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          23rd Pennsylvania

The Uniform

of the

23rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
"Birney's Zouaves"

Vent in Vest
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Facing on Inside of Jacket
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Watch Pocket on Trousers
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Frank shows rear view of Jacket.
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Description of the Trousers, Vest, Jacket , Forage Cap and Gaitors

One of the most attractive things about Birney's Zouaves is their uniform. The Wool used to construct the uniform was a light weight, tight knit, officers grade wool. This uniform was featured On page 144 of Time Life's Echoes of Glory (Union). The uniform of the 23rd Pennsylvania consists of dark blue "chasseur" style trousers with red wool worsted cord down the side running along the seem up to near the top where it follows the pocket line. The front of the Trousers has three pleats on each side near the top and five bone, tin or pewter buttons in The front. For a Sergeant, two wider red stripes would run along each Side of the cord on the side of the trousers. At the pocket the cord would Cross over one piece of piping and follow the pocket line. The trousers Facings and pockets inside were made of a light canvas duck and the buttons on the Trousers were paperback tin, pewter or bone button.


Trefoil on the 23rd Jacket
Frank P. Marrone Jr.

The Fez

Horstmann Brothers and Company 5th and Cherry St. Philadelphia PA
Advance the Colors

Inside Lining. Arm area.
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Red Worsted Wool Cord. Eagle "I" Button
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Vest Pocket
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Handsewn Pleat in Trousers.
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Original Uniform of Corporal William Stephens, Co. C 23rd PA Vols. Uniform owned by John Henry Kurtz. Photographs and Uniform research by
Frank P. Marrone Jr.

The vest on the uniform was dark blue wool with red wool cord on the front with a polished cotton or osenburg backside. Nine eagle "I" buttons made of brass would close the front of the vest. One piece of red cord would run down the side of the jacket with the buttons while two pieces would run down the front with the button holes. Red wool cording runs on the front on the neck and at the bottom on the wool part and no cording on the muslin. There is one pleat on each side of the front of the vest and the back has an adjustable clasp near the bottom. The vest was made of a lightweight tight knit wool, typical of Officers Grade wool and on each side of the vest was a "vent" like on the rear of the jacket. The vent was slightly lower on the front side of the vent than on the rear side and the Polished Cotton rose as it went toward the middle of the back. When the Jacket was worn over the vest, there was no hint of a vest from the backside. There was a company of Gymnasts in The unit that had a slightly different vest. It was sky blue with Red Worsted Taping in the shape of a "Y" and it buttoned from the side with tin paperback buttons.

Corporal's vest
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Corporals Trousers
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Corporals Jacket and Vest
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Corporals Jacket. Rear View
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The Jacket of Birney's Zouaves consisted of a five panel garment made of dark blue lightweight Officers Grade wool corded in red. The red cording starting at the neck area with two pieces running parallel about a half an inch apart down each side in the front. The inner cord would then form a "tre-foil" on each side of the Uniform on each side. One brass eagle "I" button would hold the front of the Uniform anywhere from the middle to three quarters up on the front of the Jacket. (The corporals jacket had a bit of a different closure---see Pictures above) A piece of red cord would clasp the eagle "I" button. The Double cording would continue along the bottom of the garment in the back the same distance apart. On each side of the back the jackets would have Upside down "vents" cut with the cording in which it would follow. One piece of cording would run vertical in the seam under each arm and around each arm. The left and right back seam would have cording run in it but not in the straight seam in the middle of the back. On each arm, one piece of cording would wrap around and on the side of the arm a one loop tombeau would be formed. As far as the inside of the jacket, some were lined with Osenburg, black cotton and duck and some had no lining.

Jacket and Vest of 23rd Sgt.
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Sgt. Trousers
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Corporal's Vest. Rear View
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Trousers. Rear View
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The headgear of the 23rd Pa (Birney's Zouaves) was a Forage Cap made of dark blue lightweight tight knit wool.Buckram, which was a coarse material made from hemp was used as a stiffener inside the lining. The chin strap on the forage cap was made of black glazed leather. At each end was the veneral service vest button. The buckles on the chinstraps fall into three categories. Type 1 was #19 sheet brass 7/8 of an inch wide. Type 2 was a thicker beveled version. Type 3 was a thinner slide of stamped brass hollowed in the back. The Unit was issued gear from the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia on 16th and Filbert streets. This U. S. Army Headgear was made from various contractors around the city and sold to The United States Government. These items were checked to see that they met the strictest standards before being allowed for issue. Soldiers often altered their headgear for Comfort.

Original Uniform
Jacket and Vest of a 23rd PA Sgt.
West Point Military Museum

Among the items was a bulls eye canteen covered with a grayish-brown jean cloth and twill canvas strap. Most of these canteens were made by Hortstmann brothers and Son. The gaiters were made of a tan colored canvas with buttons. Regular issued underwear (drawers) was worn under the Uniform which consisted of a shirt and pants. Underwear similar to this is in the museum at Gettysburg National Military Park downstairs. The Shirts issued were Federal Issued Shirts, handsewn with bone bottons. Since some Birney's Zouaves were firemen, a red firemen shirt would be also an Appropriate shirt. Red in color and most made of a fleece like material dyed red. On the front of the shirt, six buttons (paperback tin covered with red fleece) would hold the breast piece and under it three buttons would close the shirt up to the neck.


The information to put this write-up together was taken from the following sources:

  • “Life of the 23rd Pennsylvania “Birney’s Zouaves” ,William J. Wray 1904, 1999,2004
  • Research and Studies of Frank P. Marrone Jr.

    What are people saying about This site!

    "I was touched by the reaction of your men and the link that in just a few hours was forged between us. I was genuinely moved by the pride that the members of the new 23d took in their uniforms, march and respect for the original soldiers. When I first saw you in the parking lot at Cyclorama I could hardly believe my eyes as the old photos of "Birney's Zouaves" suddenly came to life--and what a moment when you presented me with the uniform with my Great Grandfather--sergeants stripes and all. Well, it was quite a day, and the images return again and again as I reflect on the dedication of your fine men and the honor that they bring to the memory of those original heroes. Please accept my deep gratitude as you renewed my pride at being a descendent of two Pennsylvanians who fought so hard for The Union. " Sam Collins--Virginia Beach,VA

    "We think your commitment to the 23rd is remarkable!" Aileen Collins--Virginia Beach,VA

    "Thank you for putting up a page on Birney's Zouaves!"--Christine Buccerelli--Philadelphia,PA

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