By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
PROSPECT, Maine — Don’t be fooled by the fancy uniform. When Civil War re-enactor Rob “Maynard” Kufrovich portrays a Zouave, a particular style of soldier made famous by the war, he’s as serious in his military duties as his predecessors were 150 years ago.
“The Zouaves were considered light infantry,” and “one out of every 10 soldiers at the start of the war was a Zouave,” said Kufrovich, who portrays a member of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Because “the French army was in vogue at the time,” the Zouave regiments wore colorful uniforms “patterned after the French Zouave units involved in the Crimean War.”
These uniforms “were based on those worn by Moroccan troops in the French army,” said Kufrovich, an education technician at the Adams School in Castine. “What made a Zouave? It was the uniform.”
During a recent lecture for members of the Searsport-based Richardson’s Civil War Round Table, Kufrovich wore his uniform and demonstrated the use of his rifled musket and bayonet. Among the uniform’s components are:
• A soft wool fez with a striped turban wrapped around it. The striped turban was unique to the 114th Pennsylvania (also known as “Collis‘ Zouaves“);
• A rib-cut jacket that later “became a very popular fashion for women,” Kufrovich said;
• A clasp, called a “frog,” that fastened the jacket at the throat;
• Powder-blue cuffs also unique to the 114th Pennsylvania;
• The number “114” stenciled in white on a knapsack;
• A red shirt that, Kufrovich admitted, “made a Zouave a good target” on the battlefield;
• A 10-yard wool sash worn around the waist. “We put it on usually with someone else helping with the wrapping,” he said;
• “Sartouches” sewn in yellow thread on the pockets;
• Pants colored “madder red,” according to Kufrovich. “It was a dye that was developed with mercury as the main pigment”;
• Canvas gaiters worn to protect “your uniform when walking through bramble bushes,” he said;
• Standard-issue federal brogans (shoes), made “with suede tops and leather soles and with heel plates to protect the heels,” Kufrovich said.
Zouave units actually predated the Civil War; young men ages 16 to 20 “would form Zouave companies in American cities and come up with fancy names for themselves,” Kufrovich said. Many such companies joined fledging state infantry regiments after the war began.
“The Lewiston Zouaves, our only company of Zouaves [from Maine], went to war” as Co. K, 1st Maine Infantry Regiment, Kufrovich said. The 1st Maine served only 90 days and missed the Battle of Manassas in July 1861.
Kufrovich became interested in Zouaves “about 13 years ago,” when “I came across some items up for auction while selling some of mine on eBay.” During the bidding on several Zouave-related items, he learned that another bidder was Gettysburg resident Shawn Grenan, “one of the foremost experts in Zouaves in the country.”
Then a Bethlehem, Penn., resident, Kufrovich contacted Grenan, a Civil War re-enactor who had organized the modern 114th Pennsylvania Infantry, a Zouave unit throughout the Civil War. “Soon I was doing drills as a 114th Pennsylvania Zouave with ‘Vincent’s Brigade,’ just outside of Gettysburg,” Kufrovich said.
“I was glad” to join the Zouave re-enactors, “as ours is the only unit doing that particular Zouave regiment in the eastern United States,” he said. “I wouldn’t have become involved in re-enacting if I couldn’t do the Zouave impression.”
Kufrovich described the 114th’s Zouave re-enactors as “a great bunch of guys” who are “quite the characters; I fit right in.” Among the many battle re-enactments in which he has participated, “one of the most memorable” involved a “tactical re-enactment, in Harper’s Ferry,” W. Va.
“We built breastworks” and “did a lot of slinking in the underbrush, so to speak,” Kufrovich said.
His first battle re-enactment, involving the Battle of Winchester in Virginia, actually took place “along the banks of the James River,” he recalled. “We were deployed as picket guard around the camp that night.”
“Out of the trees around midnight came” the question, “Hey, Yank, got anything to trade?’” he said. “It turned out to be three Confederates, who introduced themselves as ‘Robert,’ ‘Edward,’ and ‘Lee.’ They offered some sweet potatoes, which they traded with us for some beef jerky that I had.”
“It was a scene which was commonly repeated throughout the war, and it was really neat to experience it for myself,” Kufrovich said.
Wearing his 114th Pennsylvania Infantry uniform, he will discuss the life of a Zouave at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 13, in the Abbott Room at Belfast Free Library, 106 High St., Belfast. For more information, call 338-3884.