The Original French Zouaves: A Novel Military Entertainment

(The Charleston Mercury, November 21, 1861) The body of original French Zouaves, whose wonderful exhibitions of feats in gymnastics, the bayonet exercise and light infantry drill, have been so popular in New Orleans and other Western cities, are soon to pay a visit to Charleston.

These are some of those gay and gallant Soldiers of the Crimea, who instituted a theatre on the battle field, and during many of their representations were attacked by the Russians, and who, leaving the performance unfinished – even dressed in female attire – seized their carbines, assisted to repel the assailants.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.

Their entertainments are of a very pleasant and varied character, embracing vaudevilles, pantomime, tableaux and songs; the whole being interlarded with performances of the bayonet exercise, and with scenes illustrative of the life and manoeuvres of the Zouaves in camp.

They will reach here, probably, on next Monday, and remain for one week. The following is the attractive programme of their first performance: The Travelling Soldier, a comic pantomime; Soldier and Boarder, a military episode of the Crimean War; the Marseillaise, by Zouave Frederick; Une Fille Terrible, a comic vaudeville; concluding with “An Ambuscade at Trackter,” an incident of the Crimea, introducing the bayonet exercise.

During their stay, of many months, in New Orleans, the Zouaves instructed, gratis, a very large proportion of the volunteer troops of that city, in the terrible system of fencing with the bayonet. They were the preceptors of Wheat’s famous “Tiger” battalion, which, by its ferocious onslaught and rapid movements, struck terror into the enemy ranks, on the day of Manassas. We learn that, during their brief stay in our city, if any of our well drilled volunteer companies, who are anxious to perfect themselves in the use of the bayonet, will make the requisite arrangements, in securing a hall for the purpose, the Zouaves will cheerfully devote themselves to their instruction, without compensation.

In one week, they think, platoons of picked men might become so proficient as to be able, in turn, to teach the bayonet exercise to all their comrades of the city regiments. Now, as it is understood that the bayonet is the weapon with which we expect to drive the invaders from our shores, we hope that our zealous volunteers will not fail to avail themselves of such an opportunity.


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