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IMEX

Set 535

American Infantry

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2008
Contents 49 figures
Poses 15 poses
Material Plastic (Fairly Hard)
Colours Blue
Average Height 25 mm (= 1.8 m)

Review

When war broke out between Mexico and the USA in 1846 the latter’s total army mustered around 6,500: An absolutely tiny force for the task at hand. As the war progressed the army was enlarged, and large numbers of volunteer units were formed and joined the campaign, yet for most engagements the US forces were outnumbered by the Mexican defenders. However the US forces were to achieve almost uninterrupted success in their devastating victory and the regulars were often praised for their bravery, tenacity and sheer enthusiasm.

Much of the US infantry was made up of volunteers who were clothed and equipped by their state, commanders or even by themselves, and therefore presented a very motley appearance. Later in the war many were clothed from central stores, but all the figures in this set are neatly clothed in regulation uniform, so we will review them on the assumption that they are regulars. As such they should be wearing their winter fatigue uniform of shell jacket, trousers and fatigue cap, which is indeed the case. This uniform has been accurately done in all respects apart from the crown of the caps, which is rather enlarged, flat and stiff when in reality it was unstiffened and less prominent than here (although these do resemble the stiffened Marine version).

All the men have a crossbelt over their left shoulder supporting their cartridge pouch, which is correct, but most are missing the haversack normally slung over the right shoulder. Many have canteens but these men seem to have slung this over whichever shoulder they please, although on the non-regulation right hip it could get in the way of the cartridge pouch. Finally the bayonet is held on the left hip, which is also correct. However there is bad news – really bad news. For some incomprehensible reason all the men (apart from those kneeling or crouching) have been given the long straight sword, a mark of rank reserved for NCOs above the rank of corporal and officers. Therefore almost every man here is a sergeant or an officer. Clearly this is ridiculous and the swords should be removed to get private soldiers. While this is merely an inconvenience all the swords are correctly slung from a belt over the right shoulder, which is much more difficult to remove.

A handful of the poses carry a knapsack, including the marching figure. This is fine when on the march but the heat meant the knapsack was not carried in action if at all possible, so the limited number here is about right. However their design is wrong, being a little like the old and disused Lherbette knapsack and not at all like the M1833 knapsack that was actually worn during the war.

Officers are usually described as wearing their regulation frock coats, but no figures here are wearing such an item. The two apparent officer poses are those with swords drawn in the third row. The first, also firing a pistol, is actually a sergeant (with sergeant chevrons pointed up as per 1847 regulations), although he does not have the sash that such a rank permitted. The second man is in fact identical to the other privates and since the designer thought that everyone had swords this is merely a private who is using his. Luckily in the field, and particularly during the heat of the Mexican day, officers sometimes wore shell jackets and closely resembled their men so this figure could to a degree be made to serve that role, although he too has no sash or other sign of rank. Strangely the figure reloading his musket in the second row does have a sash, but no chevrons on his arm or other sign of rank.

Although percussion rifles were well known by this time the US forces mostly carried old flintlock muskets at the start of the war, and as far as we can see this is the weapon carried by everyone here. The muskets are of a good length but few have fixed a bayonet, which is rather short on one pose.

The 15 poses in this set cover all the basics and are pretty well done. Lots of the marching pose is always a good thing, and plenty of firing and advancing poses works well too. There was a good deal of hand-to-hand fighting in this war, so the clubbing man is a good inclusion, although he seems to be clubbing something on the ground. Clubbing poses are hard to realise in such figures, but this one is better than most. The dead figure is fine as is the man with hand bandaged and arm slung, although the flag bearer falling wounded does mean there are a lot of casualties here. The poses with drawn swords we have already discussed, and we really would have liked to have seen an obvious officer pose included. Having two flag men seems like overkill, especially since both are in unusual poses. The drummer however is excellent.

The general standard of sculpting is beyond reproach, with excellent detail and great proportions. The only assembly is for the stooping flag bearer, who has a separate arm, but otherwise the sculptor has achieved lifelike and believable poses without resorting to multiple parts. Flash is virtually non-existent and there is no excess plastic. The plastic is the stiff poseable variety used in other IMEX sets, which is a useful feature although only a few of the poses could make use of such adjustment.

In short then we have a set that has been produced to top quality technical standards but suffers from a lack of basic historical research. As noted many volunteer units were clothed as the regulars later in the war, and of course at any one moment such volunteers could have worn any knapsack or sword they liked, but this set should have reflected the standard appearance of the US forces, which it does not. A shame that such good work is spoilt by inadequate preparation.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 7
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 9
Sculpting 10
Mould 10

Further Reading
Books
"Don Troiani's Soldiers in America 1754-1865" - Stackpole Books - Earl J Coates & James L Kochan - 9780811705196
"Mexican-American War 1846-48" - Brassey's (History of Uniforms Series) - Ron Field - 9781857532104
"The Mexican War 1846-1848" - Osprey (Essential Histories Series No.25) - Douglas V Meed - 9781841764726
"The Mexican-American War 1846-1848" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.56) - Philip R N Katcher - 9780850452532
"The United States Infantry 1775-1918" - Blandford - Gregory Urwin - 9780713717570
"US Infantry Equipments 1775-1910" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.214) - Philip Katcher - 9780850459364
"World Uniforms and Battles 1815-50" - Blandford (Colour Series) - Philip Haythornthwaite - 9780713707762
Magazines
"Military Illustrated" - No.42
"Military Illustrated" - No.40

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