When it first came into existence, the Confederate States of America had as a priority to create an army, and on 6th March 1861 the Provisional Congress authorised the raising of just such an army, which was to include six regiments of infantry. In fact few such troops were ever raised, and almost all the Confederate forces would come from volunteer or later conscripted units organised at state level. Confidence in success was very high, but as that evaporated and the war dragged on a large proportion of the South’s white male population would eventually serve. Estimates vary greatly, but something like 900,000 are likely to have fought for the Confederate cause, yet ultimately the industrial and numerical advantages of the North would decide the outcome of the war.
While the Confederate Army was not as ragged as is sometimes suggested, it never achieved the same level of uniformity as the North, partly because of the decentralised supply system and partly because of the difficulties in supplying good, hard-wearing uniforms once the blockade began to bite. Shoddy uniforms and kit wore out quickly, and at times captured supplies from the North were a major source of replacements. The many poses in this set reflect that look very nicely, for while some units achieved good consistency of clothing, others looked like these men, with jackets of various styles and lengths, hats and caps equally varied (many being simple brimmed hats) and everything subject to patching and repair, as several of these men demonstrate. Kit too varied greatly, as it does here, but all have at least a pouch for their cartridges. Other items like haversacks and canteens are scattered about these men, and we smiled at the man with a bottle peeping out from his bag.
The bulk of the set is made up of the 13 poses that appear three times each, all of which are, as promised, standing. Everyone is relaxed and apparently not as ready for action as the re-enactors depicted on the box. We really liked all of the poses, which are nice and natural, and the figure in the third row smoking a cigar is an interesting idea – let’s hope he is not near any powder. A few, particularly in the second row, are rather worrying because they are resting hands or heads on the muzzle of their musket, which is not advisable even if they think the weapon is unloaded. The drummer is not beating his drum, and the three officers are also quite nonchalant. Lastly the flag-bearer, while just standing like the rest, has the colours open and unfurled, as if he at least is expecting something to happen before too long.
The style of these figures is much the same as the other civil war sets released by Strelets at the same time. The figures have none of the old chunky look, and proportions are much better, with appropriately-sized heads and believable limbs. Detail is fair, but not up there with the best, and the classic area of hands are sometimes very vague, although faces (and the considerable amount of facial hair here) are good. There is almost no flash and no extra plastic in awkward places.
The inclusion of a photographer is a great idea. It reinforces the idea these men are well away from any action, since cameras were much too bulky and difficult to be used during an actual battle. While the idea is great, and actual figure is not. First the camera is a very basic model, but it is the tripod that really concerns us. The legs are not equally splayed, and indeed the camera actually leans noticeably toward the unsupported side! The central column of the tripod, with several adjustment wheels, looks far too modern for the 1860s, but our eye is drawn to what the photographer holds in his hand. It looks like a modern shutter release, which is not a civil war-era device, or else a handle, which is wrong as it was important that the camera remained steady during exposure. In fact once the camera was set up and focused, the plate would be exposed by the photographer removing the lens cap for a few seconds, then replacing it and immediately processing the plate. Finally, why is he not looking in the direction his camera is facing? Overall a very disappointing figure.
Although the flag is limp it looks to be of a better size than many done by this manufacturer, on a staff of a good length too, so apart from the photographer we liked almost everything about this set. The sculpting could be crisper certainly, but accuracy is good and there are plenty of appealing poses to construct any number of out-of-action scenes here. One final observation is that the officer second from left in our fourth row looks so much like General Robert E Lee that if that was the intention then we are impressed given the size of the figure. If not then we think he would certainly serve for him, or of course for many other officers too. Equally the officer next to him could make a very good General James Longstreet, and the third officer has a fair resemblance to General George Pickett too.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.