Most reenacting groups portray the traditional confederate or union soldiers in the western theater. Through this portrayal, the public sees soldiers wearing the traditional jean wool materials of the southern Army, or the dark union blue jacket with light blue kersey trousers. In an attempt to broaden the knowledge of people about units who fought in the western theater, the 9th Texas decided to develop a zouave impression based on the 165th New York State militia. These soldiers, commonly referred to as Zouaves, wore brightly colored uniforms. When the subject of Zouaves is discussed, most people think of them as being in either the eastern theater, or members of Wheat’s Tigers from Louisiana. The 165th New York fought in various battles throughout the southern region. Their bright red trousers, turbans, and short, dark blue jackets were distinctively recognized on the battlefield. We pride ourselves on being able to field a minimum of two companies (at least 60 rifles) at a given event. Whether you visit us at Port Hudson, Louisiana in the Spring, or at Liendo Plantation near Hempsted, Texas in the Fall, you will see a brightly clad unit, versus the traditional blue/gray uniforms found at most events.
165th New York Regiment, 2nd
Battalion Duryea’s Zouaves;
1862, Colonel Harmon D. Hull received authority to raise a regiment for
a service of nine months. This term of service was soon changed to three
years, and the regiment received its numerical designation of the 165th
New York on November 29, 1862. At
this time six companies were recruited; A, C, D, and E from New York
City, B from New York and Jamaica, and F from New York City and
Brooklyn. They were mustered into service during the months of August to
December 1862. In March of 1864, Companies G, H, K, and I were organized
from New York City and Long Island, but upon joining the battalion in
the field they were at once consolidated with the six original
companies. Originally they were mustered and drilled at Camp Washington
on Staten Island.
battalion was led by Lt. Col. Abel Smith Jr. when it left the state for
New Orleans on December 2, 1862. Upon arrival it was assigned to the 3rd
Brigade of Sherman’s Division, Department of the Gulf. In March of
1863, it was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 19th Corps. In
July 1863 it was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 19th Corps.
In January 1864 it was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. 19th
Corps. In March of 1865 it would become the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division,
Army of the Shenandoah. In April 1865, it was involved in the defenses
of Washington. In June 1865, it was assigned to the 3rd Division,
Department of the South. On September 1, 1865, under Major William W.
Stephenson, it was honorably discharged and mustered out at Charleston,
S.C. During its service the regiment lost by death: 1 officer and 36
enlisted killed in action; 1 officer and 15 enlisted by wounds received
in action; 2 officers and 79 enlisted of disease and other causes; and
18 in the hands of the enemy. 70 men were reported missing and presumed
captured. Approximate total casualties number 222-233 aggregate,
depending on the source records.
regiment’s first payroll recorded 561 men on its roster. In March
1863, 409 recruits were added to make a total of 970 men on its roster.
On September 1, 1865, 375 were mustered out.
(1863 – 1865)
Pass and Ponchatoula, LA - March 24, 1863
Store, LA - May 21, 1863
of Port Hudson, LA – May – July, 1863
assault - May 27, 1863
- June 14, 1863
assault with hand grenades - June 20, 30, 1863
of Port Hudson - July 8, 1863
Sabine Pass, Gulf of Mexico, TX - September 8, 1863
Bayou, LA - October 9, 1863
Crow Bayou, LA - October 15, 1863
Crow Bayou, LA - November 3-4, 1863
Bayou, LA - November 11, 1863
Pontoon Train, Red River Expedition - March 19-27, 1864
of Sabine Crossroads, Mansfield, Pleasant Grove, LA - April 8, 1864
of Pleasant Hill, LA - April 9, 1864
of Monetis Bluff, Crane Hill, LA - April 23, 1864
of Mansura, LA - May 16, 1864
of Deep Bottom, VA - July 27, 1864
of Berryville, VA - September 3, 1864
of Fisher Hill, VA - September 19, 1864
of Cedar Creek, VA - October 19, 1864
with Mosby’s Guerrillas, Shenandoah Valley, VA - October 25, 1864
Guard at Winchester, VA - September 1864-April 1865
Review at Washington, D.C. - May 23, 1865
GA and Charleston, S.C. - June 1865
mustered out at Fort Sumter, S.C.
of General Orders
Merrimac, Jan 4, 1863
ready to leave ship with complete clean uniform. Turban will be neatly
folded; sash worn tight around body at its full width, the blue edge
showing at top and bottom; belt buckled over sash. Knapsacks packed with
overcoat rolled on top; the woolen blanket folded (inside of the rubber
one, black side out) square with the knapsack.
#8 Jan 12, 1863
after evening parade all turbans and white leggings will be taken off
and not put on again till the next morning. They will be placed in the
knapsack: at all times all effects of the men will be placed in the
knapsack, the knapsack packed and strapped ready for marching. In case a
Company is ordered to parade after dark…at first alarm will instantly
roll their blankets and ponchos, sling knapsacks, and take their places
in the ranks without confusion. Overcoats to be worn on all occasions
#18 Feb. 27, 1863
will parade tomorrow in full uniform: white turbans, leggings, and white
gloves; knapsacks packed with only woolen blankets and ponchos;
haversacks and canteens to be worn.
#29 March 20, 1863
after this date the enlisted men of the regiment will be required by
their company commander to bathe at least once a week. One company each
day will be excused from drill and will go to bath at 4pm.
themselves the “Second Duryea’s Zouaves”.
known as Zous, Zou Zin, and Corps d’ Afrique.
in and out wearing full Zouave d” Afrique uniform, and used the Zouave
uniform all three years of service.
the best-drilled regiment in the Department of the Gulf.
New York City on December 18, 1862 on the steamer Merrimac
25, 1862, Christmas Day; Lt. Col. Abel Smith’s diary; the men had
quite a time playing a game of ball with the other troops here; Sergeant
A.G. Mills and George E. Cogswell, of Co. B, played in this game, which
was witnessed by 10,000 soldiers; reviewed by Colonel Fraser with 47th
New York Volunteers.
20th, 1863, embarked on Steamer Iberville
21st, 1863, arrived at Baton Rough. Orders
to leave knapsacks: Gen
Banks ordered all knapsacks and surplus baggage left behind. The men
only had the Zouave d’ Afrique clothes they were wearing; they also
possessed their overcoats, rubber blankets, haversacks, and canteens.
Besides this equipment, they had no tents of any kind, and for 50 days
neither officer nor men had a change of clothing.
2-6, 1863 Left Baton Rough for Major General William Franklin’s
assault on the Sabine River to cut Texas off from rest of Confederacy.
Seven transports with 1200 men of different regiments; Pocahontas,
Clifton, Sachem, Arizona, Granite City, Laurel Hill, Owasco, and
these the Clifton
grounded and captured with the loss of 3 officers and 94 men. The 165th
was on the Pocahontas,
draft was too great, and she turned around. George Chapman’s diary
says it was a badly planned exhibition, which had many loose screws.
8th and 9th, 1864, Sabine Crossroads, Mansfield, Pleasant Hill and
Pleasant Grove, 77 men of the 165th were captured and taken prisoner to
Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas and Camp Gross, Marshall, Texas.
was a New York dog that inspired the men of the 165th. He is described
as a ‘cur’ that jumped on board the steamer Merrimac when she shoved
off. He was simply a
firm, compact fat little dog, with a sleek brown hide, who looked
capable of undergoing considerable fatigue after a little training, but
nothing about him to indicate the wonderful staying qualities and
devotion afterward exhibited. He was devoted to the enlisted men, and
never let an officer pet him; this was the cause of considerable
amusement to the camp. He would drill each day with a different company
and was always at the head. He was taken to Baton Rough shortly before
the end of Port Hudson with some casualties. Five months passed and the
hope that Tommy would ever come back was lost, when one day, to the
astonishment and delight of the men, he returned. He had found his way
on a boat and crossed the country on foot to be reunited with his men in
Franklin. He was present in all of the engagements, except the Sabine
River Campaign. He displayed every sign of fear and anxiety, but never
deserted his post. At Pleasant Hill he was wounded, when a bullet took
off the end of his tail. Tommy is noted, as having good judgment and he
would hide behind the biggest object during lively musketry business. He
made half a dozen trips to sea, traveled hundreds of miles by foot,
river, and rail. When the war ended, Tommy, along with his men of the
165th, was discharged with papers noting meritorious service and he was
officially recognized. When he landed back in New York, he ran off
wagging his tail.
165th New York Regiment, Second Battalion Duryea’s Zouaves; Smith’s
the Civil War started in April 1861, both armies made controlling the
Mississippi River a major part of their strategy. The Confederacy wanted
to continue using the river to transport supplies. The Union wanted full
control of the river to split the Confederacy in two, as well as
thwarting the South’s goal of a transportation highway. The stretch of
river between Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson, Louisiana, was
vitally important to the South because it’s close proximity to the
mouth of the Red River. This was the South’s primary water route
moving supplies East and West. In the spring of 1862, the Union took
control of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Memphis, Tennessee. It then set
its sights on both Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Major Gen. Ulysses S.
Grant began operations against Vicksburg in May of 1863. At the same
time, Major Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks moved his forces against Port
Hudson is situated on the Mississippi River north of Baton Rough. The
fortifications are built upon an 80-foot bluff that is surrounded by
ravines some 60 feet deep in areas. The area is heavily wooded with
pine, oak, and magnolia, and many streams cut through its swampy area.
Its major military advantage, as well as its geological and reason for
being, is that the Mississippi River severely bends at this point,
almost upon itself, making navigation slow and difficult, and defense
very easy. Because of this military advantage the siege of Port Hudson
lasted for 48 days.
165th NY Zouaves Role in the Assault
165th NY left Baton Rough on the morning of May 21, 1863, along with the
rest of the Union Army, under the command of Gen. Banks. Their orders
were to move north and strike at Port Hudson. It was at this time they
were ordered to leave knapsacks and surplus baggage. These items were to
be brought up on a transport ship in a few days. Unfortunately for the
Zouaves, this never happened. They would spend the next 50 days in the
clothes they stood in; along with overcoats, rubber blankets,
haversacks, and canteens, before they were re-supplied.
in the afternoon of May 21, the 165th had its first skirmish with
Confederates at Plain Store. On May 24, the 165th occupied camps
deserted by the enemy. They stayed ‘down’ in the trenches in the
camp until the 27th, because Admiral Farragut’s fleet was arcing
shells and rockets over the 165th‘s heads, and into enemy
fortifications. In these same trenches they were attacked by wood ticks,
mosquitoes, spiders, ants, gnats and all sorts of biting insects.
on the 27th, the 165th lead the brigade assault on the fortifications.
Advancing, they came to a clearing that had trees toppled for hundreds
of yards in all directions. The trees were toppled
off their trunks, trunks cut low to the ground, and tops removed or
burnt. They were ordered to discharge their pieces and advance through
the fallen trees. As soon as the Zouaves got into the trees a horrible
cannonade of grape and musket fire opened up. The men were mowed down.
Hardly a man had a descent pair of trousers after going over all the
trees. It was here that Colonel Abel Smith was wounded, and died on June
24th. Capt. Felix Agnus immediately took command. The 165th fell back as
best they could; but were given no support from any other infantry.
Later in the afternoon, the Confederates came out to take prisoners from
the wounded, but 165th skirmishers kept them from occupying the whole
field. The 165th had been repulsed with terrible slaughter. Their
overcoats and blankets had been left in the woods and they were unable
to get back to them the first night. On May 28, a flag of truce was
presented by the Zouaves in order to gather wounded and bury the dead.
The regimental losses in their first action were killed and wounded
seven officers and 85 enlisted. Another 12 unaccounted for presumed
May 29, it rained hard and the men had still not found their overcoats
or blankets. On May 31, sick and wounded were shipped to Baton Rough and
New Orleans. The early part of June was spent on picket, guarding Negro
workers as they lay trenches toward the enemy’s works. On June 13,
naval bombardment began again. At 2a.m. on June 14, the 165th left camp
with canteens only, and ammo stuffed into pockets. They advanced from
stump to stump on hands and knees. The assault proved a failure and they
were pinned down with great loss of life and no water until the 15th.
They went 32 hours without food or water. It was decided on the 15th to
starve Port Hudson into submission.
humid air and swampy still water made it difficult to obtain fresh
drinking water. Water would be fetched up from the Mississippi when
possible. Rations were available from with the navy
just off in the river, but difficult to cook with the rain and rotted
wet wood. Hardtack, beef, and salt pork were available, but not always
able to be cooked. Dried apples and pickles were eaten often. Tobacco
was the greatest delicacy and was in such demand people would pay gold
for it. During the majority of the siege, with no comforts and being
pinned down in trenches for their own fire overhead, they conducted
“horse races.” There was an abundance of all imaginable vermin and
insect, and many a large wager was placed on an unsuspecting insect to
take the blue ribbon in all manner of races and obstacle courses. Lice
was the parasite of choice because the “owners” claimed their bug
would win because it had his own blood flowing through its veins.
June 19, to the June 25, they were on picket duty in the trenches. On
the 25th, mines were placed at the end of the trenches to blow up the
enemy works. On June 29, the 165th got so close to the works that they
threw hand grenades into the works and water batteries, but were pinned
down again and did not return to their lines until the 1st of July. On
July 4th, the defenders of Vicksburg surrender to Grant. This news was
relayed to the confederates at Port Hudson on the 6th, and on the 7th
Port Hudson surrendered. On July 9th, the 165th is picked to march first
into the fortifications of Port Hudson. The Confederates lay down their
arms with no cheers from the Union soldiers, and the men mix together,
swapping stories and food, as if they were brothers who had not seen
each other in a long while.
July 24, the 165th’s knapsacks and baggage finally arrived from Baton
Rough. Of the 561 men of the 165th NY that were possibly engaged at Port
Hudson, 117 were either killed or wounded. Three were captured on the
27th of May, but dug out of their prison and returned in their
undergarments on the 3rd of July. Up to 50% of this aggregate number was
sick in hospital in Baton Rough and New Orleans.
Nichols was born September 29, 1844 to Martha (Ward) Nichols and James
Nichols. His mother died from an illness when he was six, in 1850. He
continued to live in Middle Island and grew up to be a farmer. Nichols
enlisted with Captain Stephenson and the 165th New York Volunteers on
September 10, 1862, for three years. He was eighteen years old, stood
five feet eight inches tall, had blue eyes and light hair.
regiment left Camp Washington on Staten Island on December 15, 1862.
From the foot of Canal Street in New York City, they embarked on the
troop transport, Merrimac, destined for New Orleans, Louisiana. On
December 20, an engine onboard the Merrimac broke and they were forced
to put into Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for repairs. They stayed
at Hilton Head for several days while the boat was repaired. On December
28, they were underway again, and arrived at New Orleans on January 4,
was stationed at Camp Parapet in Louisiana for January and February of
1863. He was ill in Charity Hospital in New Orleans for most of March
and April. He returned to his unit in May, but fell sick again and was
sent to a hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
165th was part of a Union force attempting to capture key cities on the
southern part of the Mississippi. This strategy was coordinated with
General Grant, who was attempting to capture Vicksburg up north. If the
Union controlled the Mississippi River, they would prevent supplies from
reaching the Confederate forces, including much-needed cattle and grain
was well enough to be with the regiment during the siege at Port Hudson,
which was located on a key bend on the Mississippi River. His company
made a series of attacks against Confederate rifle pits on June 29,
losing one man. The city was under siege from May 25 until July 8, 1863,
when Confederate General Gardner surrendered. Nichols and the 165th were
doing picket duty near the rebel works when Gardner surrendered. On the
morning of July 9, the 165th was among the forces that entered and took
possession of Port Hudson. Although this was a triumphant event, the
165th had lost 117 men during the siege.
Nichols fell sick again, suffering from malarial fever. Many camps were positioned next to swamps where malaria-carrying mosquitoes bred in the stagnant water. The soldiers referred to malaria as "the shakes," because of the intense shaking caused when the high fever broke. Epidemics of malaria spread rapidly through the camps. More than a million men came down with malaria during the war. Malaria put James Nichols in a hospital in Port Hudson in August. He remained there, with his condition continuing to deteriorate, until his death on September 27, 1863.