Louisiana Zouaves were wild and deadly
A new book on one of the toughest and wildest Confederate units in the War for Southern Independence, 1st Louisiana Zouaves: Jeff Davis' Pet Wolves by Michael Dan Jones, tells the story of this unusual group of Southern fighting men.
The battalion was made up mostly of Louisiana Frenchmen and foreigners of many nationalities, including French, Germans, and Swiss, among others. They proudly wore colorful uniforms that were patterned after those of French Zouaves, who became world-famous for their gallantry during the Crimean War of the 1850s.
They were led by the Coppens brothers, Gaston and Alfred, during some of the bloodiest battles of the war in Virginia and Maryland. President Jefferson Davis took a special interest in them in March, 1861, when he personally met with Lt. Col. Gaston Coppens in Montgomery, Alabama and accepted them into the Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America. Davis continued showing interest in them and it wasn't long before they gained the nickname, "Jeff Davis' Pet Wolves.
The Louisiana Zouaves were also controversial for the off-duty antics and even criminal behavior of a small number. It was widely circulated that the mayor of New Orleans had given Gaston Coppens permission to recruit men from the city jails, which the criminal behavior of some the men seems to validate. When they were moving from Pensacola, Fla. to Richmond, Va. in June, 1861, the men stole the troop train they were on in Alabama, leaving the officers behind eating breakfast at the train station. The men then went on a drunken spree in Garland, Alabama and were only subdued when their officers caught up with them and pistol-whipped them back into the ranks. The few days they stayed in Richmond, they terrorized the public and saloons with their rowdy behavior.
By the end of their first year of service, most of the criminal element had been eliminated and the battalion became one of the most effective frontline light infantry in Robert E. Lee's Army of North Virginia. They fought their first battle at Williamsburg, followed by Seven Pines and Fair Oaks, Mechancisville, Gaines' Mill, Frayser's Farm, Malvern Hill, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Chantilly, Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg.
Their numbers had been so depleted by those battles, they were put on garrison duty in Richmond and then guarded the Weldon, N.C. to Richmond, Va. railroad line in Southern Virginia and North Carolina for the rest of the war. But there, they took part in extreme in the Siege of Suffolk, Va. and a number of skirmishes in Virginia and North Carolina. The Louisiana Zouaves also went on a number of special scouting missions behind enemy lines for Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Secret Service. It is all detailed in the book.
The book also gives a roster of the battalion, with over 800 military service records highlighted. There were numerous photographs, maps and illustrations. The 1st Louisiana Zouaves: Jeff Davis' Pet Wolves, is published by CreateSpace.com and is available on that web site as well as Amazaon.com and other online booksellers.