Leadership in the American Civil War was somewhat patchy and not always of good quality, but that can easily be said of most wars in history. While some officers studied at institutions like West Point and perhaps had experience from conflicts such as with Mexico, others owed their rank primarily to political influence and had few of the skills that the civil war would require of them. Many senior commanders often despaired of the competence of their juniors, not least President Lincoln himself, and there was also rivalry between officers for promotion or recognition, which did not always encourage the highest standards. However as the war progressed many such men either left or were forced out, and the experience of war would develop the best, so by its end there were large numbers of talented officers on both sides.
Our second row shows the officers in this set, but we will start with the humbler ranks in the first row. First we have three flag-bearers, or more correctly one flag-bearer with three different heads, for they are exactly the same sculpt below the neck. This man wears a standard sack coat and the heads wear fatigue caps and a brimmed hat. The only item of equipment this man has is a water bottle. He supports the stave for his flag with both hands, for he has no flag carrier belt, which must be fairly tiring after a while. The stave itself is really nice, about 44mm long to the tip of the spearhead finial, this equates to over three metres at our scale, which is good length, and far better than the tiny models you usually get in figure sets. As you can see, there is no flag, so this is perfect for those that like to provide their own flags. There is one mystery with this figure, which is that next to the stave and below his waist is an item of irregular shape which we could not identify. Could this be a pistol holster? If so then it’s not a very good one, but we can’t imagine what else it is supposed to be.
The two drummers are again the same piece but with a different head, one wearing the fatigue cap and one a brimmed hat. This figure is marching forward and apparently beating his well-made drum, and is a good pose. This is helped by the drum being a separate piece, but the peg on the leg actually fits well into the hole in the drum, so this is a figure that is easy to assemble. This figure has no weapons and just a haversack-type bag as kit, and again wears a simple sack coat. Some drummers could be elaborately decorated with lace, but these look much more simple in appearance, yet a nice pose.
The second row starts with two walking officers which are again the same figure but with different heads – here the only real difference is one man has a beard and one is clean-shaven. This figure is smartly turned out in a single-breasted dress frock coat and dress hat. He rests his sword against his right shoulder, but this sword has a blade which alone is 14mm in length (1 metre), when it would most likely be the M1850 Infantry Officer’s pattern sword, which only had a total length, including hilt, of around 91cms. The scabbard this figure carries more closely resembles this length, however. Apart from the sword length, which is easy to fix, this too is a nice pose.
The last foot officer has his sword arm outstretched with a very straight arm, which is a useful pose, and this man is dressed like the first, including a sash under his waist belt and the transverse shoulder straps, which were particularly characteristic of Federal officers. The forward position of the sword, while a very welcome departure from many flat figures found elsewhere, means there is some loss of detail around the hand, though this is slight. More noticeable is his right foot, which seems to be unfinished and does not resemble a foot at all.
Finally we have the mounted officer. This is another treat as figure sets rarely include a mounted officer, even though they often rode even in battle, when they could be badly exposed to enemy fire. This man is like his dismounted colleagues except his frock coat is double-breasted and he wears a dress hat with upturned brim. Be aware however that his right arm is a separate piece, and while the peg at the shoulder to attach this is fine, the arm itself has no more than a dent to take the peg, so the fit is terrible; we simply removed the peg and glued the arm for our photo. Of course this does mean you can decide on the angle of the arm, so it can be well raised if you wish. This sort of option is great, but only when the technology used to make the figure is up to the job. Clearly in this case the technology is woefully inadequate to the task. The man’s horse is nicely done, with reasonable-looking saddle furniture but no saddle at all. The man sits easily on this animal, but needs gluing to stay in the seat.
The general sculpting is of the same calibre as the other civil war sets made by HaT at the same time as this set (i.e. the marching sets). This means detail, such as is needed, is pretty good, but it is not at all sharp or well-defined, and can get quite vague in places. We have already mentioned the unfinished officer’s foot, and that same figure also has the start of a scabbard for his sword, but most of it is missing. However the main quality problem in this set is the really bad attempt to fit arm to body. On a more positive note we found practically no flash on our sample, nor any excess plastic anywhere, so that will be a relief to many.
The small number of poses in this set are really well thought out and very useful. The man with the bare stave is the answer to many a wargamer’s dream as they look for figures to hold the various flags of the units they wish to depict, and there is room enough for a really good-sized one too. Drummers are always useful, as are officers, and all the clothing could work for either side in the war. The soft detail means these are not great to look at in themselves, but nicely painted up and arrayed on a table they would do the job very well. Whether you wish to go to the trouble of assembling the mounted officer will depend on your attitude, but it really shouldn’t be this daunting. Nevertheless a really useful if not particularly exciting or attractive set of figures.