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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Zouaves Come to Chancellorsville

The Collis Zouaves at the Jackson monument, May 1899

     Unlike their first visit to Chancellorsville in May 1863, the Collis Zouaves received a friendly welcome when they came to the Fredericksburg area 36 years later for the dedication of their monument at the Chancellorsville battlefield.

Charles H.T. Collis, left (LOC)


     Charles Henry Tucker Collis (1838-1902) was an Irish immigrant who arrived in America in 1853 and began his law practice in Philadelphia in 1859. Soon after hostilities commenced between the United States and those in rebellion in the South, Collis was authorized to organize a regiment of volunteers, the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who called themselves the "Zouaves D'Afrique." Like a number of other regiments of the time, the 114th Pennsylvania adopted the stylish uniforms of the zouaves, French light infantry units which served in North Africa in the mid-19th century. These uniforms typically sported fezzes or turbans, short colorful jackets and billowy trousers.

Members of Company H, Collis Zouaves at Petersburg, August 1864 (LOC)

     The 114th Pennsylvania distinguished itself in a number of engagements during the Civil War. Colonel Collis was particularly noteworthy during the battle of Fredericksburg, and was belatedly awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1893. In May 1863, the Zouaves were positioned near the Chancellor house and took very heavy casualties during the battle, losing three officers and 35 enlisted men. Colonel Collis, suffering either from malaria or typhoid fever, had to be carried from the field on a stretcher when he could no longer stand.

114th Pennsylvania at Germantown (LOC)

     In early May, 1899, several surviving members of the Zouaves, including Charles Collis, came to Spotsylvania for the dedication of the monument commemorating the names of their 38 comrades who had fallen at Chancellorsville. I have not seen it, but I believe this monument is on the south side of Route 3 just east of the NPS Visitor's Center.

Collis Zouaves monument at Chancellorsville (National Park Service)
Collis Zouaves at their monmument, May 1899 (National Park Service)

     Collis and his fellow veterans were accompanied by members of the Chancellorsville Battlefield Park Association, with Vespasian Chancellor acting as their guide. Vespasian showed them around the local battlefields and posed with them for a picture taken at Stonewall Jackson's monument. I am pretty sure that is Vespasian leaning against the tree at far right.

Vespasian Chancellor (Photo taken by Tom Myers at the NPS Visitors Center)

     Vespasian's grandfather, George Edwards Chancellor, was the original owner of the grand house known to history as Chancellorsville. It was built as a wedding gift for him and his wife, Ann Lyon, by her mother's step-brother, wealthy Baltimore merchant William Lorman. During the Civil War, Vespasian Chancellor served in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, and was for a time attached to the headquarters of J.E.B. Stuart as a scout. In 1893, he married his cousin, Sue Chancellor, who (with members of her family and others) had been made prisoner in her own home, Chancellorsville, during the time that General Hooker made it his headquarters.
     Charles Collis appreciated the warmth and kindness he received while in Spotsylvania, as mentioned in this article which appeared in the May 11, 1899 edition of The Free Lance: