January 23, 2012

Letters from 'Zoo-Zoo': Columbians in the 23rd Pa

Location: Columbia, PA, USA
Unidentified 23rd PA Soldier
(or maybe not, see comment below)
CDV by Stehman & Eberman, Lancaster
(Heritage Auctions)
Having enjoyed writing this past weekend's post about Adam C. Reinoehl--a soldier in 76th Pennsylvania "Keystone Zouaves"--I thought it would be fun and timely to draw attention to the only Zouave unit recruited in Lancaster County.  Specifically, men from the bustling Susquehanna River town of Columbia helped fill the ranks of Companies I and P, 23rd Pennsylvania, also known as "Birney's Zouaves."  They were recruited by Lieuts. C. C. and B. F. Haldeman of Columbia, and a roster of men was published in the Columbia Spy on January 11, 1862 <link>, as well as on February 1, 1862 <link>.

The 23rd Pennsylvania fought in most of the battles with the Army of the Potomac in the war's Eastern Theater, with its severest battles being the Battle of Seven Pines (part of the Peninsula Campaign) and the Battle of Cold Harbor.  One of Columbia's boys in the company, as yet unidentified, wrote regularly to the Columbia Spy under the pen name, "Zoo-Zoo."  His letters are unique in that much of their content is squabbling with other Columbia soldiers in the 45th Pennsylvania, stationed on Hilton Head Island in early 1862.  Here's one excerpt from the January 18, 1862, while the 23rd Pennsylvania was camped near the nation's capital:
I have just finished "45's" letter in your last week's "Spy," and we cannot see what we have done that they are for everlasting slurs at us.  He ("45") says that if we were with them it would do more honor to our old town.  We might perhaps have enlisted in Company "K" of the 45th if the captain had been a native of our town, and we had known under whom we were enlisting.  As for freezing and starving we would inform them that we have plenty and more than we nee to wear and eat.  We might have turkeys and chickens too, if we would take them.  As for the "peg-topped trousers" and being called "Zoo Zoo" we would also inform them that a great many of our boys enlisted before they had seen or even knew what kind of trousers that were to get, "peg-tops" or not.  I suppose the reason that they throw their slurs is, that we are digging holes (as they call it); but I can see no difference in building forts to defend our capitol and in occupying a place after the fighting is all over.  We do not want any of their pianos or sofas as we came for "Union soldiers" not as gentlemen.  We have all been furnished with an extra blanket, and the Colonel has given us a comfort, and have now two suits, and more shirts, drawers, and stockings than we can wear.  We have also the Sibley Tent, which we have raised on logs, thus making it very comfortable.  We have never asked (as we have been accused) for anything from our Columbia friends, but we have heard that a box of stockings and globes that were to have been sent to Company "I" were sent either to the 45th or the 5th Reserve, but as they need them more than we do we do not complain as they are all used in one cause.
Uniform of Corp. William Stephens of Company I, 23rd Pennsylvania
(Heritage Auctions)

For more letters from "Zoo-Zoo," his antagonists in the 45th Pennsylvania, and other soldiers in the 23rd Pennsylvania, browse the digitized Columbia Spy available as part of the Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers Project.  See the following dates for letters from the 23rd Pennsylvania:
  • 1/4/1862 Camp Graham, Near Washington (Company I, 23rd PA) A Birney Zouave 1/11/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 1/13/1862 Camp Graham, Near Washington (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo?" 1/18/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 1/22/1862 Camp Graham, Near Washington (Company I, 23rd PA) "23rd P.V." 1/25/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 1/25/1862 Camp Graham (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo" 2/1/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 2/3/1862 Camp Graham (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo" 2/8/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 3/5/1862 Camp Birney, Prince George Co'y, Md. (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo" 3/8/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 3/13/1862 Columbia I (Company I, 23rd PA) "Bowery" 3/29/1862 Columbia Spy

There are likely many more letters published after April 1862, but this is as far as my browsing has taken me.


  1. (Posted on behalf of Brian Miller by Vince due to difficulties with the comment form.)

    I believe there is some uncertainty as to the CDV of the unidentified 23rd PA soldier shown above. In 1862, there was a Zouave company in Lancaster known as the Lancaster Zouaves (formerly First City Zouaves and eventually renamed to Schaeffer Zouaves), led by Capt. William Duncan. In August 1862, it merged with Company K of the 122nd PA which formed in August 1862. In the Constitution and By-Laws of the Lancaster Zouaves, it states that the uniform "shall consist of blue Zouave pants, jacket and shirt, with red trimmings, leggings, and blue caps." I believe this description accurately describes the uniform worn by the unidentified 23rd PA soldier in the CDV above. However, they may not have retained this uniform when they merged with Company K of the 122nd PA. Certainly, the image of Cpl William Schaum (in the Duke University Special Collections) shows a different uniform; however, I only find his brother Henry listed in the Lancaster Zouave records.

    1. Very interesting! I forgot about the other zouaves in Lancaster, and really haven't researched any of the units you mentioned in any detail. Perhaps investigating when Stehman and Eberman were in business could help make a guess. Thanks for the comment, Brian.

    2. That CDV is definitely a 23rd PA Zouave. As for the 122nd PA's Lancaster Zouaves, they wore copies of the 5th NY Zouave uniform, paid for by Schaeffer, which consisted of blue jackets with baggy red pantaloons.

    3. Thanks for your input, Shaun.

      I'm not sure what your source was for the info about the Lancaster Zouaves, but curiosity led to a quick Google search that pulled up a record from the James S. Schoff Civil War Collection at the University of Michigan, which includes the company's records and confirms your info about the uniforms.

      Also, Shaun, be sure to check out the post about Adam C. Reinoehl of the Keystone Zouaves: