When war broke out in April 1861 following the secession of several states from the USA, neither side was well-prepared militarily. For the Confederacy, there was an urgent need to build and equip a new army, and with a limited industrial base and scarce resources, agents were sent abroad to purchase weapons. One of these was a remarkable artillery piece at the leading edge of gunnery technology – the Whitworth 12-pounder Rifled Gun. The gun was breech-loading, and had a hexagonal bore in its long barrel which spun the missile to a remarkable distance. Maximum range was around 10 km, and the weapon was very accurate to at least half that distance, far exceeding the normal artillery of the day. The Confederacy imported a handful of these weapons, which were used at various actions including Gettysburg, but the gun was of limited value as it was unusual for a crew to be able to see, and therefore aim, at a target at the sort of range the gun was capable of hitting. In addition it was more prone to breakages, needed specialised ammunition, and was more complex to operate than regular guns. These limitations and the small numbers employed make this a minor weapon in the Confederate arsenal, but one not previously modelled in this hobby.
The gun in this set follows the familiar pattern for artillery, made up of the barrel, carriage and two wheels, with the elevation screw as an extra fifth part. As with most such models this one is simplified to a degree, particularly in terms of the detail on the carriage, but a pretty good representation nonetheless. The breech on the barrel is well done (even including a friction primer guard), although we found the barrel not quite as straight as it should be, and the screw is nicely done too. Everything fits together tolerably well, but the wheels on the carriage have 12 spokes each, when the usual arrangement was 14 spokes each. Naturally a gun could be mounted on a new carriage, so we cannot say this is incorrect, but a more typical arrangement might have been better.
The crew of seven is pretty good for this hobby, although in reality a lot more would have served each such gun. Two men in the top row are gripping the wheels to move it, but the hands only line up with the wheels if the gun is also mounted on a base like the men, otherwise they are a bit too high. The man carrying the ammunition is reasonable, although he would normally have a leather satchel in which the projectile was placed while being moved. The first figure leans on a handspike and watches the team in action, and we assume the last figure in that row is sighting the gun, so all these poses are okay. As a breech-loader, there is no need for a ramrod, but the first figure in the second row carries a sponge, which would be used to clean out the barrel just like any conventional gun, although not after every shot of course. Lastly we have a commander for the gun. He stands and again observes the action, clutching a pair of binoculars. An obvious omission here is anyone holding a match or pulling a lanyard, so the gun is not actually being fired at the moment, but otherwise the poses are respectable.
The majority of this crew are in shirt-sleeves, which must have been common during this hot work. However the first two figures in the top row are wearing their waist-length single-breasted shell jackets, or ‘roundabouts’, which is also authentic. Most have the familiar peaked forage cap worn widely by both sides, but one man has elected to wear a brimmed hat instead. Some have visible patches on their trousers, giving them the appearance of men well into a long campaign. The commander figure is more of a mystery however. He wears a frocked coat, broad brimmed hat, high boots and a sash, which makes him look very much like an officer, especially as he also carries both revolver and sword. Yet on both sleeves he has two chevrons, which indicate he is a corporal. Clearly he is no corporal (the corporal is likely to be the man sighting the gun), so we suggest you ignore the rank distinctions here and treat him as a lieutenant at the very least, and probably something much more senior still. Whatever his seniority, the sash was rarely worn in the field even by those who were entitled to do so.
The sculpting here is not up there with the best by any means, but there is reasonable detail even if it is sometimes not particularly convincing. For example some items such as braces are just lines engraved on the figure rather than something sitting slightly proud of the body, and the trousers have no visible fly, so not good to look at close up. Faces and hands also leave something to be desired, and some of the proportions don’t look quite right either. For an artillery crew the level of action is quite good, and there is almost no flash.
The lack of anyone ready to actually fire the weapon is a missing element in this set (we would have made one instead of the sponge man), but otherwise the gun and poses are quite good. The gun is simple but the correct size and perfectly useable, as are the figures, although they are not what you would call attractive to look at. The set over-delivers in senior officers, but this figure could be used in other parts of the Confederate Army too, so not a waste. With no significant accuracy issues this is a basic and workmanlike set with some useful civil war artillery poses and a weapon new to the hobby.