Zouaves (January 6, 1864)

The 114th PA band, photographed at army headquarters, Brandy Station, in the spring of 1864 (Library of Congress).

The 114th PA band, photographed at army headquarters, Brandy Station, in the spring of 1864 (Library of Congress).

Charles Collis, taken at Petersburg in 1864 (Library of Congress).

Charles Collis, taken at Petersburg in 1864 (Library of Congress).

George Meade wrote this brief note to his son John Sergeant on January 6, 1864. The “Zu-Zu” regiment to which he refers is the 114th Pennsylvania, also known as the Collis Zouaves after its former commander, Charles Collis. The 144th PA had been assigned as the army’s headquarters guard. The regiment had adopted the bright Zouave uniforms inspired French and Algerian soldiers. Before the war the most famous zouave unit was a crack drill outfit raised by Elmer Ellsworth, later killed in Alexandria, Virginia, when he removed the Confederate flag atop a hotel there and was shot to death by the owner.

Born in Ireland, Charles Collis had been wounded at Chancellorsville and did not fight at Gettysburg but he returned there after the war and built a house that he called Red Patch, after the III Corps’ insignia. The house still stands on Confederate Avenue and recently became a bed and breakfast. Collis is buried in the National Cemetery and has a monument there.

We have now at headquarters Collis’s “Zu-Zu” Regiment, commanded by one of the Bowens, Collis being in command of a brigade in the Third Corps. They have a fine band, one of the best in the army.

A good many of the old volunteers have re-enlisted—more than I expected—and if Congress allows the bounty hitherto paid, many more will re-enlist.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 165. Available via Google Books.

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