Cavalry bring class to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl, or at least that was the opinion of many during the 19th century. Certainly some saw it as both the most prestigious and the 'softest' of the arms of service, and few armies held their cavalry in higher esteem than the Confederate. Many Americans of the time had been brought up in a rural environment where the care and use of horses were second nature, and the greater mobility that riding a horse offered meant men could forage far and wide rather than be confined to a column like the infantry. Yet with no Confederate cavalry from either Airfix or Esci, there was a long wait before a set like this one appeared in the hobby.
The first thing that strikes you about this set is the number of dismounted figures in it. Not many companies make dismounted cavalry figures, but here there are six foot poses compared to five mounted. The five mounted include a nice officer and standard-bearer, plus troopers with a sabre, pistols and a carbine. Given the nature of the Civil War, it was increasingly common for men to discard their sabres as useless and only use firearms, but this does preclude these figures from representing a charge, especially as all the troopers are looking to their side rather than straight ahead. The man with the sabre is in a rather curious pose that is not particularly realistic.
Four of the six dismounted figures are also cavalry. The men forking hay and carrying water are nice representations of the everyday appearance of cavalry out of battle, while the other two are useful reminders of the frequent occasions when cavalry acted as infantry for various reasons. Both these last men carry a Colt revolver with a shoulder stock, which was a fairly unusual weapon that mostly saw service early in the War. The last two dismounted figures are simply infantry, and their inclusion in this set is a puzzle.
All the figures are correctly dressed and all are properly armed. The short shell jacket, known as a ‘roundabout’, was popular when in the saddle, and many here wear this. The trooper with the carbine seems to have his fastened only with the top button, which was common. This man also has the good fortune to wear a pair of boots – many were less fortunate and simply wore shoes like the other troopers here, so this is a good variety. Officers pleased themselves in terms of uniform, but this one looks good, and the man with the guidon has braiding on the chest in the hussar fashion that was not especially common but was popular, particularly with some of the privately raised units where the uniform could differ considerably from the regulations. The troopers all wear the kepi hat – an item that was not nearly as practical, or as popular, as the simple brimmed hat worn by the officer and bearer. A minority seem to have retained the kepi in the field, so in this regard these troops are not entirely representative of the look of Confederate cavalry, though this would vary greatly between units and at different times during the War. Finally, the main items of kit are here – pistol holster, canteen, cartridge box and cap pouch – plus some haversacks, but perhaps not quite as much as they should be, since all were pretty essential.
Detail is good and there is little flash. The riders fit their horses fairly well, but are not so tight as to grip them, so glue is required. The standard could be rectangular, although the swallow's tail is known, but all those with a scabbard have it 'hovering' some way from the body in an unrealistic and bizarre fashion. Both the foot cavalrymen would have considerable difficulty running with their long scabbards too, which is another reason they might have discarded them or left them on the saddle. However the proportions of the figures are excellent and this is a good sculpting job.
The three horse poses are not too bad, and the saddlery and bridles look OK. Since Confederate cavalry provided their own animals and furniture this varied enormously, but nothing here looks wrong. If anything the horses are somewhat over-supplied with canteens, saddle bags and the like, in a way that would be unusually complete for the time.
This is an interesting set with some good figures, and pretty well researched. With such a diverse subject as Confederate cavalry it would not be possible to reflect all of it in one set like this, and many will find these figures perfectly uniform for them, but to our eye it could have looked a little less smart, and in particular had fewer of the disliked kepi cap and fewer sabre scabbards. Sculpting is very nice and while the swordsman pose is odd the rest are fine. Having the dismounted cavalrymen may not be to everyone’s taste, but it reflects the reality of many of the real cavalry, and while the men on stable duties may be something of an extravagance that deprives us of more combat poses, they are well done and do much to portray their subject better. With nothing really wrong in the set our main criticism is the inclusion of a few infantry figures. Certainly many cavalry were reduced to infantry, much to their disgust, but that feature is covered by the infantry sets, so we felt this set should have solely depicted men dressed as cavalry.