Portraying the 1st Fire Zouaves (11th New York Volunteers).
Information compiled by Marc A. Hermann and Shaun C. Grenan

***A CONSTANT WORK IN PROGRESS** Last updated May 9, 2013.

"'Tis thus the New-York Firemen,
When in their Country's cause,
Unite in common Brotherhood
For to sustain her laws.
And crush the Serpent-Treason
By killing every knave
Who would insult the Stars and Stripes,
Wherever they may wave."

Despite being one of the most celebrated and famous fighting units of its time, relatively little is remembered today about the Eleventh New York Volunteer Infantry, or "First Fire Zouaves." A standard regimental history for the quick facts of the unit's service does not exist, and as such this unit is an absolute dream for the sleuthing researcher.  The living historian, of course, demands even more than just a "who, where, when, and why" about a regiment, because there is the added level of wanting/needing to know as much as possible about the material facts: what kind of uniform? Accoutrements? Weapons? How widespread were certain items, how rare were others? These questions and many others are what we will attempt to answer, for the benefit of those wishing to portray this unique fighting unit in coming re-enactment seasons.


When the Civil War broke out in April, 1861, Elmer E. Ellsworth was already known in military circles nationwide. His Chicago Zouave Cadets were at the top of their class in martial and sartorial showmanship, so much so that they felt confident enough to take their act of precision drill on the road and challenge militia groups to competitions. Catching the attention of President Lincoln, Ellsworth was promised a commission as a Lieutenant. The onset of the war, however, brought an end to the pageantry, and Ellsworth resigned his commission and headed for New York, intent on recruiting his own regiment. Finding volunteers in the nation's largest city would not be difficult, but Ellsworth had specific recruits in mind. "I want the New York Firemen," Ellsworth said, "for there are no more effective men in the country, and none with whom I can do so much. They are sleeping on a volcano at Washington and I want men who can go into a fight now."

New York's fire department in 1861 was a volunteer organization, staffed by men from all walks of life who responded when their district's fire tower sounded an alarm, and "ran with the machine" to where the danger was. The physical exertion required to run a huge fire engine through the streets and then pump water, climb ladders, or pull hoses meant that the volunteers were in top shape, a trait that an ideal zouave would possess. These men had earned a mixed reputation in the preceding years, being known for their affinity with fighting among each other as much as fighting fires. These rowdies were also of varying political viewpoints, and like many New Yorkers, may have felt sympathetic towards the South. The attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, however, caused New York to fall in firmly on the side of the Union.

Two days after arriving in New York, and assigning officer commissions to fire company foremen and former Chicago Zouaves, Ellsworth began recruiting in earnest. Within a day, 1100 men had been put on the muster rolls. Contracts were very quickly filled for uniforms, which were immediately issued to the men upon their delivery. These were loosely based on Ellsworth's own design for an ideal fatigue uniform.

After being outfitted and introduced to the Zouave drill, and many of the men having their heads shaved, the regiment was ready to move to the seat of the war -- not before, however, several stands of colors were issued to them. Throngs of people filled the intersection of Broadway and Canal Street, where the regiment was quartered, on the morning of April 29th, when a large Adams Express wagon appeared on the block, followed over an hour later by carriages of VIP's, including Mrs. John Jacob Astor. Mrs. Astor, actress Laura Keene, and other patriotic ladies, through General John Dix, presented the regiment with a silk national flag and a crimson regimental flag, upon which was embroidered in white letters "U.S. National Guards - First Regiment Zouaves, New York," mounted upon a black oak staff topped with a silver spear head. An accompanying letter from Mrs. Astor read, in part, "In delivering the ensign of our nation into the charge of the brave men under your command, I am happy in the confidence that I entrust it to men whose heads are moved by a generous patriotism to defend it, and whose hearts feel now more deeply than they have ever done that the honor of their country's flag is sacred and precious to them as their own. Accustomed as we are to think of them in the discharge of their ordinary duties with grateful sympathy and a well-founded pride, these feelings grow stronger the solemn moment when they are going from us to engage in a new and still more perillous service. I pray, sir, that Heaven's gracious protection may be over you and over these, to preserve and bring you back in safety to those whose hearts will follow you each day with prayer, and with a hopeful expectation of being gladdened through your success."

Also on hand was William Wickham, President of the New York Fire Department (and future Mayor of New York). Wickham presented the regiment with a splendid white silk flag, manufactured by the firm of Barney and Styles, on behalf of the Fire Department.  In doing so, he addressed the Zouaves by saying "Take them, place them in the midst of your gallant band, and wherever the fight is the thickest, and the bullets fly the fastest, let these banners be borne, and may you and your comrades, in the hour of trial and battle, remember the proud motto emblasoned upon them: 'The Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave!'"

The flags were saulted with the unique cheer of the Chicago Zouaves, now having been adopted by the 11th New York: "One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Tiger!! Zouave!!!"

Click for a color image of the white silk Fire Dept. presentation flag.

Boarding the steamer Baltic at the foot of Canal Street, the regiment was finally on its way to Washington. Guards were posted aboard the vessel, and the mischievous men set to work coming up with amusing ways to evade them. Elaborate systems of watchwords and countersigns were instituted, and though there were not enough staterooms to accomodate all the men, many made themselves comfortable on the deck. The regiment drilled with arms for the first time on the quarterdeck of the Baltic the following morning, and a few days later finally disembarked at Annapolis. The Board of the New York Fire Department unanimously resolved that all of its men who had volunteered for military service would be retained on the department's rolls, and their positions therein held until their honorable return. The net result of this, however, was that many unsavory characters who had previously been suspended from the Fire Department were reluctantly placed back on the fire company rolls to fill the vacancies.

While many fire companies were represented throughout the ranks of the regiment, members of some companies found themselves grouped together, based mostly on the firefighting affiliation of their Captains:

11th NY company designation
Fire companies heavily represented
Fire company location
COMPANY A (Right Flank Co.)
Capt. John Coyle (Hose 42)
Phenix Hose Co. 22
Hester St. & Allen St.

Lt. Edward B. Knox
Cataract Engine Co. 25
1146 Broadway

Lt. Hugh S. Powers (Eng. 25)
Pocahontas Engine Co. 49
4th Av. & 126th St.

Eagle Hose Co. 1
156 Madison St.

Mazeppa Hose Co. 42
9th Av. & 33rd St.

Undine Hose Co. 52
122nd St. & 2nd Av.

Columbian Hook & Ladder Co. 14
96 Charles St.

Hibernia Hook & Ladder Co. 18
270 Mott St.
Capt. Edward Byrnes (Eng. 16)
Protection Engine Co. 5
61 Ann St.

Lt. Stephen A. Stryker
Manhattan Engine Co. 8
91 Ludlow St.

Lt. Cyrenus Harris (Eng. 16)
Marion Engine Co. 9 47 Marion St.

Mohawk Engine Co. 16
7 North Moore St.

Fulton Engine Co. 21
86 Worth St.

Peterson Engine Co. 31
49 Chrystie St.

Lady Washington Engine Co. 40
173 Elm St.

Niagara Hose Co. 2
5 Duane St.

Independent Hose Co. 3 211 Hester St.

Hudson Hose Co. 21
304 Washington St.

Perry Hose Co. 23
48 Horatio St.

Pearl Hose Co. 28
26 1/2 Chambers St.

Mechanics' Hose Co. 47
707 4th St.

Hope Hose Co. 50
10 1/2 Mott St.

Nassau Hose Co. 56
2 Centre St.

Mutual Hook & Ladder Co. 1
26 Chambers St.

Mt. Prospect Engine Co. 16 (Brooklyn)
State St. & Nevins St.
Capt. Michael C. Murphy
Jackson Engine Co. 24 279 West 17th St.

Lt. E.M. Coates
Howard Engine Co. 34 Hudson St. & Christopher St.

Lt. Isaac B. Seixas
Aurora Engine Co. 45
85th St. & 3rd Av.

Laurel Hose Co. 30
244 West 27th St.

Alert Hose Co. 41 67 Watts St.

Paulding Hose Co. 57
162 West 18th St.

Chelsea Hook & Ladder Co. 2
163 West 24th St.

Washington Hook & Ladder Co. 9
119 East 28th St.

Franklin Engine Co. 3 (Brooklyn)
53 Henry St.
Capt. John Downey
Manhattan Engine Co. 8
91 Ludlow St.

Lt. Freeman Connor
Jackson Engine Co. 24 279 West 17th St.

Lt. John Down (Eng. 34)
Guardian Engine Co. 29
14 W. 10th St.

Howard Engine Co. 34
Hudson St. & Christopher St.

Liberty Engine Co. 50
165 West 20th St.

Niagara Hose Co. 2
5 Duane St.

Gulick Hose Co. 11
14 1/2 West 10th St.

Perry Hose Co. 23
48 Horatio St.

Undine Hose Co. 52
122nd St. & 2nd Av.

Mutual Hook & Ladder Co. 1
26 Chambers St.

Harry Howard Hook & Ladder Co. 11
180 Clinton St.

Columbian Hook & Ladder Co. 14
96 Charles St.
COMPANY E (Color Co.)
Capt. John B. Leverich
Excelsior Engine Co. 2
21 Henry St.

Lt. W.R.W. Chambers (Hose 22/Exempt Eng.)
Marion Engine Co. 9
47 Marion St.

Lt. Lloyd W. Berry
Lafayette Engine Co. 19
199 Chrystie St.

Pacific Engine Co. 28 377 4th Av.

Franklin Engine Co. 39
128 West 31st St.

Ringgold Hose Co. 7 4th Av. & 13th St.

Phenix Hose Co. 22
101 Hester St.

United States Hose Co. 25
Worth St. & Broadway

Mohawk Hose Co. 39
343 3rd Ave.

Chelsea Hook & Ladder Co. 2
163 West 24th St.

Mechanics' Hook & Ladder Co. 7
125th St. & 3rd Av.

Harry Howard Hook & Ladder Co. 11
180 Clinton St.

Friendship Hook & Ladder Co. 12
78 East 13th St.

Exempt Engine Co.
202 Centre St.

Eagle Engine Co. 4 (Brooklyn)
High St. & Fulton St.
Capt. William H. Burns (Eng. 6)
Americus Engine Co. 6
269 Henry St.

Lt. Lucius Larrabee
Lexington Engine Co. 7
25th St. & 2nd Av.

Lt. Jacob Wilsey
Fulton Engine Co. 21
86 Worth St.

Jefferson Engine Co. 26
148 5th St.

Guardian Engine Co. 29 14 W. 10th St.

Columbus Engine Co. 35
119th St. & 2nd Av.

Croton Hose Co. 6
Gouverneur St. & E. Broadway

M.T. Brennan Hose Co. 60
Manhattan Alley & Elm St.

Lafayette Hook & Ladder Co. 6
129 Mercer St.
Capt. Michael Tagen (Eng. 13)
Eagle Engine Co. 13 5 Duane St.

Lt. Frank E. Yates
Cataract Engine Co. 25 1146 Broadway

Lt. Daniel Divver (Eng. 13)
Fort Washington Engine Co. 27
10th Av. & 154th St.

New York Engine Co. 47
127 Mercer St.

Mutual Engine Co. 51 22nd St. & 1st Av.

*Niagara Hose Co. 2 5 Duane St.

Franklin Hose Co. 18
28 Beaver St.

Humane Hose Co. 20
28 Ann St.

Lady Washington Hose Co. 49
126 Cedar St.

Nassau Hose Co. 56
2 Centre St.

Manhattan Hose Co. 59
Lawrence St. & 10th Av.

Eagle Hook & Ladder Co. 4
20 Eldridge St.

Mechanics Hose Co. 2 (Brooklyn)
202 Tillary St.
Capt. William Hackett (Bd. of Engrs.)
Board of Engineers

Lt. Charles A. Bell
Protection Engine Co. 5 61 Ann St.

Lt. Patrick A. Gillon (Eng. 20)
Knickerbocker Engine Co. 12
112 East 33rd St..

Mohawk Engine Co. 16 7 North Moore St.

Washington Engine Co. 20 100 Cedar St.

Jackson Engine Co. 24 279 West 17th St.

North River Engine Co. 30
153 Franklin St.

Southwark Engine Co. 38
28 Ann St.

Empire Engine Co. 42
4 Centre St.

Manhatta Engine Co. 43

Mutual Engine Co. 51
22nd St. & 1st Av.

City Hose Co. 8
39 Liberty St.

Lady Washington Hose Co. 49
126 Cedar St.

Friendship Hook & Ladder Co. 12
78 East 13th St.

Columbian Hook & Ladder Co. 14
96 Charles St.

Baxter Hook & Ladder Co. 15
153 Franklin St.

John Decker Hook & Ladder Co. 17
10th Av. & 159th St.
Capt. John Wildey (Eng. 11)
Excelsior Engine Co. 2
21 Henry St.

Lt. William Reviere
Forrest Engine Co. 3 211 East 11th St.

Lt. James Nelson
Oceanus Engine Co. 11 99 Wooster St.

East River Engine Co. 17
7 Goerck St.

Clinton Engine Co. 41
154 Clinton St.

Live Oak Engine Co. 44
437 East Houston St.

Independent Hose Co. 3 211 Hester St.

Marion Hose Co. 4
84 Attorney St.

City Hose Co. 8
39 Liberty St.

Atlantic Hose Co. 15
19 Elizabeth St.

Tompkins Hose Co. 16
154 Norfolk St.

Hudson Hose Co. 21
304 Washington St.

Neptune Hose Co. 27
179 Church St.

Putnam Hose Co. 31
7 Jackson St.

Union Hook & Ladder Co. 5
152 1/2 Norfolk St.

Baxter Hook & Ladder Co. 15
153 Franklin St.

Exempt Engine Co.
202 Centre St.
COMPANY K (Left Flank Co.)
Capt. Andrew D. Purtell (Eng. 14)
Columbian Engine Co. 14
9 Church St.

Lt. John W. Davis (Eng. 19)
Lafayette Engine Co. 19
199 Chrystie St.

Lt. John Matthews (Eng. 14)
Protector Engine Co. 22
Chambers St. & Centre St.

Peterson Engine Co. 31
49 Chrystie St.

Excelsior Hose Co. 14
160 West 13th St.

Humane Hose Co. 20
28 Ann St.

John Decker Hook & Ladder Co. 17
10th Av. & 159th St.
Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth
Columbian Engine Co. 14 (Honorary)
9 Church St.

Lt. Col. Noah L. Farnham
Mutual Hook & Ladder Co. 1
26 Chambers St.

Board of Engineers (Ret.)

Maj. John A. Cregier
Empire Hose Co. 40
70 Barrow St.

Board of Engineers (Ret.)

Adj. Charles M. Leoser
Unk. Engine Co. (Honorary)

Sgt. Maj. Thomas Goodwin
Baxter Hook & Ladder Co. 15
153 Franklin St.

Exempt Engine Co.
202 Centre St.

Soon after arriving in Washington, the sound of a ringing bell prompted one member of Company A to allude to the fire bell alert towers of back home: "What district is that?" "The District of Columbia, Republic of New York! It's ringing a general alarm, and here we are!" another replied.

The regiment soon found itself quartered in the Capitol building, where they enjoyed themselves by swinging from ropes in the unfinished rotunda, and holding mock Senate sessions. Their antics were not confined to the halls of Congress, however, as many complaints were lodged against them by local citizens.

Not what they seem...?

"Thirty women were discovered in Ellsworth's Zouaves after the regiment arrived in Washington. They were sent home. The Zouaves, we fear, are not all of the highest moral character." - Charleston Mercury, May 14, 1861. (No other references to this have been found, therefore the validity of its claim is questionable.)

Their reputation was redeemed in the eyes of Washington's elite one night when a fire broke out near the famous Willard's Hotel. Men of the regiment rushed to the nearest firehouse, but upon finding it locked, broke open the doors, and pulled the engine to the scene of the conflagration. Colonel Ellsworth, though himself not a fireman, assumed command of the operation, shouting orders through a speaking trumpet, assisted by company officers. Although several buildings sustained severe damage, Willard's Hotel was saved -- much to the delight of the hotel's owners, but also to the dismay of Washington's firefighters. Feeling shown up, the Washington chief arrived on the scene and demanded Ellsworth turn over the speaking trumpet and, in turn, the operation to him and his men. Ellsworth refused, unless the Washingtonians could prove they had greater numbers of their men at the scene.

Drying Off...

"In consequence of the fire, our departure for camp is postponed until to-morrow morning in order to let the boys have a chance to dry their clothes. How do you suppose they are drying them? By the fire! Not a bit of it. They are kicking foot ball; playing base ball; jumping over piles of flour barrels; taking standing jumps, etc." - John A. Smith, Co. H - letter to the Sunday Mercury.

Like many regiments early in the war, the Fire Zouaves faced supply problems. The hastily made uniforms issued the regiment when they left New York were coming apart, and proving themselves unfit for service. The bowie knives and revolvers promised the regiment were late in coming, and once in their possession, the latter were found to be comparable to "pop-guns." Their weapon, at this point, was a Sharps breechloading rifle, though this was met with widespread unpopularity. One member wrote "on an examination made...of our weapons, we found eleven different kinds of breech loading and thirteen different sized bores among a thousand rifles. There was not a hundred of a kind in the whole lot." While that may be an exaggeration, disorganization among the weapons and the men themselves was present, and necessitated Ellsworth issuing the following order on May 6th: "The Quartermaster is charged with the inspection of guns & will report the number & kind of each rifle by 9 O'Clock A.M.  Captains of companies must hand in a complete roll of their commands by 9 A.M."

The Sharps rifles were deemed unfit and improper for use by zouaves, and so the regiment refused to accept them, piling them up "cob fashion" in a rainstorm. These were replaced, satisfactorily, with M1855 .58 caliber rifle-muskets. Companies A and K, as flank companies, had initially been issued M1855 rifles, which they retained. Drills were conducted regularly under the command of Lt. Colonel Noah L. Farnham, a veteran of New York's elite 7th Regiment, following Ellsworth's own Zouave Drill, which was understandably difficult to master. As one correspondent said, "in the manual of arms they are somewhat deficient, but their evolutions and marching is not excelled." Small wonder that marching was mastered, as the regiment spent a week without weapons while awaiting suitable replacements. When not tasked with drill, the regiment delighted in playing games of baseball, in which Colonel Ellsworth and Major John A. Cregier were known to participate.

COL. E.E. ELLSWORTH                                            LT. COL. N.L. FARNHAM                                         MAJ. J.A. CREGIER

Grace Under Fire...

On April 25, 1854, a fire broke out at the large tailoring establishment of W.T. Jennings & Co. at 231 Broadway, near City Hall.  Noah
 and John Cregier, both assistant engineers of the N.Y.F.D., were on the scene, surveying operations from an adjacent roof. Lowering the halyards of the building's flagpole to the street, they attempted to pull a length of hose up to their position, whence they could advantageously hit the flames. Soon after they started water, the rear wall of Jennings' collapsed onto a setback, crushing several firefighters operating on the second floor. As others rushed to extricate them, Cregier directed the stream onto heavy timber rafters that were in danger of igniting. From below, calls were heard that the water was scalding the trapped men and their rescuers, but Cregier decided that it was a risk that needed to be taken, if it meant saving the roof from collapsing on the men below. In the end, ten firefighters perished, and twenty-four were hurt.


On May 7th, the 11th New York was mustered in to Federal service, to serve "for the war," rather than for 90 days, as many other volunteer regiments. On the evening of May 23rd, in their camp at Giesboro Point, Ellsworth announced that a movement against Alexandria, Virginia was to be made, and that he wished the Fire Zouaves to be at the lead of this expedition. Though the possibility of a skirmish loomed, Ellsworth admonished his troops to conduct themselves as gentlemen, and to not fire a shot without orders. The Colonel was clad in a gray double-breasted frock coat, upon which he pinned a memento of his 1860 national tour, an emblem of the Baltimore City Guard, which proclaimed "Non Solum Nobis, Sed Pro Patria" (Not for ourselves alone, but for the country). Ellsworth also pinned on the badge presented him by New York's Columbian Engine 14, of which he was an honorary member. "It is in this suit that I shall die," said Ellsworth prophetically.

Alexandria was under a flag of truce, and the Zouaves did not expect much trouble when they arrived at the foot of Cameron Street. Small groups of Confederates were seen fleeing into and beyond the city. Company E, under Captain Leverich, was assigned to secure the railroad depot, where they located a body of enemy cavalry and were nearly fired upon by a friendly battery whose commander did not recognize them as friends. The Company proceeded to make camp at the depot, posting guards in the vicinity, but looking forward to a period of relaxation.

Meanwhile, Ellsworth selected the rightmost squad of Company A to accompany him, along with two newspaper correspondents and regimental Chaplain George W. Dodge, on a foray into the city. Turning on to King Street, the group stopped across from the Marshall House hotel, atop which flew a huge rebel flag that was visible through a spyglass from the Executive Mansion, eight miles distant. The Sergeant ran for Captain Coyle to send the rest of Company A along at the double-quick, while Ellsworth, not so much in a fit of patriotic passion as much as the desire to keep his men from rioting if they were to see it, said "that flag must come down."

Entering the hotel, he encountered the proprietor James Jackson, who claimed to be merely a guest of the establishment. Ellsworth started up the stairs followed by the escort. The size of the flag made lowering it and taking it away a difficult task. Handing his revolver off to one of the newspaper correspondents and taking a knife, Ellsworth climbed a ladder to the roof, cut the halyards, and brought the flag down. As he started rolling the giant flag up, Ellsworth started back down the stairs, preceded by Private Francis E. Brownell. As the party rounded the corner between the third and second floors, Jackson appeared on the second floor landing, aiming a double-barreled shotgun. What happened next has long been the source of debate, however it seems that Brownell parried Jackson's shotgun, briefly pinning it up against the railing before Brownell lost his footing and Jackson raised his weapon, emptying his first barrel into Ellsworth's chest. Brownell regained his feet, and fired a shot through Jackson's face. The second barrel discharged as Jackson began to fall. Brownell plunged his saber bayonet through Jackson, whose body tumbled down the stairs.

As Ellsworth's body was placed on a bed, Lt. Colonel Farnham, Major Cregier, and Surgeon Charles Gray were immediately (and discreetly) sent for. Surgeon Gray confirmed that Ellsworth was dead, the shotgun slugs having entered between the third and fourth ribs and piercing the heart. The Baltimore City Guard badge had been driven into his chest. Meanwhile, the rest of the regiment remained in the dark as to the fate of their beloved Colonel. Surgeon Gray, assisted by Hospital Steward Henry Perrin, placed the body in a blanket as Company A secured the house. Two hours later, a tugboat arrived to take the Colonel's remains back to Washington, accompanied by Captain Coyle and a detail from his company. Meanwhile, Lt. Colonel Farnham gathered the regimental field officers together in the Marshall House to confer about the next course of action. 

Farnham, Adj. Leoser, Q.M. Alexander Stetson

Finally, word spread to the regiment that Ellsworth was dead. "You could have heard a pin drop," said Wilbur Apgar of Company D, "many a manly tear was shed...never have I seen an officer loved as well as him." The bloodstained flag that Ellsworth died capturing was displayed on the ground in the Zouaves' camp for all to see. The news of Ellsworth's death swept the nation. "Avenge Ellsworth!" became the north's rallying cry. His body lay in state in the White House before it was brought back home to rest in Mechanicsville, New York. He was the first Union officer to lose his life in the Civil War. Private Brownell would receive a Lieutenant's commission, and spend the rest of the war in an administrative capacity. His killing of Jackson was the first act in the Civil War to earn the Medal of Honor.

Lincoln and Ellsworth...

Ellsworth accompanied the President from Springfield to Washington prior to the inauguration, and was a very close friend of the Lincoln family. Ellsworth caught the measles from Lincoln's sons Willie and Tad, which was a potentially fatal condition for an adult.

When news of Ellsworth's death reached Lincoln, it was said that the President was so grief-stricken that he was unable to conduct business for a time. When he looked upon Ellsworth's body, Lincoln was heard to exclaim "my boy! My boy! Was it necessary this sacrifice should be made?" Mrs. Lincoln was presented with the captured flag of the Marshall House.

Some time later, as the President reviewed troops passing in front of the White House, he turned to find his youngest son Tad with the flag in his hands. Lincoln had aides promptly remove Tad from public view.


Command of the regiment now devolved on Col. Farnham, with Cregier being made Lt. Colonel, and Charles McKnight Leoser becoming Major. Noah Lane Farnham, known as "Pony," was thirty-two years old and a veteran of a local New York City militia organization, where he saw service at the Astor Place riot of 1849. Joining the volunteer fire department, he served with Empire Engine Co. 42 before transferring to Mutual Hook and Ladder Co. 1, eventually being appointed as an Assistant Engineer.

Most of the men in the ranks of the regiment were familiar with their new commander, and did not feel the same desire to prove themselves as they had under Ellsworth. Farnham, himself, was not eager to assume ultimate command of a regiment, having only reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant in the 7th New York. "I don't like long jumping," he said. "It is time enough to be a colonel after you know the duties of a captain and major." It was feared that Farnham would cease teaching zouave drill in favor of the standard Rifle & Light Infantry tactics, though this would prove to not be the case. Farnham had been a gymnast, and a proponent of the zouave tactics, and he saw that instruction in this manner continued. Bayonet exercise, skirmishing, and firing from the prone position was perfected in the coming weeks.

Establishing camp at Shooter's Hill, at what became christened Fort Ellsworth, the regiment's supply problem became painfully evident. Although receiving a shipment of havelocks, for which they were most appreciative, the rest of their uniforms was not faring well. As one soldier put it, "the rather jaunty and bright-looking uniforms with which we were furnished by the Department, are woefully changed since we left New York. Those who have had opportunity and inclination to wash, have theirs faded almost white; while those who are at all careless, look as though they had been cooks on board a collier for a year or more. The fact is, our men want a change of clothes more than anything else at present, and should be provided for in some way, as the same material for soldiers cannot be found every day."

Rumors circulated that Ellsworth had, just before his death, ordered a replacement uniform made for the regiment. New uniforms for the regiment did arrive, however they were of regular army pattern. As they had with the Sharps rifles, the regiment refused to accept them, "claiming that when they enlisted as Zouaves, they had the pledge of the United States that they should be maintained as such, and as such uniformed." Beggars can't be choosers, however, and the dark blue pants issued with this uniform were retained. Apparently, another issue of zouave jackets, this time of dark blue with red trim, was received, along with dark blue sashes.

Several companies occupied the vicinity of Cloud's Mill, and all were on high alert for parties of scouting Confederates said to be in the area. Alarms were sounded frequently, as reports of enemy pickets came in. Some of these reports were not exaggerated -- 21-year-old Henry S. Cornell of Company G, a member of Engine Co. 13, was killed and another man wounded one night on the picket line. Other times, though, no emergency existed. "The boys don't like these false alarms, and say, 'What's the use of us fellows turning out all the time, and never getting to work? just as if we were running to fires over again ?'" wrote a soldier. Others, like Company D's Apgar, found picket duty to be a pleasant experience. Stationed near a house a half mile from camp, he was treated to corn cakes, chicken soup, and green peas. "What a treat that was for us poor guards who are used to living on hard bread and chuck beef and beans."

July 4th was celebrated in characteristic style, notwithstanding the regiment's bitterness over poor rations and not having been paid since entering the service. At this point, by one estimate, each man was owed $612. "What is the cause?" asked a soldier. "The rolls for the United States pay are now being made out, and if it takes as long a time to accomplish nothing as it has done in regard to the State pay, the war may by possibility be ended before our men receive a cent to send home to their suffering families." Of course, the sad reality was that the war was in no way about to end.


On July 17th, the regiment was ordered to move out in the direction of Fairfax Station, with Companies A and B deployed as skirmishers. Coming upon an entrenched battalion of Tennessee soldiers, these companies launched an attack. Private John Johnson, who had served with Lady Washington Engine Co. 40, was credited with capturing the colors of this unit. They moved on to and beyond Fairfax, where they encountered the 39th New York Regiment, known as the Garibaldi Guards. The Garibaldis, clad in distinctive Bersaglieri uniform in dark blue and red tunic with broad-brimmed black hats, were mistaken for the enemy by the Fire Zouaves, who fired several shots at them before confirming their identity. The regiment returned to Fairfax and remained there until the night of Friday, the 19th, when they were moved to Centreville.

Shortly after midnight on the morning of July 21st, the army was awakened and prepared to move. Having no tents, many of the men had built brush arbors for shelter, which they commenced to burn as they broke camp. Falling in at 2:00, they waited, until ordered to stand down until daybreak. Finally, their brigade under Colonel Orlando Wilcox of Colonel Samuel Heintzelman's Division, was ordered to move towards Manassas Junction, along the Warrenton Turnpike before branching off to the right, swinging north in the direction of Sudley Ford. Moving at the double-quick for a distance of about fourteen miles, the regiment came to a halt where Lt. Col. Cregier ordered them to take off their coats, drop blanket rolls, haversacks, and for those who had emptied theirs, canteens. As they marched over an open plain en route to the support of Arnold's battery, enemy artillery began to burst among them. Exhausted, the troops once again began to move at a double-quick, in a way that reminded some of the "random manner" in which firemen race down the street to a fire. As a member of Company E would recall, "'double quick,' if properly performed, is a very pretty movement, and one not excessively tiresome to the soldier...But with our regiment, it was another matter, and performed in a manner not set down in our tactics. Anyone who has seen a closely contested race between two fire engine companies down Grand Street can form a good idea of what double quick was with us." Col. Farnham, who had been sick with typhoid fever, was determined to be at the head of his regiment in their first fight, and true to his wishes (though against those of his doctors) had rejoined the regiment that morning, riding up to the advancing column amid the cheers of the entire brigade.

Samuel Heintzelman, Division Commander                                          Orlando Wilcox, Brigade Commander

After running four miles to Matthews Hill, the regiment took a much-needed, albeit brief, rest. General McDowell's Chief of Artillery, Major William Barry, now ordered the batteries of Captains Griffin and Ricketts to move forward to Henry House Hill, with the Fire Zouaves and 38th New York as infantry support. Griffin, believing Henry House Hill a poor position, doubted that these regiments would be able to complete their task, saying "I will go, but mark my words, they will not support us."

Major Barry rode to the Fire Zouaves to personally lead them to their position, to the right of the eleven guns now being unlimbered in a position about 300 yards from the enemy. Companies A and H were detached to act as a reserve in the rear. Upon reaching the summit of the hill, concealed troops in the woodline ahead opened fire. Captain Jack Wildey remembered the peculiar "whizz" of the bullets, and that he experienced a sensation similar to that experienced when entering an old-time fireman's brawl. "Down, every one of you!" shouted Farnham, and the regiment hugged the ground just as another volley was unleashed at them.

At will, the men began to rise up and fire shots at the still unseen enemy while others attempted to crawl closer to the woodline to deliver more accurate fire, and escape the exposed position in which they found themselves. One line of Confederates retreated as the regiment rose and advanced, to the cry of "Ellsworth! Remember Ellsworth!" while some shouted the cheer of their old fire companies. With his sleeves rolled up and sword in hand, Lieutenant Daniel Divver led Company G's veterans of Eagle Engine Co. 13 with the shout of "Get down, Old Hague!" Now the rightmost companies of the regiment were taking fire from the flank, and their commanders ordered them to fall back while the rest of the regiment stood fast. Seeing the flank of the 11th New York crumble, J.E.B. Stuart prepared his Black Horse Cavalry for an assault. Coming out of the woods slowly at first, they identified themselves as friends, perhaps as a deliberate ruse or the legitimate thought on their part that the Fire Zouaves were actually Wheat's Louisiana Battalion. By one account, the horsemen were allowed to advance to within 20 feet of the retreating companies before they opened fire with pistols, then dashing forward "like an arrow from a bow."

The retreating companies now faced right to meet the threat of the oncoming cavalrymen, and chaos reigned for several minutes, each side inflicting severe casualties on the other. Men firing at each other at point-blank range, thrusting with bayonet, saber, and Bowie knife were all witnessed. Eventually, the cavalry dispersed, and those of the Zouaves that could be rallied were ordered to reform to return the destructive fire of several regiments to their front, which were picking off men in the artillery batteries. Farnham then ordered the regiment to retire to the base of the hill, their place in line being taken by the Fourteenth "Brooklyn" N.Y. State Militia.

Passing the Fire Zouaves on the left was the 69th N.Y. State Militia. The Zouaves cheered their fellow New Yorkers as they crested the hill, but with the sounds of the Confederate batteries opening up, they knew that the regiment would be cut to pieces. Farnham organized what he could of the Fire Zouaves, and at the behest of Captain Ricketts, who implored them "for God's sake, boys, save my battery!" they charged forward once more. Seeing another troop of cavalry forming for an assault, the Zouaves turned their attention in this direction and charged ahead at them, pursuing the cavalry to the Confederate entrenchments. Once there, they were nearly surrounded and had to fight their way out. The National flag and the white Fire Department flag, being the only colors carried of the many presented to them, were briefly captured. Once recovered, and the men tore them from the staffs for safekeeping. In this position, the Zouaves were now taking friendly fire from the rear.

By this point, any regimental cohesion was lost. Col. Farnham had been wounded, but managed to stay at his post, ably assisted by Cregier and Leoser. Small, disorganized groups of Zouaves retreated while others stayed and fought on. Still others found themselves mixed among the ranks of the 69th New York. The color guard of the 69th kept their national and regimental flags flying high, presenting a substantial target. Many of these men were killed, and at least one of their flags fell into the hands of Confederates. Captain Wildey of the 11th's Company I witnessed this, and sprinted forward with some of his men after the captured flag, and shot its captor before promptly returning the flag to a grateful 69th -- and keeping for himself the Confederate's sword.

As the right of the Union line began to fall back, the Zouaves formed a rear guard allowing the rest of the units on that portion of the field to fall back. The battle had been a costly one for the regiment. 35 men were killed, over 70 wounded, and another 70 missing, though these numbers vary from account to account. Those who were taken prisoner were initially confined in Richmond, where they distinguished themselves for their foul conduct. According to the Richmond Enquirer, "they seem perfectly oblivious to every sentiment of honor, gratitude or decency. They have nothing but the human form and faculty of speech to distinguish them from Gorillas." Many of these men were then sent to Castle Pinckney, South Carolina, where they remained until finally being sent home the following May.

The battle of Bull Run was a cataclysmic disaster for the Union army, and a dismayed public was looking for people to blame. In this flurry of criticism, the Fire Zouaves did not escape freely. Accusations of cowardice and poor leadership were levelled at the regiment, some commanders going so far as to say they ran after firing only one volley. As far as can be determined, the blame for the Union rout does not rest squarely on anyone's shoulders. Many conspicuous acts of valor were performed that day, particularly among the 11th New York, but the regiment was not the proud organization it once was. Colonel Farnham's wound was relatively minor, and his recovery seemed certain, but he had not yet fully beaten his typhoid fever, and thus died on August 14th. Lt. Col. Cregier, likewise suffering from ill effects of military service, returned to New York, and Major Leoser assumed command of the regiment. Initially, only three companies, totalling no more than 50 men each, could be counted among them.

Among those who weren't captured or wounded and didn't return to their commands found their ways back to New York, where they were met with jeers. A story was told of one such group, who attempted to visit with their old friends at Hose Co. 41 on Renwick Street. The assistant foreman stopped them at the door and, upon learning that the men weren't on furlough, refused to let them in. It was clear that if an organization of Fire Zouaves was to succeed, discipline problems had to be dealt with, and firmly so. One periodical editorialized "if the Fire Zouaves intend to acquire distinction, as a body, they must commence anew, begin at the beginning and persevere unto the end. All swaggering, lounging about, slang talk, is unbecoming and ridiculous in a soldier. It is bad enough to witness men, while in the garb of firemen, indulge in such antics; but when supposed to be a model of trim and upright bearing, moving with exactitude and regularity, and seldom or never speaking, and then only in a respectful and serious manner, the appearance of actions directly opposite is absurd." Another put it more bluntly: "Such men are not fit to be in an army, they are too wild, uncontrollable—in fact, unprincipled. They care for nothing but their food and pay, and when they get clothes, do not know how to take care of the same."

By early September, a detail of those who were still present for duty had returned to New York, guarding some 300 prisoners of war on Bedloe's Island, and then for a time up to a camp of instruction at Scarsdale. They presented a stark contrast to how they had appeared when they left in April, looking "more like a lot of boatmen than a regiment of soldiers." Captain Wildey set to work recruiting once more, and managed to raise several hundred new men -- and induce the stragglers to re-appear with the promise that they would be treated as though they never left in the first place. Prosper Montgomery Wetmore, Secretary of the Union Defense Committee, addressed the regiment and gave them due credit for the work they had done and promised them a three-day furlough, during which time he expected the men to find and return with any known stragglers. Noting that no one had officially been listed as a deserter on the regiment's rolls, Wetmore said the grace period would end at the conclusion of the 72-hour leave, after which no-shows would, in fact, be listed as having deserted.

At the end of the month, an embarrassing letter came through from Alexandria, stating that some of the regiment's flags had been found on a trash heap in Alexandria, and that they were being forwarded to New York's Mayor Fernando Wood for safe-keeping, though these would eventually be sent on to the regiment, where it was stationed at Fortress Monroe, VA. There, Col. Leoser received the new recruits and attempted to reorganize the veterans. In mid-October, three of the Zouaves were captured while on a firewood detail by a band of Confederate cavalry. Life went on for the regiment over the winter, and though it seemed unlikely that they would again see combat Col. Leoser remianed hopeful. Most of the company commanders left the unit, with only Captains Downey, Purtell, and Wildey staying on. The prospect of back pay was constantly touted as an inducement for men to return to the regiment, as well as continued promises of amnesty for the deserters. In early March, another recruiting party in New York managed to raise another company which was sent on to the regiment.

The Zouaves, now numbering about 400, were living a quiet life at Newport News, being well-supplied. From this position, the regiment had a front-row seat during the naval duel of the ironclads U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia. Two members of the regiment were visiting aboard the U.S.S. Cumberland when the Virginia attacked it, splitting the hull open and causing it to sink. These men were credited with manning the last serviceable cannon as long as could possibly have been done before abandoning ship. Despite this break in the lull, the Zouaves felt they were being unfairly treated, being made to perform menial duties at Newport News. They also felt slighted by the Secretary of War who did not attach them to General McClellan's army, then involved in pushing up the Peninsula.

In April, Col. Leoser resigned his commission, and re-joined his former command, the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. By the end of May, the disenchantment within the regiment was such that it could no longer be counted on to serve faithfully, combined with the state's contention that the regiment was mustered in illegally meant the Zouaves would be returning to New York. Under the command of Lt. Colonel Joseph E. McFarland, it mustered out on June 2nd. At their final encampment on Governor's Island in New York harbor, the ever-present promises that they would be paid were made. Even by the time of their mustering out, many of its members had already volunteered to serve with other regiments, and with them fought through to the end of the war.

Where Are They Now...?

Many members of the regiment went on to see extended careers in the army. Among them was Company E commander John B. Leverich who found himself in command of the short-lived 163rd New York, in which former Fire Zouave Private William Butcher was a 2nd Lieutenant. Also, Privates George McCoun of Company E and Edward Gillen of Company B would lead Company I of the 158th New York as Captain and 1st Lieutenant, respectively.