Though much smaller than today, in 1861 the United States of America was already a huge country, yet when war broke out the Federal government had a tiny cavalry force mostly operating on the western frontier. Despite initial opposition and a reluctance to invest in more cavalry, the arm grew enormously as the war dragged on, and by 1865 there were over 160,000 men in its ranks. For the first two years of the war the quality of the US cavalry was perceived to be well below that of the Confederacy, but by 1863 that gap had been closed.
All the cavalrymen in this set are wearing the short shell jacket and the soft fatigue cap except the bugler, who has a large brimmed hat instead. This last man also wears the classic braid on his chest that marks him out as a musician. Most of the men have the sabre, which was not often used, but they are using carbines and pistols, which were the more common weapons. The pistols could be any of various models, but the two carbines look to be the standard issue M1855 pistol-carbine. Finally the second man in the top row is using what looks like a Henry Rifle, an early version of the rifles that would become so successful in the American West after the war. The uniform and kit is accurately represented on all these figures, although when dismounted the men usually left their sabres on the horse rather than wear them as these do.
The poses are an unusual collection, and are more likely to delight diorama builders than wargamers. All the mounted troopers are firing to their left or right, which is not wrong but means large bodies of these men in a formation will appear to be shooting each other. The cavalrymen on foot include a man forking hay and another carrying his saddle - both useful 'camp' poses. The other two are clearly engaged in combat, and indeed cavalry often had to fight on foot if the circumstances required. Finally there are two infantrymen, both firing their muskets. Why they have been included in a cavalry set is unknown, and the space could have been better used by another mounted figure facing forward.
The three horses are adequate, though not the best examples of horse sculpting to be seen. All are clearly moving, so none of the riders have a very stable platform from which to fire. The riders fit their horses, but do not grip them like Italeri cavalry does, so they will need securing.
The detail on all these figures is good, and for the men at least the standard of sculpting is high. This set is much like the Confederate Cavalry set, with many poses being the same but in a different colour plastic. The scabbards of the men, both mounted and dismounted, stick out from the body in a most unnatural way, but apart from that we found these to be authentic and smartly done, if rather limiting in terms of the poses on offer.
Note Recently released copies of this set contain the single figure pictured above instead of the man with arm raised in the first row. This 'new' figure portrays George Armstrong Custer, and was originally released as a unique 'limited edition' bonus figure in the IMEX set of Custer's Last Stand. Both types of set are distributed in the same box, so there is no means of identifying which of these figures you will find. It will depend on which batch the set came from.