IMPRESSION GUIDELINES - For those portraying the 11th New York Infantry (First Fire Zouaves) at the 150th anniversary of the battle of Bull Run.
Compiled by Marc A. Hermann and Shaun C. Grenan.

If you haven't already, please take some time to read the history of the 11th New York. This background information is vital to understanding the "why and the wherefore" of this regiment.

The first-issue uniform of the Fire Zouaves was of gray-blue cloth, made locally in New York, and issued to the men within days of being ordered. Sketches of this uniform appeared in several publications, and attracted quite a bit of attention. Henry Sand, serving in the Engineer Company of the 7th NYSM wrote to his 16-year-old brother on April 29th, describing what he saw:

"Today the Firemen Zouaves leave for Washington...They are a very queer set of fellows. Their dress is a bluish grey flannel jacket & pantaloons, with a felt hat. Their cuffs & the edge of the coat are bound with red & blue. The pantaloons also have a stripe."


Few images survive of this uniform, and only one actual sample is known to be extant, that of Francis E. Brownell, known as "Ellsworth's Avenger." Brownell's uniform is on display at Manassas National Battlefield Park, and he was photographed at least four times wearing it.


In the photo at center, we see an array of badges and medals that have been awarded him. As this photo was taken after the death of Ellsworth, the decorations are understandable. The six-pointed star is possibly Brownell's badge from the Troy, NY fire department, as it is one of the few decorations also visible in an image taken of him before the death of Ellsworth. Also identifiable is what looks to be a badge of a New York City engine company, which may have made Brownell an honorary member.  Click for a high-resolution image of the decorations.

Oddly, he is pictured with TWO saber bayonets, one affixed to his M1855 rifle, the other carried in a scabbard. The scabbard has a frog which is worn on a dress belt of Brownell's "Premier Engine Co. 1." Also, note the unevenness of the red tape as it follows the curve of the blue cuff facing. He also wears a pinky ring.  Click for a high-resolution image of Brownell's cuff and bayonet frog.
Click here for a high-resolution image of Brownell's belt as it appears today. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

His kepi bears the company designation "A", and the figures "1Z" for "First Zouaves. It would seem that his chinstrap has been worn behind the head. Click for a high-resolution image of Brownell's kepi.

Today, the front edges of Brownell's jacket are brown, though this is believed to have been the result of an inferior dye lot. There are no period references to brown trim on their jackets, so it is supposed that these pieces were originally blue as the rest of the jacket's edges, but faded to brown over time. Click for a high-resolution image of Brownell's jacket as it appears today. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

In the photo above, Brownell's trousers show the remnants of a bright blue stripe down the outerseam.  Click for a high-resolution image of Brownell's trousers as they appear today. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

No longer with the uniform, but evident in his studio photo, is a pair of russet leather leggings. Click for a high-resolution image of Brownell's leggings, as he stands on the bloodstained flag of the Marshall House.

Prominent in the studio photo is the collar of Brownell's fire shirt. Made of red wool flannel with a large rectangular plastron on the front, this shirt is characteristic of mid-19th century fire shirts. Note the two-button cuffs. Click for a high-resolution image of Brownell's fire shirt as it appears today. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

One neat feature on Brownell's weapon is that he evidently scratched his initials above the trigger guard on the stock: Click to see Brownell's initials.

The regiment was issued one of the early patterns of rubberized tent/knapsacks, which is worn by Brownell, with a tin cup affixed to an outer strap. See Fred Gaede's book The Federal Civil War Shelter Tent for more information.

As we know, however, this uniform did not see extended service with the regiment. Shortly after Ellsworth's death, one soldier wrote "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."

A new uniform was received by the regiment, but to their dismay, it was of regular army pattern, and they refused to accept it. Only the dark blue Federal-issue trousers were kept, and apparently a blue jacket with red trim was issued, but there is practically no documentation available that tells us what these looked like. Dark blue sashes were also issued and worn. When the regiment went into battle at Bull Run, jackets were shed, and the regiment went in to action in their shirtsleeves. It is believed that some kepis were retained, although we know that red fezzes with a blue tassel and blue fezzes also with a blue tassel were worn. There is also written evidence of the regiment requesting and receiving a large shipment of havelocks, an item eventually deemed useless by soldiers in the field.

The best photographic evidence we have of how they likely looked in battle comes from the photographs taken of some of the regiment's prisoners at Castle Pinckney in the Charleston Harbor.


He seems to have retained the regiment's first issue trousers, and is either still wearing the leggings or boots. Clearly visible is the regiment's dark blue sash. He wears two shirts, a light-colored overshirt and a dark-colored undershirt, the cuffs of which are visible. A dark neckerchief and fez complete his ensemble.

2. Most notable about this man is his dark neckerchief worn over what may be a Federal issue shirt. Dark blue trousers and a fez are also worn.

3. Also wearing what might be a Federal-issue shirt over a darker colored undershirt. What looks to be a fireman's badge is seen on the right breast.

4. This fellow is wearing a dark overshirt along with dark blue trousers.

5. He's clad in a fez, white shirt, and dark blue trousers.

6. This soldier wears a dark overshirt with what looks to be a N.Y.F.D. engine company badge, dark blue trousers, and a kepi that seems like part of their first-issue uniform.

7. Most notable about this soldier is his civilian slouch hat.

8. In a dark shirt with a fire badge and dark blue trousers, this soldier has topped everything off with a regulation forage cap.

9. Prominently seen at the center placket of this man's shirt is a N.Y.F.D. engine company badge. He also wears a civilian style "mechanic's cap."

Careful examination of his shirt shows that it is of a plaid/check pattern, either wool or cotton. It seems to have a watch chain leading to a front breast pocket. Also note dark-colored fez, and what may be first-issue gray trousers.

In this, an alternate view taken of some other prisoners, we see the same trneds of mixed uniform pieces. As you can see, other than dark blue trousers, there was very little "uniformity" to the Fire Zouaves' field uniform. For those who plan to portray this regiment at living history events, the following is a recommended list, in order of preference.

1. Zouave fez (red, with blue tassel -- based on descriptions of "red skull caps" and a fez identified to Brownell.)
2. Zouave fez (blue, with blue tassel -- based on blue fez found on Manassas battlefield near Rickett's Battery.)
3. Kepi (red with blue band, single-thickness visor, ornamented with brass ball buttons. Company letter and "1Z" in brass affixed to front.)
4. Federal-issue forage cap.
5. Civilian slouch hat or mechanic's cap (in VERY limited numbers.)

1. Wool overshirt with placket front, preferrably red -- primary source references lead us to believe that not all of these red shirts were fire shirts brought from New York by the men, but rather were issued to them while in the service of the regiment.  "Fireman's" style shirts, of WOOL FLANNEL, are acceptable; the prevailing style in use by the NYFD in the 1860s was of a trapezoidal/rectangular front that was partially stitched down to the shirt on the left half, NOT the "shield" or "badge" shape with curved bottoms that fasten with buttons entirely around the perimeter.  Blue, gray, and white are also documented overshirt colors of the period.
2. Federal-issue domet flannel shirt.
3. Homespun cotton or wool checked/plaid shirt.

JACKET (Not encouraged)
1. First-issue jacket, in poor condition, of correct materials, pattern, and construction.
2. Second-issue jacket, if documentation is ever found.

1. Federal-issue pattern of dark blue kersey, with proper construction, pattern, and material.
2. First-issue pattern, in poor condition.

SASH (Optional)
1. Dark blue wool.

Federal-issue bootees.
2. Private-purchase boots (based on account of a Fire Zouave purchasing a pair in Washington, and requesting the bill be sent to President Lincoln.)

1. M1855 .58 caliber U.S. Percussion rifle-musket with M1855 bayonet.
2. M1855 .58 U.S. Percussion rifle with saber bayonet (Companies A & K only.)
3. M1861 .58 Springfield rifle-musket acceptable.

-M1857 pattern .58 caliber rifle-musket cartridge box with US box plate.
-M1850 pattern cap pouch.
-M1852 waxed leather/blackened buff waist belt with standing loop, US belt plate.
(Research indicates that "SNY" plates would not have been used by early-war state volunteers such as the 11th.)
-Early-pattern (two-rivet) bayonet scabbard (if using M1855 bayonet.)
-M1858 New York Depot canteen with leather sling.
-Federal-issue/contractor-made haversack.
-Blanket roll, preferrably red, but Federal-issue or civilian style OK.
-No known acceptable replica of the patent tent/knapsack has yet been made, and as the regiment marched to the Bull Run battlefield with blanket rolls only, no knapsacks are to be used.
A NOTE ABOUT FIREMEN'S BELTS...Although Brownell is pictured wearing the belt of Premier Engine Co. 1, it should be remembered that his company was NOT from New York City, rather it was from Troy, NY. The use of this kind of belt by members of the NYFD seems to have been VERY limited. In fact, I have personally only seen ONE painting of two company foremen wearing this style belt (click here to see painting) and one photograph of a Brooklyn fireman wearing a belt with what look to be applied brass letters spelling out his fire company. These belts are notably absent from any period description of the Fire Zouaves, and as such it can be determined that they were not as widely worn as we have previously believed.

-Black nekerchief of silk or cotton, tied in the nautical manner.
-NYFD 1860 pattern fire badges -- these are known to have been worn by the regiment, according to the the Castle Pinckney photographs, and also a newspaper article that mentions that many of their badges had been lost at Bull Run. Originals are very expensive, but we are currently working on getting replicas made. Click here for a drawing of the three styles in use by 1861.
-Black mourning bands/rosettes/cockades for Ellsworth.

If you have any questions about these items or the impression, feel free to e-mail Marc Hermann or Shaun Grenan. We are greatly indebted to the research work of Michael McAfee and the late Brian Pohanka.

LAST UPDATED: June 20, 2011.