Louisiana Tiger Rifles talk scheduled for Saturday

Friday, February 24, 2012

FRANKLIN — A mascot synonymous with Louisiana’s renowned flagship university, the “Louisiana tigers’ ” origin dates back to the American Civil War with a fierce band of Confederate soldiers.

Known as the Louisiana Tiger Rifles, the Confederate infantrymen consisted of mostly rough-and-tumble Mississippi River steamboat men who earned a reputation as the “toughest fighting men in the whole war,” historian and author Michael Dan Jones said.

On Saturday, Jones will give a presentation on the Tiger Rifles, Company B, First Special Battalion at 1:30 p.m. inside the Young-Sanders Center in Franklin.

The battalion,  established in 1861, was commanded by Maj. Roberdeau Wheat and is most noted for its combat role in the First Battle of Manassas in Virginia.

Aside from their unyielding mettle on the battlefield, what also set the Tiger Rifles soldiers apart were their traditional flashy French uniforms that included fezzes and pantaloons, which became known as “Tiger Zouaves.”

“The Tiger Zuave originated in North Africa in the 1830s with the native influence on the French Army, who had colonies there,” Jones said. “The uniforms became popular in the 1850s during the Crimean War. And with Louisiana’s long-standing French tradition it just became a sort of a fad.”

A replica of one the battalion’s famous Tiger Zouaves will be on display at the center on Saturday as well as Baton Rouge arsenal accoutrements and a Mississippi rifle similar to those carried by the Tigers.

There has yet to be actual photographs unearthed of the Tiger Rifles, Jones said. Such a find could be considered the “the holy grail” for many historians, he said. However artistic renderings of the battalion also will be display on Saturday.

Jones, a Texas native who lives in Lake Charles, is the author of “The Tiger Rifles: Making of a Louisiana Legend.”

His research has been steered toward deciphering facts from the many myths behind the famous and infamous soldiers known for their hard fighting on the battlefield and uninhibited behavior off the field.

“Being steamboat men they were known for their carousing behavior,” Jones said. “Many of them were boisterous Irish immigrants from New Orleans and they loved to fight and sometimes that didn’t serve them well at camp. They were wild, but they were so instrumental in so many of the battles that they fought during the war.”

Jones’ presentation is open to the public and is free of charge. The Young-Sanders Center is located one block from the St. Mary Parish Courthouse at 701 Teche Drive.

© Copyright 2012, The Daily Iberian

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