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“A Break: Playing Cards” by Julian Scott

"A Break: Playing Cards" by Julian Scott

“A Break: Playing Cards” by Julian Scott

“A Break: Playing Cards” by Julian Scott depicts a tranquil pastime between battles. Scott composed a balanced composition, arranging the flag, drum, and rifles with detailed precision.

The military uniforms show two soldiers wear the standard blue uniform of the Union Army. At the same time, the two seated figures are state militia volunteers, who wore their own uniforms.

The seated soldier at right represents a Green Mountain Brigade volunteer from Vermont. The card player in the red hat is in the Zouave costume derived from the French army’s famous battalion.

The distinctive uniforms of the Zouave units were of North African origin. It generally included short open-fronted jackets, baggy trousers, sashes, and a fez-like chéchia head-dress.

Julian Scott’s artistic career grew out of his service in the Civil War. In 1861, at age 15, he enlisted as a musician in the Third Vermont Regiment.

After the war, he received formal training, and his military compositions became popular. Although this painting was completed in 1881, it was based on his Civil War experience. 


The Zouaves were a class of light infantry regiments of the French Army serving between 1830 and 1962 and linked to French North Africa and some units of other countries modeled upon them. The Zouaves were among the most decorated units of the French Army.

The first Zouave regiment was a mixture of Berber, Arab, French European, and black volunteers. In the 1860s, new units in several other countries called themselves Zouaves. 

In the United States, Zouaves were brought to public attention by the “Zouave Cadets.”  Zouave units were then raised on both sides of the American Civil War of 1861–65.

Numerous Zouave regiments were organized from soldiers of the United States of America who adopted the name and the North African–inspired uniforms during the American Civil War.

The Union army had more than seventy volunteer Zouave regiments throughout the conflict, while the Confederates fielded about twenty-five Zouave companies.

A feature of some American Zouave units was the light infantry tactics and drill they employed. They moved at double-time, rather than marching.

They lay on their backs to load their rifles rather than standing to do so, and to fire, they rolled to face forward and shoot.

Vermont Volunteer Units

During the American Civil War, the State of Vermont continued the Green Mountain Boys’ military tradition of American Revolutionary War fame.

More than 28,100 Vermonters served in Vermont volunteer units. Vermonters suffered a total of 1,832 men killed or mortally wounded in battle. Another 3,362 died of disease, in prison, or from other causes.

Julian Scott

Julian A. Scott (1846 – 1901) was born in Vermont and served as a Union Army drummer during the American Civil War, where he received America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. 

He was also an American painter and Civil War artist. While recuperating from an injury, Scott took up sketching vignettes of army life. 

When the war was over, he traveled to Paris and Stuttgart to continue his education. 

Returning to the United States, Scott traveled west as part of a census party, painting Native Americans in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma. 

A Break: Playing Cards

Julian Scott

Julian Scott

A Virtual Tour Indianapolis Museum of Art

Zouaves and Chasseurs – American Civil War

A Tour of the Museums in Washington, D.C.

Zouave Uniform

Zouaves: The Civil War


“We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.”
– Isabel Allende


Photo Credit: 1) Julian Scott [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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