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Regimental History of the Hawkins Zouaves

April to December 1861
January to December 1862
January to May 1863
June 1863 to Present

    The following information is an outline history of the Ninth (9th) New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment from its beginings as the "New York Zouaves" in 1860, its service as the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the service of its members in other regiments, its existence as the 1st N.Y. National Guard, and then as the Hawkins Zouaves Association. Anyone wishing to submit additional information (photos, documents, artifacts, etc..) regarding the regiment please contact the Webmaster.


Early History of Rush Hawkins "New York Zouaves"

    On July 23rd, 1860, Mr. Rush C. Hawkins of New York City, New York, and several others came together and first conceived the idea of organizing a Company of Zouaves in the city of New York, the name chosen for the group was simple enough, “The New York Zouaves.” The initial meetings were held and the idea was accepted and the work of securing a meeting place and drill room were begun, the Mercer House was secured for these purpose and the work was begun with a will. In the original Company By-Laws drafted by the men of the “New York Zouaves” Colonel Rush Hawkins gave the following introduction which explained the purposes of the organization:

    “In forming an Independent Military Organization there are a great number of things of special importance to be taken into consideration in order to affect anything approaching perfection. There must of necessity be many absolute and positive rules, which must be carried out to the letter.

    “In the first place, equality of social feeling should be inculcated to the most unlimited extent. All should be considered alike and treated alike; nothing like favoritism should be allowed to creep in; efficiency and good character should be the only recommendation to preferment, and no one, by reason of a superior social position, should be allowed to usurp the place which merit should occupy. A feeling of brotherhood and kindliness should be cultivated. This is necessary in order to assure harmony. All measures should be adopted with as much unanimity as possible, so that there may be no feeling of dissention. When any measure has been adopted every man should carry it out to the very letter. An interest and pride in excelling should ever be upper-most in the minds of all. Nothing like carelessness in demeanor, while on duty, should ever betray itself. The moment a man becomes careless he ceases to be of use to himself or to others. The idea has been circulated that this organization has been formed in imitation of our Chicago brethren. Such is not the case. We shall not imitate; we intend to create for ourselves and manage our affairs after our own style of thinking.

    “One most essential points of difference will be that we do not intend to make laws to govern the conduct of members while off duty. We do not believe that it is requisite to place a cordon of laws around men, in order to compel them to become decent and respectable citizens; but we shall endeavor by example to raise the standard of character so high that each one will feel that if he conducts himself otherwise than as a gentleman, he will be disgraced in his own good opinion, and in the opinion of his comrades. We do not believe that any part of mankind was ever changed from blackguards to gentlemen by the force of strict laws. One who will not, of his own accord, conduct himself properly, cannot be improved by the force of legislation. We, therefore, believe it just that no attempt should be made to exercise any control over the members of this Corps while off duty.

    “Still we would add that good conduct and character, together with obedience to the instincts of truth and the dictates of honor, will detract nothing from the man, nor make the soldier less efficient.

    “We would assert, as a rule, that those who would excel as soldiers must be patient and industrious, quick, and willing to obey orders; they must pay strict attention to duty, and be cleanly in person and dress.

    “These qualities, coupled with a desire to learn and be instructed, will, in time, make soldiers fit to command and to be commanded.

    “We should also like to have each man made to feel that a uniform of glaring colors neither makes a man nor a soldier; but that the conduct efficiency and bearing of the wearer must decide whether he is a soldier, who knows what he professes, or a fool, wearing a uniform, not knowing why, except that it panders to his vanity, which is satisfied in exciting the ridicule of the sensible, the wonder of small boys, and the admiration of fools.

    Once formed the company did not elect officers but instead each man signed on as a private and might be leading the company one day, and then serving in the ranks the next. To assist in learning the proper drill Rush Hawkins secured the detail of a Regular United States Army Sergeant, Sergeant Louis Benzoni, from nearby Governor’s Island to serve as the Drill Sergeant of the company; at the drills he would designate the acting Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeant, and Corporals, and then begin the work of instruction, through this system each member learned the duties of the man above and below him.

    As the group grew in numbers it became necessary to move to a larger location and as such the headquarters were moved to the corner of Thompson & Fourth Streets (the site is the current location of the Judson Memorial Church) in New York where the company had access to the Washington Parade Ground for their drills. It was here that the company was based when the Secession of South Carolina took place in December of 1860, and the services of the company became necessary.

    When the South Carolina forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, on April 14th, 1861, the news went out across the wires and the entire country north and south reacted. In New York City on April 15th the members of the company came together and decided to take immediate action and tendered their services to the Governor of New York, with the purpose being to organize not just the company but a full regiment of Zouaves, as such Rush Hawkins arrived in Albany, New York, on the morning of April 16th, having left from New York City on the eleven o’clock train the night before, the sun rose with Rush Hawkins sitting on the steps of the State Capital awaiting the arrival of the Governor who after a brief interview in which the regimental history states “the business in hand was attended to in the most direct manner and no words wasted,” Hawkins walked out with the verbal authority to form the regiment, the parting words of the governor being “Yours is the first tender of services I have had.”

    Returning to New York City he found that the members had already begun actively recruiting and he used the company as the nucleus around which the newly organized Ninth (9th) New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Hawkins Zouaves, would be based on, many of the officers of the regiment having been members of the original company. Among those names were Rush C. Hawkins, George A.C. Barnett, William Barnett, Otto W. Parisen, William W. Hamill, Matthew J. Graham, Adolphe Libraire and Charles Childs.


A N.Y. Zouave, ca. 1860
Unknown Officer
Unknown Zouave
Unknown Zouave

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