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Thread: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

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    sephodwyrm's Avatar Sohei
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    Default Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    As in the Zouaves.

    I understand if the French adopted North African dress for their North African regiments. But it seems odd that certain military formations of French and US nationals were dressed in Turbans, baggy trousers and fez.
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    What you mean?
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    Quote Originally Posted by sephodwyrm View Post
    As in the Zouaves.

    I understand if the French adopted North African dress for their North African regiments. But it seems odd that certain military formations of French and US nationals were dressed in Turbans, baggy trousers and fez.

    For the same reason pretty much everybody in that region dating back to antiquity has. They're very, very, Very, VERY suitable for the lay of that land. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but when in Arabia do as the Arabs do. Chances are, they're the ones with the best idea of how to milk all you can out of the environment with limited resources.

    Beyond that, it was a tradition/prestige issue. Since the Zouaves of France naturally spent most of their time in the hot spots of France's colonial struggles and for various reasons racked up an impressive record, you suddenly had a great deal of copy-cats looking to imitate them.
    Last edited by Turtler; February 25, 2013 at 04:18 AM.

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    don_Durandal's Avatar Centurio
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    French zouaves were mainly recruited from the French settler population in North-Africa, so they did have local ties (although initially they were recruited from local tribes).

    The adoption of the dress and name in the US (and by the Papal zouaves!) was a question of prestige, as French zouaves had distinguished themselves in the Crimean War and gained a reputation for ferocity and foolhardiness. The colourful dress also meant that these particular units tended to be over-represented in illustrations and reports, meaning they were famous worldwide.
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    In addition, by the end of the 1850's the French army was viewed as the premier fighting arm in Europe due to the part they played in the victory against Russia in the Crimean War and the Austrians in the Franco-Austrian War. Prestige meant that French military fashion was copied by quite a fair few of the world's militaries in the 1860's which included the Union and Confederate forces of the American Civil War, the armies of the various Italian states and Russia.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    Overall it was also a fashion trend, probably triggered by close contact with the East due to rising imperialism, the Napoleonic Wars etc. that saw European powers get greater contact with oriental culture overall as they aquired footholds or entire colonies in formerly Ottoman regions which had been sealed off for centuries before as these empires were still at their peak and created a mythical fascination with those regions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism

    Although it is important to note that the European cultures adapted their ideas about the Orient and invented their own imagery about it. So it was a very romanticized idea of the orient at best while the Europeans still were pretty racist about the whole thing.
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    Steph's Avatar Maréchal de France
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    French army did not adopt North African dress. This was limited to troops recruited locally (i.e. Zouaves recruited in North Africa wore North African dress, but I don't think there was any "real French" zouave regiment.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    Actually by some point all Zouaves were French, whether they be French settlers living in Africa or French soldiers that enlisted to serve in Africa. I think that at some point many French in Europe itself actually became zouaves and served in France. Originally Napoleonic like fashion was copied by many states (especially Latin America, USA and some other European states) and after the Napoleonic Wars Russia came out as the top military power. Many countries also adopted Russian fashion which became distinct from Napoleonic fashion (if anything though Russian fashion incorporated many aspects of French uniforms) and Russian uniforms were copied mostly just by Prussia and USA (if you see the uniforms in the Mexican American war you can see that many copy the Russian style) and some German states (not by many though). Due to the Crimean War France once again became the top military power until 1870.

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    Steph's Avatar Maréchal de France
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    After reading a little more about it:
    Zouaves were initially raised in 1830 following the French intervention in Algeria. The were supposed to be recruited from North African (algerians) only, and the uniform was based on local clothing (with some changes, like use the same blue as the other French uniforms).
    But it was harder to recruit local than expected, so in 1833 there was a new organisation, with local Algerians and also French living in North Africa recruits.
    Then another reform in 1841: the zouaves were composed of French people from metropolitan France and from North Africa, while native algerians were recruited into new Turcos regiments.

    So I think in the case of the French, they used North African dress initially since the recruits were supposed to be North African, and then they switched to French recruits but kept the dress.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    I would say the simple answer (at concering the US) is that it looked cool.
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    an official American Civil war mod member and leader comming to solve this puzzle what follows is in-fact ingame description of the Zouaves in our mod; but the info that it is based on was gathered from many sources (articles, historians work etc). internet was used only to some extent...

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Zouave was the name given to the native North African troops employed by the French Army.They soon became very popular worldwide for they were known for their highspirit and heroic style of warfare. In the 1800’s, they caught an eye of young American called Elmer Ellsworth who organized US Zouave Cadets, the first organization of that kind in the United States. The popularity of those cadets soon spread across the country, and this led to idea of forming Zouave regiments. These regiments were organized in North and South in 1861, and were modelled after North African Zouaves or Ellsworth’s Cadets. They always stood out in their uniforms, but their usually bright red trousers and use of eye catching colours made them excellent targets on the battlefield.Confederacy fielded around 25 Zouave Companies, and they usually used light infantry tactics. This meant that they marched and fought in open order, and they even reloaded their rifles lying on their backs. In contrast to Union Zouaves, Confederate ones were not full regiments, they were organised in smaller companies within larger unit.The most famous of Confederate Zouaves were the Louisiana Tigers.In general, Zouave units of American Civil War were good troops, but they were hardly exceptional as the original North African Zouaves were. They were made from volunteers who dressed themselves in Zouave uniforms. In French Army, soldiers were selected for elite Zouave Regiments.


    from what i could find out, it seemed that in french army, zouaves weren't french by birthe, but were rather locals (natives) employed by the french army. it was not until later that elite zouave regiments were formed by french army, where soldiers were hand picked to serve in them. it seemed that ellsworht either travelled to europe where he saw the zouaves or was impressed by some news article. in fact here is some kind of explanation (as the notes of ellsworth's pre-civil war life are scarce):

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    His first goal was to have the group perfectly execute his Zouave drill—maneuvers Ellsworth had originally heard of through Charles DeVilliers, a French physician and expert swordsman who had served in the Crimean with the French Chasseurs d'Afrique. Ells­worth also insisted his men must be held to a high moral standard and demanded they limit the time they spent in taverns and billiard halls.

    source:
    http://www.historynet.com/elmer-ells...is-zouaves.htm


    EDIT:
    it is important to point out that US Army never adopted zouave uniforms or uniform as an official uniform for any regiment. the zouave regiments (both North and South) were raised mostly on the private initiative (such as new york fire zouaves etc). in fact, during ACW any regiment that would dress in a way different then mainstream army (which in south is contradictio in adjecto) was considered or refered to as zouave regiment, no matter if they were wearing fez, turban or baggy trousers. if they were wearing normal uniform died in some un-common color they were often refered as zouaves. this was example with 41st NY DeKalb Volunteers, as well as with United Turner's Rifles.



    the above picture shows exactly what I was talking about. the bottom left are US marines, the all green are sharpshooters, but top left and bottom right are both NY volunteer regiments that fought for the Union and could be called zouaves. there is also the 55th NY "Garde de Lafayette" regiment and many more that were dressed in a same manner...
    Last edited by Minas Moth; February 26, 2013 at 10:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    Quote Originally Posted by sephodwyrm View Post
    As in the Zouaves.

    I understand if the French adopted North African dress for their North African regiments. But it seems odd that certain military formations of French and US nationals were dressed in Turbans, baggy trousers and fez.
    You can see a parallel with the way the beret has become prevalent in modern times. Originally it was just a local fashion from the pyrenee's, but it was notably picked up by the famous French Chasseurs Alpin and later adopted by elite British military units (SAS, commando units, para's). As usual the Americans were late to the show, but they too adopted it for elite units after the war and now it is basically the standard military headdress for much of the world.
    Last edited by Sphere; February 27, 2013 at 02:16 PM.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    The beret looked silly until the Paras adopted it. An adaptable forage cap is actually more useful.

    Personally, I think the zouave style is buffoonish, but I guess those American regimental commanders adopted it for it's associated military qualities.

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    Minas Moth's Avatar Sabre of Secession
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    but I guess those American regimental commanders adopted it for it's associated military qualities.
    it often wasn't up to regimental commanders (of zouave regiments to decide that). if, and when the regiment of zouaves was sponsored by some private patron they would be well equipped and (sometimes sooner sometimes later) elect their own captians etc. ussually such an election was approved by the military authority (in fact I am aware of no instence where it wasn't). on the other hand, sometimes the zouave regiment (or any other) would be equipped by some member of the same regiment who was (especially in the South) a wealthy man that could sponsor uniforma and weapons for entire regiments or companies. in such a case, indeed it was the commander who would choose the uniforms...

    however, I have to warn you that during ACW uniformity of equipment was not as common as one could think. in the North standards were ussualy adhered to (as Federal government often provided some equipment) but in many cases even in Northern Armies one could see quite a mix of uniforms. In the South, situation was even worse... I would go as far and say that in the outh, Zouaves and Marines were actually only organisations were at least some kind of uniformity (of uniforms) could be found on company level... not regimental but company level.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    And why would north african adopt mexican dress ?

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    Because fighting irregular mexican cavalry who harrassed them and the logistical train, they needed more cavalry who was present in limited number in Mexico. So the HQ decided to mount infantry with locally bought horses and equipment. The algerians were thought to be more likely to be good horsemen and more apt at irregular and guerrilla warfare, so they were part of the troops who were mounted. Some were simply mounted infantry, but the turcos became ad hoc cavalry. Equiped in mexican style (ponchos, boots, sombrero (although many kept the fez), sadles etc).


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    Well the turkish dress was very similar to the north african one, but greek evzones are quite different nonetheless.
    Last edited by Keyser; February 27, 2013 at 07:01 PM.

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    I know; I was supplying options.
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    You'll notice after the Franco-Prussian war everyone started wearing pickelhaubes.


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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?



    Compare the two: The Russian in back with that one American. Although the Russian style can be considered Napoleonic, with a few changes it developed into its own style which was widely adopted by Prussia, America and some other states briefly (things like boots, the style of jacket and the hat among a bunch of other details).

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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    Quote Originally Posted by Minas Moth View Post
    <..>from what i could find out, it seemed that in french army, zouaves weren't french by birthe, but were rather locals (natives) employed by the french army. it was not until later that elite zouave regiments were formed by french army, where soldiers were hand picked to serve in them. <...>
    Zouaves of the French army were only recruited from North African native from 1830 to 1841. After that units of tirailleurs algeriens, i.e. "turcos", were raised from natives while zouaves were recruited amongst French settlers and metropolitans.

    French zouaves weren't elite after that. They were recruited from conscription, like all metropolitan units of the French army (unlike the troupes de marine, native tirailleurs and the foreign legion who were professionals), although the unstable situation in North Africa generally meant a higher level of campaign experience amongst these units. They did keep their reputation of ferocity and daring until the massive casualties of WW1 toned that down.
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    Default Re: Why would French and US armies adopt North African dress?

    They still were professionals (and french rather than natives) during the second empire when those units aquired their international reputation.

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