Lets be honest - a lot of artillery sets are much the same. You get some guns and between four and six crew poses per gun. These figures will be of the standard poses, which are perfectly valid but rather unimaginative. If you're lucky you might also get a limber and team. It was therefore with little excitement that we opened this set for the first time, but great delight at what we found.
The scans speak for themselves. This set has six pieces of ordnance including a siege mortar and a Gatling Gun, plus eight artillerymen poses. That makes this set very different, and with lots worthy of comment.
The eight crewmen are very unusual in several ways. All the privates wear frock coats and capes, which was the regulation uniform but was increasingly rarely seen on the battlefield as the simpler fatigue-blouse was preferred. Serving the guns was hot and heavy work, so these men appear to be working in cold conditions, though even so they look a little too smart for our liking. Several also wear bayonets and cartridge pouches, which is very unlike the artillery and would imply that these men are infantrymen detailed to assist the gunners, though many are clearly the gunners themselves and not infantry. However all do wear the kepi hat, as does one of the two officers. These are more appropriately dressed, with both having a pistol and sabre. One man carries a slow match for firing the gun, but almost all guns used during the war were fired with a lanyard.
The cannon come in two varieties. The carriage is the same for both, but the barrels are for the common Napoleon cannon and the 10-pounder Parrott Rifle. Unlike some other ACW artillery sets the Napoleon barrel has the distinctive tapering shape, and the Parrott is easily identifiable by the reinforced breech. The carriages are disappointing as they are missing most of the detail that should be present. Indeed they are virtually featureless apart from the trail handles and lunette. Whilst many of the details are impossible to model properly because of the limitations of the mould, better efforts than this have already been produced elsewhere so there is no excuse. Some obligatory small piles of shot are also provided.
The Gatling Gun was still being developed during the Civil War, and the first models to be purchased saw almost no active service before the War was over. What's more, they looked nothing like the model in this set. The model here dates from the early 1880s and is fed by the circular Accles Positive Feed Drum that is on top of the barrel. It is accurately modelled and an interesting-looking weapon, but it has nothing to do with the Civil War. However it could certainly serve for conflicts later in the century, when Gatling Guns were sold to many nations and used all over the World.
The siege mortar is a first in this hobby, and a splendid effort it is too. To give an idea of size, the top of the barrel, when elevated as shown, is about the height of a man, which suggests a 13-inch calibre. There is an error in the instructions on the box for the construction of this weapon. The two horizontal boards across the front of the piece are reversed on the illustration, which shows the cut-away board on the bottom whereas it has to be on the top. Also one or two holes needed enlarging before all parts would fit properly, though this was easily achieved. The resulting gun is nicely detailed, and includes the rear handle to hold an elevation, and the side handles to change it. The whole thing is mounted on a platform and makes a splendid and accurate model. A number of 'rounds', large cannon balls, are also included. These are of course simply small balls and will very readily roll off the table and get lost if care is not taken!
Of course, sixteen men won't go far between six guns, and obviously the effort has been made to provide a good range of guns rather than a complete manned battery. Italeri could point to many other sets as a good source of extra crew, and if we had to sacrifice numbers of crew for the variety of guns then we feel that is a sacrifice worth making. Similarly the absence of any limbers or horse teams is pardonable in this case, and both are available in Italeri set 6038.
To go with all this gunnery Italeri have included half of their set of Battlefield Accessories. The long entrenchment is a wooden fence with earth built up on one side to strengthen and absorb impact from enemy fire. Because it comes in a number of short sections there is some scope for different layouts. There is also a gun position with a pile of logs and some gabions used to shield the gun and its crew, and a number of smaller wooden fences. Much of this might be constructed for siege works or, on a much more temporary basis, on the battlefield, though usually there would be insufficient time to do this, and clearly this would make the artillery effectively immobile. The items included are appropriate for a gun emplacement, and should prove very useful in creating realistic artillery positions.
All that equals a large and very interesting set. The Gatling is inappropriate for this era, we did not care for the dress of the crew and we found the gun carriages too plain. However the cannon barrels are very good and the mortar is superb. A set of contrasts with many elements that collectors and gamers alike will find valuable.