As with any war, the Civil War increased the pace at which new technologies were introduced into weaponry. Perhaps the biggest advance was the change from smoothbore muskets to rifled barrels, which allowed a much better potential range for accurate fire. The introduction of the French Minié bullet made loading of rifles easier and quicker, which again increased the potency of the civil war soldier. However the gunpowder used at this time was little different to that of fifty years earlier, and it quickly filled the battlefield with smoke, which meant that men often could not see more than a short distance, so negating the better range and accuracy of their weapons. The result was that battles tended to remain what they had been for a long time – attempts to bring as great a volume of fire as possible onto the enemy, with little or no attempt at aiming. The result on a closely-packed formation of men, as were often to be found during the War, could be devastating, and the numbers of casualties from musket and rifle fire were often huge and shocked Americans on both sides.
This set has a very impressive 21 different poses, which can be divided into the main soldiers (three of each) and the command figures (one of each). The ordinary soldiers are all in the act of using their weapon, either firing or reloading, so a very fine firing line can be constructed here. In general all the poses seem reasonable apart from the last man in the third row, who seems to be trying to pull his ramrod into his musket, which looks very awkward and is certainly not how he has been taught. The command figures start with a series of four casualty poses. Such poses are still quite rare in the hobby, and for any conflict, and certainly the Civil War, such poses are very relevant, lest we forget the horrors of what is going on. Having welcomed these poses, we were not particularly impressed by the stance of the two men being hit, which do not seem particularly natural, but the prone man is okay and the man on the ground leaning on one arm is a very nice pose and one of our favourites of the whole set. The last row begins with a man playing a trumpet upside down – this was probably meant to be a bugle, but the sizing is horribly wrong and just looks silly. The man with the flag is a good piece however, with a suitably battered flag, and the officer is in a classic but very appropriate pose. So the poses are a mixed bunch, mostly good with a few gems and a few turkeys.
The style of sculpting is quite fair, but not nearly as good as some of the current output from Strelets. Detail is reasonable, but these are less refined than some, even though the general appearance of the real article was itself often fairly rough. Some of the clothes, particularly the trousers, look very ill-fitting, but of course that was sometimes true of the real thing also, yet the general appearance is not very pleasing and rather unpolished in our view. Faces are not too bad, and it is fairly easy to see the considerable amount of facial hair on some, but a couple of poses suffer with poor hands. On our review sample there was a considerable ridge of plastic on all the seams, and some extra flash in a few places too, so the perfectionists out there will spend quite some time tidying up these figures.
The standard of dress of Confederate armies still provokes argument to this day, and this also varied greatly at different times and places during the War, but these men tend toward the varied and comfortable rather than the uniform and neat. Should you wish to create ranks of Confederates looking their best, then this set is not the best, but all the various items of clothing on show here (and there are many) are authentic and likely to have seen service at various times. The already-mentioned poor fit of many is likely to be a positive aspect here, and some will have been more common than others, but we had no problems with anything here. In the same way the men’s accoutrements are also very varied, including various bags and flasks and the common rolled blanket across the trunk.
Many of these figures could serve as civilians, Boers and other non-uniformed men in various 19th century situations, so this set has great potential. While we did not like all of the poses, the wide range on offer still means there are plenty here that we did like. Having no accuracy concerns always helps, and although we were not partial to the style or quality of the sculpting, it will doubtless be good enough for many, particularly placed together on a larger base where the observer cannot examine each man in detail. So not the most beautiful set of Civil War figures ever made, but with plenty of positive aspects to make this a worthwhile addition to the available range.