site logo
Confederate flag

Confederate Battalion

1st Louisiana (Zouaves) Infantry Battalion

"Coppens' Zouaves"


Commanding Officer on the Sharpsburg Campaign:
  LCol. M. Coppens


This Battalion's Chain of Command:
  Army - Army of Northern Virginia
  Corps - Jackson's Command
  Division - Jackson's Division
  Brigade - Starke's Brigade

Unit history

The First Louisiana Zouaves were organized for twelve months on March 27, 1861 and were restructured for the duration of the war in April of 1862. Following the battle of Sharpsburg, the battalion was so reduced in strength that they were reorganized as regulars in Confederate service as the Confederate States Zouave Battalion. The initial enrollment of the battalion's six companies was 616 officers and men, of these 52 were killed in battle, 26 died of disease, and 2 died accidentally. The composition of the companies was rumored to be recruits from the jails and prisons of New Orleans, but, the members were for the most part laborers and workmen. The third company was comprised mostly of men of French or Louisiana Creole French heritage; the fifth company was predominantly native born, English speaking Americans, and about 20 percent of the battalion's men were of Swiss origin. With nationalities represented in the ranks including German, Italian, Spanish, Irish, and English, the battalion was easily the closest thing to a foreign legion that the Confederate Army had. The actions of the Zouaves on and off the battlefield led to their being referred to as Jeff Davis' Pet Wolves, and ultimately to all Louisiana soldiers eventually being called "tigers."

"Jefferson Davis himself gave Gaston Coppens his commission as a Lieutenant Colonel, as well as permission to form the Zouave battalion. As a disciplinarian and organizer, Coppens would fail miserably, but on the battlefield leading his men, he excelled. Coppens used his position and influence to grant some of his family members positions within his unit. His younger brother, Marie Alfred, commanded Company F, and eventually would take over the battalion. Leon, another brother, was a sergeant, and his father, Baron August De Coppens served as quartermaster for much of the war. While family members received some favoritism, Coppens was savvy enough to find and recruit officers into his staff with experience in either the state militia or in European armies. Most notable was his second-in-command Major Waldemar Hylsted, from Switzerland, who served with the United States in the Mexican War, the French Army in the Crimean War, and as a Captain in the Danish Army. Also of note were Fulgence de Bordenave, a French officer with Algerian and Crimean War experience, who spoke no English, and commanded Company B, and Paul F. DeGournay, commanding Company E, who served as an officer in the Louisiana Militia's Battalion d'Artillery d'Orleans."

On the Sharpsburg Campaign

"The Battle of Shaprsburg began at first light with Federal artillery firing on the brigades of Douglass, Trimble, and Hays. The Second Louisiana Brigade held its reserve position, until finally called upon to help repel the assault of General Hooker's Division. Starke's men came down the west side of the sunken road, through a small patch of woods, and crashed headlong into the attacking Federals. General Starke fell dead, pierced by three balls, as both sides unleashed tremendous volleys into each other. It was once again the tough western regiments of the Iron Brigade that the Louisianians battled in the West Woods and along the Hagerstown Pike this day. Although their stand was defiant, the overwhelming pressure of the Union numbers forced the Brigade to fall back to new positions near the Dunker Church where the remained for the remainder of the battle. The Zouave Battalion which had marched so proudly out of New Orleans with 600 men, now presented only 12 men present for duty. As the lists of the casualties from the bloodiest day in American history were compiled, the name of Lieutenant Colonel Gaston Coppens was numbered with the dead. Marie Alfred Coppens was to remain in command of the Zouaves as the retreat south began."

Map Showing this Unit

Battlefield Tablets for this Unit

Tablet #314: Jackson's Command - 15 Sep, 4 PM to 16 Sep, 10 PM
Tablet #381: Jackson's Division, Jackson's Command - 16 Sep, 4 PM to 16 Sep, 7 PM
Tablet #375: Starke's Brigade, Jackson's Division - 16 Sep, 6 PM to 17 Sep, 10 AM
Tablet #315: Jackson's Command - 17 Sep, 5 AM to 17 Sep, 10 AM
Tablet #382: Jackson's Division, Jackson's Command - 17 Sep, 5 AM to 17 Sep, 7 AM
Tablet #382, cont: Jackson's Division, Jackson's Command - 17 Sep, 7 AM to 17 Sep, 9 AM

References & Notes

Quotes above from the Coppens' Zouaves history by John Persinger.

We have 2 individuals in the AotW database who were on the Maryland Campaign with this unit:


Co. Rank Name Casualty? Details*
CCaptZacharie, Howard Henderson        We have a picture for this person We have some details for this person
F&SLColCoppens, Marie Alfred        We have a picture for this person We have some details for this person


* If there's a symbol in the Details column ...

We have a picture for this person - We have a picture for this person
We have further details for this person - We have details beyond name and rank
Click on their last name to see more