Collis' Zouaves: The 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War

By Gould, Kevin S. | Journal of American & Comparative Cultures, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Collis' Zouaves: The 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War


Gould, Kevin S., Journal of American & Comparative Cultures


Collis' Zouaves: The 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War. Edward J. Hagerty. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. 352 pp., maps, index, photographs. $29.95.

Edward J. Hagerty makes an important contribution to Civil War social history in Collis' Zouaves: The 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in the Civil War. Combining extensive primary research with quantitative analysis, Dr. Hagerty tells the story of a special volunteer regiment: the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Its distinctive Zouave uniform, adopted from the elite Algerian troops, and the social background of its members distinguished the 114th from other regiments.

In contrast to typical Union soldiers, the majority of the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers were neither farmers nor foreigners. Colonel Charles Henry Tucker Collis was a Philadelphia lawyer and most of his enlisted soldiers were skilled laborers. Because of their skilled background, the Pennsylvania Volunteers were more highly educated and more financially stable than the typical Union soldiers. As a result, Hagerty finds reasons for enlisting other than monetary gain. Hagerty shows that family members and professional associates enlisted in groups. With the small bounties offered at the time of the regiment's mustering in April, 1862, Hagerty finds that ideology and peer pressure induced most of the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers to forsake stable, if not lucrative, jobs and families for the field.

He shows through the Zouaves' letters that they joined either for such idealistic reasons as preserving the Union, ensuring liberty and democracy, and maintaining the American example, or out of family and professional loyalty. One especially motivated enlistee experiences a vision of George Washington entering his home and commanding him to join the Union Army.

The Zouaves participated in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Petersburg. While these campaigns provide the historical backdrop for their story, Hagerty tells the soldiers' stories through their letters and journals. The little events-picket duty, hut building, parade, and drill-related through the soldiers' letters capture the reader and draw him into the soldiers' world. The reader empathizes for the soldiers as they relate the struggle of the march, the frustration of retreat and the disappointment of a meager 1864 Thanksgiving dinner. Hagerty conveys the soldiers' pride in themselves and their unit in combat. Hagerty meticulously describes the Zouaves' combat but is best at telling the stories around the battles-such as an episode of two shivering Zouaves huddled under a blanket on the field of Chancellorsville, soundly sleeping within a few feet of their dead and dying comrades. …

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