If countries have years they would rather forget then 1806 would be high on the list for Saxony. During the Revolutionary Wars this small German state had generally kept itself to itself, but in 1806 it found itself in an unhappy ‘alliance’ with a Prussia looking for war with France and her aggressive new Emperor. Saxon troops marched alongside the Prussians and contributed a significant portion of the forces that faced the French at the Battle of Jena. While they fought well they shared in the defeat of the Prussians, and the Elector of Saxony soon allied himself with Napoleon, gaining the title of King as a result but effectively becoming a French puppet state.
A typical Saxon regiment in 1806 comprised 10 companies, two of which were grenadiers and the rest musketeers. Both wore a long-tailed coat but while the musketeers (shown in the top two rows) wore a bicorn the grenadiers had a bearskin cap much in the Austrian style. All the figures here are on the face of it correctly dressed and equipped, but a closer look reveals a number of concerns, which you may choose to call problems with either accuracy or sculpting. The bicorns on all the musketeers are a bit too large, as indeed are the plates on the front of the grenadier’s bearskins. All the bicorns have the pompon, which is fine, but this is sometimes oddly shaped. All the men have the long pigtail, as they should, and the grenadiers are correctly shown with moustaches, but none seem to have the curls over the ears which the small bicorn would have revealed. All the grenadiers also carry the same large bicorn on their backs, which seems odd considering all the troops also had a forage cap, but there are plenty of contemporary illustrations such as the Hess plates which seem to confirm this. Musketeers had straight swords, as here, but the grenadiers had sabres with a noticeable curve, not the straight examples on these models.
Moving on to the NCOs, the musketeer NCO in the second row has been provided with a separate spontoon for which HaT have usefully provided a choice of heads. He also has a cane, partly as a sign of rank, and he carries a pistol supported on a belt in typical Saxon style. The grenadier NCO in the bottom row also has such a cane, which is good, but he seems to have a full musket when he should have the rather shorter carbine.
Both troop types have been provided with officer poses too. The musketeer officer with the hat is in a classic but rather flat pose, presumably pointing the way to his men. Sources suggest that officers wore a sash and a gorget, which are both missing on this figure. However again contemporary prints show officers without these items so we must assume they were not obligatory. The grenadier officer does have both these common symbols of rank, and is correctly armed with a firearm as well as a sword. Finally the drummer and fifer have a very curious feature - armbands on both arms. As in most armies musicians wore swallow’s nest epaulettes, although in some poorly-drawn original illustrations these are shown well down the arm and do rather look like armbands. The sculptor here seems to have taken them at face value, repeating and exaggerating the original artistic mistake.
It would be our guess that all these problems are the result of some poor sculpting as the Saxon army is blessed with a wealth of evidence on their appearance and the box drawing gets most of these issues right. In broader terms the sculpting is quite fair with reasonable detail although you could not describe it as particularly sharp in some cases. There is some excess plastic in hidden places but on the whole this is at a low level and there is almost no flash.
Although two different troop types are represented here HaT have managed to produce all the most important and useful poses for each, and for the most part the poses are well chosen if a little flat and awkward in their execution. For some reason the kneeling figure is firing very high (which was far from unknown in reality), but wargamers and indeed most modellers will find little to complain about with these poses.
All our concerns about accuracy and sculpting are, in truth, minor gripes, and even when taken together they do little to spoil the figures. If not the most attractive figures ever made then they are at least more than useful with good poses and an essentially correct uniform, at least if not examined too closely. As a result this is a set well worth considering, and indeed is essential if the Jena campaign is to be authentically modelled. This basic uniform survived for several more years, when the Saxons fought for the French, and only began to disappear around 1810, so this set introduces yet another important player into the cosmopolitan world of Napoleonic warfare.