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Ben Cotton, Blackface Zouave

 

Zouaves:  At left, Ben Cotton performing at Maguire's Opera House, California 1862. The Zouaves were volunteer units (in the armies of both North and South) recruited in the early stages of the Civil War. These units wore unusual uniforms, patterned after French troops. The uniforms included short jackets (open in front), a sash, baggy pants and gaitors. The caps were often fashioned after the Middle Eastern fez. Minstrels accurately gauged the basics of the costume, as is apparent even in this modified version. In lieu of gaitors it was sufficient to tie ribbons around the boots.  Fire Zouaves units were recruited from firemen. All these units quickly thinned out after the first year of battle. The pagentry of carnage had less cachet.

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