DEFINITION: ZOUAVE (zoo wov) noun.
(1) one of a body of infantry in the French Army,
composed orig. of Algerians, distinguished for their dash and hardiness, and wearing a
picturesque Oriental uniform.
(2) a member of any body of soldiers wearing a similar dress.
(3) a soldier of volunteer regiments (1861-65) in the U.S. Army whose dress resembled the French Zouave uniform.
General George B. McClellan described Zouaves as the "beau-ideal of a soldier". They became the epitome for
bravery, and enjoyed a reputation of being recklessly brave on the battlefield --- as though warfare were merely a
game, and their lives simply the table stakes.
Many Zouave Regiments also contained a Vivandiere. A Vivandiere was a woman, often a soldiers wife, who assisted in the needs of the Regiment. She acted as a nurse, seamstress, cook, laundress, and sutler. Furthermore, she marched, drilled, and went into battle with her regiment. The most distinguishing feature of the Vivandiere was the wooden cask, barrel, or canteen in which she carried water, whiskey, or brandy for the troops. It took a special kind of woman to contradict society's edicts about a woman's place and follow a regiment to war. Collis' Zouaves (as the 114th became known as) was no different. Col. Collis recruited a verier Vivandiere by the name of Marie "French Mary" Tebe, who served with Collis' Zouaves throughout the Civil War.
WHAT IS A ZOUAVE?
"A fellow with a red bag having sleeves to it for a coat; with two red bags without sleeves to them for trousers, with
an embroidered and braided bag for a vest, with a cap like a red woolen saucepan; with yellow boots like the fourth
robber in a stage play; with a mustache like two half-pound paint brushes, and with a sort of a sword-gun for a
weapon, that looks like the result of a love affair between an amorous broadsword and a lonely musket; discreet
and tender -- that is a Zouave."
"A fellow who can pull up a hundred and ten pound dumbbell; who can climb up an eighty foot rope, hand over hand, with a barrel of flour hanging to his heels; who can do the "giant swing" on a horizontal bar with a fifty-six tied to each ankle; who can walk up four flights of stairs, holding a heavy man in each hand, at arms length; and who can climb a greased pole feet first carrying a barrel of pork in his teeth -- that is a Zouave."
"A fellow who can jump seventeen feet four inches high without a spring board; who can tie his legs in a double bow knot round his neck without previously softening his shin bones in a steam bath; who can walk a tightrope rope with nine brandy cocktails in his stomach, a suit of chain armor outside his stomach, and a stiff northeast gale outside of that; who can take a five shooting revolver in each hand and knock the spots off the ten of diamonds at eighty paces, turning somersaults all the time and firing every shot in the air -- that is a Zouave."
Daily Intelligencer, Wheeling, Western Virginia, Feb. 23, 1861.