I remember seeing the word Zouave in the ending credits to the Danny Kaye comedy The Court Jester. The marching knights in that film were listed as the Jackson Michigan Zouave Drill Team. They performed a very close formation drill. I recall a lot of stomping. (Loved the film, by the way – “the poison is in the vessel with the pestle…”).
A check with a dictionary described Zouave as a name for a French Algerian infantry unit, known for their colorful uniforms, a swinging stride, close order drill and unorthodox field tactics (i.e. forming themselves into pyramids to scale walls). They came to notoriety in reports of their exploits in the Crimean War in the mid 1850s.
All these things being asides and context, another volume from ILL came and with it I got down to particulars. It was the history of the Salem Light Infantry, its story from inception to 1890. It all began in 1805. Civic minded men (exclusively of the Federalist Party) from the Salem community offered themselves in service by forming a militia company. They were just in time for the War of 1812. Most of the action however for this region took place at sea, but with the constant pressure of the British fleet offshore and their threats of invasion, the SLI was kept busy answering the night alarms. They were ready if the British showed their faces.
A run through the accompanying rosters turned up many names of Salem families: Derby, Lander, Peabody, Endicott, Devereux and yes Osgood, (and of later interest upon other discoveries – the name of Orne).
Over the years they did service in many ways: honor guards for important dignitaries such as Lafayette, Presidents Monroe, Jackson and Polk; annual training in summer musters in the field; and a constant round of entertaining and being entertained by other militia companies.
In February of 1860, a new captain was elected for the company. He was Arthur F Devereux, just recently returned from Chicago. He had been a patent lawyer out there, in partnership with Elmer Ellsworth. Their business failed, but their side passion, involvement in the local militia group, excited the nation when they introduced the Zouave drill there.
And that is what Captain Devereux brought back with him to his home town. So by the time a year had rolled by the company was schooled in the Zouave way and was probably the best prepared company in the Massachusetts militia.
E. T. enlisted in the Salem Zouaves on Monday April 15th 1861, three days after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and the day that President Lincoln had issued his proclamation calling for the state militias to come to the aid of the capital and to put down the rebellion.
Enjoyed this very much..