Civil War Fire Department Button
When President Lincoln asked for 75,000 volunteers to defend the Union on April 15, 1861, many volunteer firefighters responded. In Chicago, twenty-four-year-old Elmer E. Ellsworth eagerly answered the call, interested in the French Zouaves (the be-all and end-all of military at that time) who wore fancy dress. The French Zouaves uniform consisted of: short blue jackets, baggy bloomer-like red trousers, reddish brown boots and red fez. Though Ellsworth was not a fireman, he recruited volunteer firefighters as they were disciplined, brave and physically fit. Five days after Lincolnâ€™s announcement 1,200 men had enlisted. On April 30, 1861, the First New York Zouave, called the First New York Zouaves, headed to Washington, D.C.
Another unit of firemen in New York formed the Second New York Fire Zouaves. This regiment suffered losses at Williamsburg, Second Bull Run, and at Gettysburg.
In Philadelphia, firemen volunteered immediately. Six days after Lincoln sent out the call firemen formed the 23rd Regiment. They were the first unit to leave the city. Though their tour was only three months, they chose to reorganize and remained a unit throughout the war. They were known as Birneyâ€™s Fire Zouaves. An additional 1,600 men from Philadelphia fire companies became the 72nd Regiment and were known as Baxterâ€™s Philadelphia Fire Zouaves. These regiments also wore showy uniforms and focused on precision drilling. On July 3, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, the Baxterâ€™s Philadelphia Fire Zouaves now numbering 458 lost 192 of their men.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania had a unit called the Union Guards. Many members of Lancasterâ€™s Union Fire Company fought in this regiment and provided financial support as well.
Little information is available about firefighters who fought for the South. It is recorded that in Atlanta, Mechanic Fire Co. No. 2 formed a unit and served under that name during the war and in Norfolk, Virginia volunteers made up a large percentage of the crew for the ironclad Merrimack.
Size Large, approximately 7/8", used on Great Coats and Frock Coats.
Size Small, approximately 5/8", used on Caps, Vests, Cuffs, Overcoat Capes, etc.