “Sartouches” sewn in yellow thread on the pocket;
• Pants colored “madder red,” according to Kufrovich. “It was a dye that was developed with mercury as the main pigment”;
• Canvas gaiters worn to protect “your uniform when walking through bramble bushes,” he said;
• Standard-issue federal brogans (shoes), made “with suede tops and leather soles and with heel plates to protect the heels,” Kufrovich said.
Zouave units actually predated the Civil War; young men ages 16 to 20 “would form Zouave companies in American cities and come up with fancy names for themselves,” Kufrovich said. Many such companies joined fledging state infantry regiments after the war began.
“The Lewiston Zouaves, our only company of Zouaves [from Maine], went to war” as Co. K, 1st Maine Infantry Regiment, Kufrovich said. The 1st Maine served only 90 days and missed the Battle of Manassas in July 1861.
Among the early Union Zouaves (Confederate Zouaves appeared on the battlefield, too) were “firemen from the big cities,” he said. The firemen wore bib-style shirts that they adapt as part of their Zouave uniforms.
The 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment was led by Col. Charles Collis, a Philadelphia lawyer. The regiment fought at Winchester, Va. in spring 1862; “they were part of the rear guard in the retreat out of Winchester and bought time for Union troops to escape,” Kufrovich said. The 114th also fought at Gettysburg, and Collis won a Medal of Honor for leading a charge at Fredericksburg.
When the 114th was forming, Collis “had special material imported from France to make the uniforms,” Kufrovich said. Collis kept procuring new uniforms for the 114th throughout the war.
“The South had many Zouave regiments, also,” he said. “The Richmond Zouaves wore a uniform similar to the 114th’s.”
Zouaves exuded attitude; “the style was suave and very flamboyant,” Kufrovich said. “They had a certain swagger about them.”
After explaining the different parts of his uniform, Kufrovich demonstrated the use of his musket and bayonet. Before and during the war, “the Zouaves treated their bayonet drills very seriously,” he said.
As their regiment advanced in battle, Zouaves chanted, “Zou-zou-zou.” Leveling his musket and pointing its bayonet ahead of him, Kufrovich fixed his gaze on a distant point and moved swiftly across the large meeting room while loudly saying, “Zou-zou-zou.”
The effect was nerve-wracking, to say the least, as audience members realized just what might run through the minds of enemy soldiers awaiting a Zouave charge: Why hang around when a bayonet-wielding Zouave is seeking your belly?
When not being used for “a lot of grunt work,” such as the 114th “helping pull cannons out of the 3-foot deep mud” during the January 1863 “Mud March,” Zouaves fought bravely in many battles, Kufrovich said.
“We suffered as many losses as other units during the war,” he said. The 114th Pennsylvania suffered 40 percent casualties at Gettysburg, primarily during the July 2 fight at Sherfy’s Farm.
Kufrovich became interested in Zouaves “about 13 years ago,” when “I came across some items up for auction while selling some of mine on eBay.” During the bidding on several Zouave-related items, he learned that another bidder was Gettysburg resident Shawn Grenan, “one of the foremost experts in Zouaves in the country.”
Then a Bethlehem, Penn. resident, Kufrovich contacted Grenan, a Civil War re-enactor who had organized the modern 114th Pennsylvania Infantry, a Zouave unit throughout the Civil War. “Soon I was doing drills as a 114th Pennsylvania Zouave with ‘Vincent’s Brigade,’ just outside of Gettysburg,” Kufrovich said.
“I was glad” to join the Zouave re-enactors, “as ours is the only unit doing that particular Zouave regiment in the eastern United States,” he said. “I wouldn’t have become involved in re-enacting if I couldn’t do the Zouave impression. Just not the same [re-enacting] with the regulation standard-issue federal blues.”
Kufrovich described the 114th’s Zouave re-enactors as “a great bunch of guys” who are “quite the characters; I fit right in.” Among the many battle re-enactments in which he has participated, “one of the most memorable” involved a “tactical re-enactment, in Harper’s Ferry,” W. Va.
“We built breastworks” and “did a lot of slinking in the underbrush, so to speak,” Kufrovich said.
His first battle re-enactment, involving the Battle of Winchester in Virginia, actually took place “along the banks of the James River,” he recalled. “We were deployed as picket guard around the camp that night.
“Out of the trees around midnight came” the question, “Hey, Yank, got anything to trade?’” he said. “It turned out to be three Confederates, who introduced themselves as ‘Robert,’ ‘Edward,’ and ‘Lee.’ They offered some sweet potatoes, which they traded with us for some beef jerky that I had.
“It was a scene which was commonly repeated throughout the war, and it was really neat to experience it for myself,” Kufrovich said.
He will wear his uniform and talk about Zouaves at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 13 at the Belfast Free Library, 106 High St., Belfast. For more information, call 207-338-3884.
Brian Swartz can be reached at email@example.com.