During the Crimean War the elite French Zouave troops became the subject of considerable world-wide interest. With their daring exploits and colourful uniforms, they were a natural focus for public attention, and when the American Civil War broke out a number of newly raised units were termed Zouaves and dressed in exotic style.
This set comes in two types. The first type includes the 8 poses in the first two rows shown above, but there are eight copies of the kneeling firing figure instead of four. None of the pieces shown in the bottom row are included in the first type.
The nine poses are a reasonable bunch, though as ever more would have been nice. The marching pose, which only appears in the second type set, has a ring hand into which a flag or a musket can be inserted. In both cases the resulting figure is not very convincing as he is not actually holding the object, but these figures are intended for wargames where such a versatile pose may be worth the loss of some realism. In any event this figure still has its uses, and is at least a good start for some conversion possibilities. The flag is a small drooping affair, so some may wish to trim this off the pole and substitute a paper flag of their choice.
There was no set uniform for Zouaves, and to some extent the more unusual and exotic the better, but these figures are wearing what might be regarded as one of the classic looks, with the baggy trousers, the cutaway jacket and the cap or soft fez. The jacket does have some engraving for one of the most popular patterns, but this is very shallow and could easily be overpainted with another design if required. All the elements are correctly sculpted, but the men are all missing their straps. Flashy or not, the Zouaves still needed canteens, cartridge boxes and the like in battle, and these were carried on straps over the shoulder just like any other infantryman. These men are lacking all such strapping and equipment, and have only been provided with a small cartridge pouch and a bayonet, both attached to the belt.
The second type set improves the usefulness of the figures by providing some alternative heads. Both the fez and the straw hat were often seen on some individuals even when the regiment specified a different form of headgear. This sort of diversity was particularly common in Zouaves of the Confederacy, where supply was more of a problem. The second type set also includes a number of packs, and several of the figures have had a peg added to their back to allow the pack to be attached. The arrangement of the pack is unusual for the American Civil War, but is much more typical of French equipment for a long period, allowing the figures to be used in such conflicts as the Franco-Prussian War. However though this is a nice idea any such figure would be wearing his pack with no straps or other means of support.
The overall standard of sculpting is fair but the detail is a bit indistinct in places. Some of the postures look a little awkward. For example, the kneeling firing figure has his elbow above the stock of his musket, an extremely uncomfortable and unnatural arrangement. There is an average amount of flash, but there are no areas of excess plastic to spoil the look of the figures. The civil war was an early industrial war and uniforms were becoming more practical and less colourful. With these figures however a dash of colour can still be added to almost any battle recreation.