VERY SCARCE EARLY CIVIL WAR NEW YORK RECRUITING AND RENDEZVOUS BANNER FOR A COMPANY OF THE “NATIONAL GUARD ZOUAVES” CA. APRIL 1861

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Item Code: 1052-171

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This colorful call for volunteers reads “HEAD-QUARTERS – OF – CAPT. GOTT’S / COMPANY / National Guard / ZOUAVES.” The lettering is done in black with red highlights and the last line. “ZOUAVES” is emphatically shadowed in pale green. The banner is made of linen, about 35 1/2” by 31 ½” nicely matted and framed somewhat larger, about 40 by 36, and shows nice color to the paint along with some minor stains, foxing and a few small holes. The top edge shows signs of what were likely five ties used to hang it outside a window or above a door to draw eager recruits in the days immediately following Fort Sumter.

The “National Guard Zouaves” was one of the names used by the 10th New York Infantry and was derived from the militia unit forming its Company A. The regiment was organized in New York City immediately after Fort Sumter, with the first two companies mustering on April 27, six more on April 30, and the last two May 2 and May 7. The banner thus likely dates to late April or very early May when there was still a chance that a hopeful captain with enough men enrolled to muster in the beginnings of a company might gain a spot in the regiment. Gott was apparently closed out of the opportunity either because he did not raise the minimum number necessary in time to claim a captaincy or because of the regiment’s reported determination to accept only officers from the old 7th New York or the regular army. He did, however, succeed in getting a commission as Captain of Co. C 57th NY Volunteers and as Lieutenant Colonel of 174th New York, seeing action on the Peninsula and then in the deep south.

Benjamin F. Gott was born in 1834 and was a watch maker by profession. He had served in the NY State Militia since 1850, rising from private to lieutenant in Co. B of the 8th NYSM in 1854 and apparently serving with them until 1857. He then became associated with Co. A of that unit, the State Fencibles, though apparently as drill instructor and was not on the rolls of the regiment when it was called into service for three months on April 20, leaving for Washington on April 23. With both the 8th NYSM and the 10th NYV off the table he apparently formed “Co. A, the Brooklyn Greys” in Williamsburg, where newspapers reported the company as 125 strong and Gott receiving both a flag for the unit and sword for himself at July 4 ceremonies. The company later formed the nucleus of the 47th NYSM, but by August had lost men to other units and recruiting drives and was down to a “corporal’s guard.” The paper blamed the lack of a convenient armory for recruiting and drill, noting that Gott had been forced to change locations in rented rooms several times.

Gott bounced back, however, shortly thereafter, gaining a commission as Captain of Co. C of Samuel Zook’s 57th New York, enrolling October 16, gaining a commission on December 21, giving him rank from November 12, the date of muster in. It is possible that in bringing the company up to strength he brought out this banner once more: one of the nicknames of the 57th was the “National Guard Rifles,” which he may have deemed close enough, with “zouaves” being even more enticing. In any case, he served with the regiment in its first campaign, the Peninsula, and in its first battle, Fair Oaks, June 1, 1862. He tendered his resignation shortly after, which was accepted as of June 14. He rejoined the army, however, just four months later, gaining a commission as Lieutenant Colonel of the 174th NY (the “Fifth Metropolitan”) on Nov. 20, 1862 to date from muster in on Oct. 15. With the consolidation of the regiment with the 162nd NY, he was discharged with that rank on February 9, 1864, which was retroactively changed to Colonel as of Oct. 17, 1863, to reflect a commission granted on November 25. During his time with the regiment, sometimes in command, they took part in the operations against and siege of Port Hudson, and the battle at Plain Store and at Bayou La Fourche, losing one officer and twenty-two killed or mortally wounded in battle.

Gott was active in the G.A.R. and Loyal Legion after the war, and was one of seven officers selected as McClellan’s funeral escort from New York City to New Jersey. He s worked in the jewelry business and in wholesale liquor, but also held civic office as Commissioner of the Board of Charities and Corrections for King’s County, where he was involved in a certain amount of “jugglery” in the awarding of contracts and could not explain how a $100,000 surplus turned into a $250,000 deficit, or why ten workers might be paid for a day’s work in the pay ledger, but only two were listed in the work ledger. His departure from the 57th was also a bit cloudy. One obituary says it was due to disease of the liver and kidneys. An 1864 letter in a newspaper defends his courage against allegations of misbehavior on the peninsula and says locals chafing at his discipline were out to get him, pointing to an inquiry before he joined the 174th that supposedly resulted in appointment as Lieutenant Colonel rather than Major. On the other hand, Adjutant Josiah Favill says that in the aftermath of Fair Oaks that Col. Zook directed him to order two officers to hand in their resignations. The truth is probably in there somewhere.

This is a great looking banner that would really standout in a display of recruiting posters and broadsides, particularly those dating immediately after the firing on Fort Sumter. Those served to make men aware of units seeking members. This was the banner that told them where to enter to actually put down their names in writing. [sr] [ph:L]

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