The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

One Special Young Man

What was it about the b’hoys?

B’hoy was an imitation of the Irish speech in New York City, and Ellsworth wanted to create a Zouave Brigade composed entirely of New York City firemen. By imitating their speech—at least on occasion—and by inspiring them to join the Union cause, Ellsworth performed a great service for the North. He made military service fashionable.

On arriving in New York City, Ellsworth declared his intention to enlist 1,000 men. He had that number within a single day. The New York firemen were volunteers, aggressive men, and natural brawlers. Some people criticized the Zouaves on first sight, and quite a few historians single them out for negative treatment: their poor fighting at the Battle of Bull Run earned them a lot of disparaging comments. But in the early days and weeks of the war, there was nothing more exciting than a Zouave, and of them, the New York Fire Zouaves were the best of all.


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