Zouaves (Arab. Zwaica), a body of French infantry, deriving their name from a tribe of Kabyles in Algeria, whose fighting men have been noted throughout North Africa for generations. After the occupation of Algiers in 1830, a body of these mercenary troops in the service of the dey were incorporated into the French army, with French officers, discipline, and arms. Frenchmen were also distributed among the companies as private soldiers, but the Arab dress was retained. The corps was afterward reorganized into distinct companies of Frenchmen and Arabs, and in 1837 it was divided into three battalions under Col. (afterward Gen.) Lamoriciere. To this officer and his successor Gen. Cavaignac was due the great efficiency of the Zouaves in the many conflicts which preceded the final conquest of Algeria. Long before this time, however, the native element had been eliminated, and after 1840 the Zouaves were simply European troops uniformed as Arabs. In the Crimean war they proved the elite of the French infantry; and during the Italian campaign of 1859 they fully sustained their reputation. In 1852 they were reorganized into three regiments of three battalions each, to which in 1855 a fourth regiment was added.
In the reorganization of the army under the law of March 13, 1875, the Zouaves consist of four regiments, each of four battalions, each battalion containing five companies, in all about 16,000 men; and three of the regiments are in the 19th army corps in Algeria. They are armed with carbines having sword bayonets, and their dress consists of a loose jacket and waistcoat of dark blue cloth, red Turkish trowsers, red fez with yellow tassel, green turban, sky-blue sash, yellow leather leggings, and white gaiters. The officers' uniform is that of the French infantry officers. During the civil war in the United States a few volunteer regiments were uniformed as Zouaves and so called; and several militia regiments in different states also bear the name.