Black Zoaves in Barbados

Black Soldiers of the West India Regiment, 1850s
Source: Print by R. Sinkin, held by the Barbados Museum; for more details, go here.
From the website The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. Image Reference NW0268

Some folks can’t get enough of the Zoave look. None of the black troops who fought in the Civil War wore Zoave-type uniforms, but we can get a vicarious feel for that by reference to the West Indian Zoaves.

This image is from the website The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record. As noted there

[This] colored print [shows] troops in their dress uniforms with white turbans, red coats, blue serge trousers, etc.; and white officers. These “Zoave” uniforms were adopted for the West India Regiments on the suggestion of Queen Victoria; they were based on the uniform worn by light infantry recruited for the French army in Algeria. In an early period, many of the black soldiers in the West India Regiments (first formed in the mid-1790s) were purchased or captured slaves, many African-born; later they included free people of color.

Black troops initially stationed in Barbados in the 1790s were purchased or captured slaves who primarily came from the French Caribbean territories; later, the British Army recruited these people in Barbados and by the early 1820s, free people of color in Barbados were also recruited to the 1st West India regiment.


2 thoughts on “Black Zoaves in Barbados

  1. Interesting; I didn’t realize that the British had adopted the Zouave style, even for colonial troops. It’s funny how military fashion — for that’s what it amounts to — picks up stylings from other countries. Lots of nations, including the United States, picked up the Prussian pickelhaube headgear after the Franco-Prussian War in the early 1870s.

    Colonialism still influences military styles and traditions; how else to explain tartan-wearing Pakistani bagpipers?

  2. What we call the kilt (“cloth” < "tucked-up" as the Great Kilt was usually raised to the knees) is not unique to Scotland but was the common men's clothing in most lands throughout the ages. The "trews" (trousers) are a relatively recent introduction credited to the Scythian horsemen. The bagpipe is an ancient instrument, predating many of the instruments we use today.

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