Submitted by Gerald Howard
June / July 2011
Thomas ‘the Zouave’ Delaney
This hand-colored daguerrotype is of my great-grandfather Thomas Delaney. According to notes left by my mother, he was “born in Ireland in 1843 and died in New York City in 1887.” An historical anecdote in this connection is that he went off to the Civil War as an eighteen-year-old private in the Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry (Zouaves), one of the most renowned fighting units of the Civil War.
Their colorful Zouave uniform, based on the French Zouaves, was part of a craze that swept the United States on the eve of the Civil War. All told, the Union Army fielded 70 Zouaves volunteer regiments, while the Confederates’ Zouave regiments numbered 25. The Fifth New York was considered by many to be the best-drilled volunteer unit in the Federal Army. It also suffered the highest number of casualties in the shortest time. During the Battle of Second Bull Run, 120 men of the 525 man regiment were killed.
Thomas was wounded in the little-known but hard-fought engagement of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862. This is verified by the regimental history of the Fifth Volunteers, which I have a copy of but have only read sparingly, so fragile is the binding.
He was married to my great-grandmother Catherine McBride, who was born in New York City in 1847; my mother’s name was, no surprise, Catherine.
Family lore has it that Thomas ran a saloon in Greenwich Village after the war, easy to believe; I understand he hailed from County Cork. I presume that the term “Volunteers” means what it says and Great-Granddad signed on for the great struggle rather than being drafted.