|1st Special Louisiana Battalion, Wheat's Tigers, First Manassas, 1861|
|Of all the units that took the field at the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861, none exceeded the flair and intensity of the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion, "Wheat's Tigers." Raised from the dregs of New Orleans, the Tigers, who were primarily Irish immigrant dockworkers, were as tough and resolute as their combative commander, Major Roberdeau Wheat. One observer expressed a widely held view that they were the "lowest scum of the lower Mississippi...adventurous wharf rats, thieves, and outcasts...and bad characters generally."
The first great battle of the war had ended in Southern victory. Wheat's little band of Louisiana Tigers had been instrumental in bringing about the Southern success. Its actions on Matthews Hill gave the Confederate Army time to shuffle enough forces to make a stand on Henry Hill. And on Henry Hill, the place where the Federals were ultimately driven back, the Tigers again distinguished themselves, charging and then holding a section of guns.
The uniform of choice for this unit was the Zouave, originally worn by Algerian units fighting for the French, prior to the American Civil War. The men were issued red wool fezzes with blue tassels; loose fitting red woolen, placketed battle shirts; red woolen sashes; dark-blue wool, waist-length Zouave jackets with red trim; blue-and-white striped sailor's socks; blue-and-white striped cotton pantaloons cut in the baggy Zouave fashion; white canvas leggings and black leather grieves. The Tigers were known to have carried large knives instead of the bayonet. After firing a volley with their muskets they would charge headlong into the Union skirmish lines hacking and stabbing the Yankee troops.