There is a myth about the cavalry of the Confederacy, and that says that they were superior to that of the Union because the Southerners came from farms where they knew how to handle horses and guns from an early age, whereas the Northerners came from cities where such skills were not needed. In reality the South did have the advantage in quality of cavalry, but only for the first two years of the war, despite the fact that many from the North were actually every bit as rural as those in the seceding states. As the war rolled on it was the economic and industrial power of the North, coupled with its much larger population, that increasingly told in the struggle, and the Northern cavalry came to see itself as equal to that of the South, if not superior. Nevertheless the reputation of the South’s horsemen never entirely disappeared, yet for a very long time this hobby could boast no American Civil War cavalry at all. This set, along with the IMEX product, would put that right.
This was the first, and as it turned out the only, set from Gulliver, and for a first effort in a still relatively small hobby it is impressive. You get 15 figures in 10 poses, and a generous six horse poses as well, so there is good scope for variety. With the cavalry of the Confederacy variety is very important, since the men provided their own mounts and equipment, and sometimes their own clothing and weapons too, so the result was often inevitably a mix which may have looked untidy but still proved effective. The clothing on these figures shows a number of styles, though all wear a waist-length jacket which was by far the most popular form of garment when in the saddle. Most wear brimmed hats of various styles, including one that looks to have an old dragoon cap, and only a few have the kepi cap, which reflects well on the actual usage in the field as the cap was not nearly as practical as the hat. Only one man has long riding boots, which is good to see, so we have no problem with any of the clothing here, or the general mix of items to reflect the arm as a whole.
An area of concern however is in the large number of sabres to be found here. Half the poses are holding such a weapon, and indeed everyone is armed with one, yet the reality was rather different. Dashing though a sword may be, most preferred a carbine or similar firearm, and one or more pistols. Actually coming into face-to-face contact with an enemy was a fairly rare event for the cavalry, which had to contend with infantry and artillery that could fire rapidly and accurately at great distances, so a sword was of little value except as an intimidating tool and very many were discarded at the first opportunity. Very often when in action, cavalry would have to dismount to fire, thus being essentially mounted infantry, where a sabre is more of an encumbrance than a benefit. So ideally we would have liked to see many more than the single pose armed with the carbine, and many more than the two who are using pistols – all at the expense of men holding, or even equipped with, a sabre.
While the choice of weapon is a major factor in the selection of poses, we have few complaints about the poses that are here. All the swordsmen poses are quite reasonable, if tending to be fairly flat, and the rest are pretty nice – we particularly liked the man apparently shooting at a lower target with his pistol, so clearly close to his adversary where the pistol could be effective.
Some of the horse poses are OK, but some exhibit the same problems of unnatural gait that is so common in many sets. All of them appear to be at full gallop, or rearing up, so would make for a dramatic charge but not much else, so if you want cavalry on picket or scouting then there are no suitable horses here. The horse with only one hoof on the ground suffers from the lack of support, so a strategically placed rock or clump of grass would have fixed this problem. All the animals are quite well endowed with saddlery and items such as rolled blankets and saddle bags, though none seem to have any canteen, which is strange as none of the men carry this essential item either, and haversacks are also lacking. Speaking of essential items, no animal here has a rein, so control will be an issue. However the men fit comfortably in the saddles, and even grip them (as real cavalry must), making gluing unnecessary.
Of the general sculpting, the detail is not as sharp as in some sets, but there is not a lot of flash and overall this is quite a good-looking set. It seems the earlier sets were better on the flash issue, with later batches suffering more from this, particularly on some of the horses’ legs. A handful of the figures are rather flat (such as the man using his pistol), but the general proportions are OK. On the whole the men are quite upright in the saddle, so are not quite as animated as you might expect, particularly those given a sabre to wield.
Sadly, this is the one and only product this short-lived company ever produced. It is a pity that this company did not survive to produce more sets as they set themselves a high standard to follow. While the sculpting could have been sharper, and there is too much emphasis on the sword, with little on firearms and the attendant accessories (none of the swordsmen are even provided with a carbine or any pistols), the wide range of poses for both horse and man are good to see. The evident concern about authenticity and giving good value leaves us wondering what delights could have come from this company if it had continued production, but as it is this single set is likely to feature on the wish list of most enthusiasts of the American Civil War.