Although the War of 1812 was intended primarily to be a maritime war, where there was fighting on land the American forces relied to a considerable degree on militia. The desire to keep costs down, and a distaste amongst some Americans for a standing army of any size, meant there were few regular forces available in 1812, and militia, both long-standing units and wartime volunteers, were used both to release regular forces for the campaign and to provide extra numbers for expeditions with a small core of regular soldiers. Militia were certainly cheap by comparison, but they presented many problems, being little trained or, quite often, motivated to fight, inclined to go home as soon as their limited period of service expired, and sometimes refusing point-blank to serve outside of the United States. Since these figures are labelled as 'winter dress' they seem well suited to the campaigns in New York and the invasions of Canada, but could serve at some moments in all theatres.
Although states laid down guidelines for uniforms and equipment, and sometimes even issued items, for the most part militiamen wore whatever clothing seemed most suitable. State guidelines speak of hunting shirts and good civilian coats, which is exactly what we find here. All these men have short capes over the shoulders, which was common but not universal as implied in this set, but generally the style of these garments is fine. Headwear too is pleasingly varied, with different types of brimmed hats, sometimes decorated with a feather or plume, and one man wears what looks like a cap made of animal skin. Many wear trousers or breeches, sometimes over gaiters, but some have full leggings, perhaps of buckskin or canvas, which would help protect them from the tough vegetation. Three of the poses even have full boots, so again the diversity of clothing is authentic and well done.
Equipment and weaponry might be issued, but many had to provide some or all of their own, so here too there was almost no standardisation. Some have crossbelts, others items carried by straps or string. Likely items of kit would include a powder horn, pouch for bullets and tools, some sort of canteen or bottle and usually a knife. All these things are to be seen on these figures, although most are missing at least one piece. The lack of a powder horn on several surprised us, but overall the kit looks good, and one man has even created a sort of pack from a blanket held by straps over his shoulders. All here carry a musket, and one man also carries a blunderbuss - presumably his own. Apart from the knives, one man has a pistol, which was fairly rare, and another has a hatchet, which was more common and good to see here. No one has the very rare bayonet, or the equally rare sword, so there are no problems with the weaponry in this set.
Officers might be distinguished in terms of the quality of their coat, or perhaps the colour, but generally there was little to mark them out from their men. Some wore a single epaulette on their coat, and a sash round the waist was another simple sign of rank, but no figure here exhibits any sign of being an officer, although the man with the pistol would make a good candidate.
We liked all the poses here. Some are a little flat, but really not too noticeable, and no one is engaged in any position which their anatomy should have precluded. The one unusual pose is the man in the bottom row holding his musket in the air, but you would expect the militia to be moving or in the act of firing, so we were pleased to see no implausible charging poses; all the poses here are useful and well thought out in our view.
Sculpting-wise this is amongst the best Strelets sets. Certainly these are not up there with the best being made today, but the figures are noticeably less chunky than much of their earlier output, and if some of the smaller items are still a little exaggerated in size, then it is hard to notice. We were hard pressed to find any flash, and the positioning of the figures means there is no unwanted plastic anywhere either, so if slightly rough at the edges these are really very nicely produced and a step forward for this manufacturer.
By now you may be puzzled that we seem to have completely ignored perhaps the most obvious figure in the set - the last one in the bottom row. This one had us scratching our heads, because he is clearly nothing to do with the militia. He is uniformed as a regular US infantry officer, and a nice little model he is too. Question is, what is he doing in this set? Perhaps he is a 'bonus' figure like some of their Streltsi figures, or perhaps just a random but related figure as a few sets have had in the past. Perhaps he is meant to be telling the militia officers what the army command want them to do - who knows? He takes up space that could have been filled with another militiaman, although in truth the poses already here cover the subject pretty well.
This is a collection of miniatures with no accuracy issues, some decent poses and nicely produced. The role of the militia was important in this conflict, so always deserved a dedicated set like this, and it is good to see that such a fine job has been made of it.