Despite its size, Texas had one of the smallest populations of the states of the Confederacy (only Arkansas and Florida were smaller), and being in the western part of the country, it’s troops naturally concentrated on campaigns in the Western Theatre. However, it also provided troops for the Eastern Theatre, most notably in Hood’s Brigade, which was highly regarded and considered as providing shock troops for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. No serious action took place within Texas itself, but over 70,000 Texans served in the Confederate Army during the war, which is an impressive figure when you consider that the total non-slave population of the state, men, women and children, was just over 420,000 at the time. The majority of this contribution was cavalry, since there was a very high familiarity with horses, but many regiments of infantry were also sent to aid the Southern cause, and some cavalry units were converted into infantry as the greater need was for foot soldiers.
The look of the figures in this set is very much of bad-weather troops. All are wearing a coat of some sort, including several greatcoats with a cape, and there are also figures wearing a blanket around their shoulders, or apparently as a poncho (presumably a hole has been made in the middle to permit this). Two also wear a scarf wrapped round their head, so clearly they are in a cold environment, which differentiates this set from most previously made for the Civil War. Several wear an ordinary frock coat, but no one wears the most common summer garment, the short shell jacket. Only a couple wear the peaked forage cap so associated with this conflict, while the rest have brimmed hats in various arrangements. The officer in the bottom row also wears a sash outside of his coat and beneath his belt, which was unusual beyond the early months of the war as such an obvious symbol of rank attracted the attention of snipers.
Sources of supply were many, including the government, the state, captures from the enemy and personal purchases, so it is good to see a variety of items of kit on these men. We find ammunition pouches, cap pouches, haversacks and water bottles of many designs, as well as some rolled blankets worn across the body, and a few bayonet scabbards. There is also quite a large number of pistol holsters here, including one open one, but only the officer and two of the men are actually holding their pistols in their hand. The rest hold muskets which are tricky to identify, but as so many models were used by the Confederacy these look fine to us. The officer also has his sword drawn, and half the troop poses have a bayonet fixed, but no one here has a knapsack, which is not a problem as they are in action.
The range of poses includes all the necessary elements like firing, advancing and marching. Some are standing and could be in a battle or a less-combative situation, but we were confused by the kneeling figure in the second row, who holds his musket against his chest and pointing to the side, which begs the question of why? Much the same question could be asked about the first figure in the top row as well, as he stands with his musket raised to his chest, perhaps about to club someone with the butt, or parry a blow? The casualty figure on the end of the second row is of course always a useful addition, and although he has fallen forward still gripping his musket and hat, he is a credible pose. The man holding the flag also has a pistol in his left hand, as does the officer, who holds both sword and pistol. Having produced a decent 12 poses in battle, Ultima Ratio chose to also offer a couple of fun poses at leisure; one man playing the fiddle and another apparently making some coffee. These are a nice touch, and as there are very few camp poses available these might well be popular with many.
This is not the first set from Ultima Ratio that seemed rather flat to us. This is less about the poses than about the basic proportions of the men themselves, which naturally is not evident from our pictures, but they lack the proper depth; you only need to compare the shape of the head on a figure produced facing the mould with one side on to the mould to see the difference. This is particularly evident on the two camp figures, as the man with the coffee pot perches on a very thin box, and the other holds his fiddle almost vertically (not impossible we know). This latter is sitting on what looks in our photograph to be a log, but is in fact merely the bark from half a log, which is bizarre and could never support his weight. Presumably this was a production issue with the depth of plastic had the log been half or even full-depth, but it does mean this figure looks absurd from behind. Despite all that, however, the sculpting is pretty good, with good detail and many small elements like the various lone star ornaments on clothing and kit, and the wording on some water canteens. The blanket roll on the firing figure rather defies gravity, and the faces are a mixed bunch but not too bad, while the hands are again acceptable but not brilliant. The figures do have some small areas where plastic fills a gap between body and weapon, and there is a fair amount of flash on some untidy seams, particularly on the sprue holding the figures in the bottom row.
Supply to some Confederate forces was often unreliable, especially when the war disrupted the railways, and some troops may not have received winter clothing, but many who did simply threw their coats away, not wishing to carry them during the hot summer months and hoping to find another when the weather got cooler. Therefore many observers noted a wide diversity of appearance of such troops, and we thought this set reflected that well. Some of the elements to the design of this set we found hard to accept, such as why the fiddle-player has no base (he does stay upright, precariously, but why take the chance?), but there are some interesting ideas in this set too, which is just as well as there are many sets competing for the same Civil War market. Having the men in cool-weather attire is unusual, and there are some unusual poses, particularly the camp figures. The flag has been engraved with the Texas state flag (clearly a gale is blowing from the bearer’s right, as usual), and the lone star decoration on some figures gives this set its Texas flavour, though a quick trim of these would make these figures suitable for most Civil War troops. If we can look forward to another 10 sets for the rest of the succession states then that would be very welcome, because while not the best Civil War set ever made, this is accurate and has enough to make it a very worthwhile addition to the forces of Jeff Davis.