At the outbreak of war many volunteers were attracted by the cavalry not through any competence in horsemanship but simply by the supposed glamour and the perceived luxury of riding everywhere rather than walking. Of course the reality was very different, and as the war progressed such men either quit or moved to a less arduous arm. The cavalry of the Union army, deficient in so many ways at the start of 1861, was to become an effective and powerful force.
With eleven different poses this is an exceptionally wide selection of cavalry. Some of the men are using firearms and some their sabres, and two are dismounted. With ever better firearms the role of cavalry was changing, and enlightened commanders saw when it was necessary for cavalry to dismount, thus acting more like mounted infantry. The man kneeling firing his carbine has been given no base, and though he does stand he is not as stable without a base, which seems to have been omitted for no good reason. Still, all the poses are good and useful.
The men wear the short blouse and in most cases the kepi, though the two officers have brimmed dress hats, which were particularly popular in the Western armies. The bugler is lacking the lace across the front of his jacket which should have marked him out as a musician, but otherwise all the men here are well turned out and correctly dressed.
It is all too common for manufacturers to provide their troops with one weapon or another, but forget that the men usually had both. Not so here, where most men have both carbine and sabre, and sometimes also a pistol, regardless of which they happen to be using at the moment. All are very nicely detailed and most suitable for the set. The officer has an impressive telescope, which thankfully he is holding with both hands (although binoculars would have been much more common), but he will still require the standing horse if he is to see anything.
As ever the horses are really nicely done. Most of the poses seem natural enough, and the various bits of kit and saddlery are all correctly represented.
Though it entered a market already crowded with American Civil War sets, the trademark Italeri quality instantly made it one of the best sets on this subject. Detail is abundant and very clear. There is no problem with flash, and all the details of uniform and equipment are present and correct. In fact, this review sounds much like that of the Confederate Cavalry set, and unfortunately the similarity extends further, to some comments on the guidon. The guidon is swallow-tailed, which is correct, but the fork of the swallow-tail should be much deeper than modelled here - something closer to half way back to the lance. Worse yet, the guidon is engraved (something we always complain about, as plain surfaces allow more choice), but it is different on the two sides. On the obverse (the front, as seen above) the regulation cavalry guidon, based on the national flag, is shown, though it only has nine stars in the canton. However the reverse has the arms of the US as specified for regimental standards, which were rectangular rather than swallow-tailed. No such flag ever existed, and it seems like the sculptor could not decide which flag to use, so a compromise was achieved which is unsatisfactory in both respects.
An excellent set which went strangely wrong with the flag and with the bugler's dress. The bugler has the double chevrons which mark him as a corporal, but one source suggests all buglers were privates. If so then it would be a simple task to trim off the chevrons on both arms to reduce him in the ranks. Purists may wish to substitute the given flag for a more accurate one made of paper, but with very few faults this remains the best Union cavalry set so far made.