Watching the Shot - a painting by Winslow Homer

Scene & Title Reunited: The 5th NY Infantry Unit, Duryee’s Zouaves

Watching the Shot

The 5th NY Infantry Unit, Duryee’s Zouaves

Fig. 2-7: Unknown Sergeant of the 5th Vets (USMHI).
Courtesy The 5th New York Veteran, Infantry, Dury's Zouaves

Most Zouave units had either been mustered out by the end of 1863, or they simply stopped wearing their colorful uniforms primarily due to the federal government’s standardization of uniforms.

Also, as the Zouave uniforms wore out after several years of daily use, the army was unwilling to buy new Zouave uniforms for all of the many Zouave units. There were however a few Zouave units that continued to serve until the end of the war and some of these also wore their colorful garb through Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. In a few exceptions, due to the bravery of the units, the Union Army did supply Zouave uniforms after 1863.

The 5th NY Duryee Zoauves wore their uniforms until the very end of the war (Fig. 2-7). These Duryee Zouaves are the very same units that Homer had previously traveled with and painted in memorable scenes such as Pitching Quoits 1865, Zouave 1864, The Brierwood Pipe 1864, and others. The 5th New York Infantry — Duryee’s Zouaves, were in numerous battles throughout the war, including the final campaign that ended the war. Their own historical record reports that they were still active through 1865 to the end of the war including being at the; Fall of Petersburg April 2. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army (2.18). It is easy to assume that the Zouve unit pictured in Watching the Shot is indeed the New York 5th Infantry — Duryee Zouave unit. Their presence in a Homer painting is not unusual, and although most Zouave uniforms had disappeared from the battle field after 1863, the 5th’s hardiness and longevity throughout the war is a historical exception. The Duryee Zoauve presence here does not help to establish a definitive time frame for the painting. It will however help to establish a possible battle site which will be discussed later in the Historical Clues section of the research.

 



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