Over two million soldiers fought for the union during the four years of civil war, the vast majority of which were infantry. Since the pre-war national army had been tiny, most of these men had to largely learn their trade from scratch, though some would have had some knowledge from membership of a militia. The officers too would have to learn from experience, and as a result many mistakes were made early on, but as the war progressed these troops became good soldiers ready to conduct a modern war despite taking enormous casualties. In the end the victory of the union was to a great extent due to their far superior numbers and resources compared to the south, but that must not detract from the dedication and professionalism of many of these troops, who triumphed despite often suffering under poor leadership.
All the men wear short sack coats and fatigue caps, while the officer wears a full-length frock coat, but has no sash. He also sports what could be either a regulation hat or a slouch hat. This is all reasonably well done and authentic, so there are no particular problems with the uniform here. The diversity of regulation and privately purchased equipment allows a manufacturer considerable licence when modelling these troops, but the equipment on these is still sub-standard. They have a haversack and canteen, and some men are wearing packs with greatcoats/blankets rolled over the top and sides in the style common in French and German armies of later years, but this is not appropriate for the Civil War, when blankets were strapped on top of the pack or, more often, simply rolled up and worn around the body. One very strange feature - again reminiscent of later European armies - is that all the men have two small pouches on the front of their waist belts. Arguably one could be the cap pouch, which is otherwise missing, but this looks more like the ammo pouches worn in the next century and certainly wrong for the Civil War. Also most are missing the scabbard for their bayonet, which perhaps is fitting since none have a bayonet fixed anyway - another problem with this set.
The dozen poses include all the usual ones, but some seem awkward and unnatural. For example, the man running with his left hand in the air seems odd, and it is difficult to see what the man pointing his musket down to his side is meant to be doing. Possibly this is an attempt to depict bayoneting, but as there is no bayonet on his musket or rifle the pose just looks strange. The bugler is unarmed, which does not seem very likely during battle, although he does have a pouch, suggesting that there is a firearm somewhere which he is not currently carrying. Also nearly all the men seem to have beards, though it is difficult to tell on some. It is unknown why Airfix felt that most Civil War troops had beards, but while beards were certainly allowed and worn (provided they were 'neat'), they were not as common as suggested here.
Of course the most important thing to remember about this set is that, as one of the early sets from Airfix, it suffers from poorly defined detail. They were intended as toys after all, and since Airfix never saw fit to resculpt their American Civil War figures, this set compares unfavourably with its many rivals. Detail is unclear, with for example the hands being just lumps of plastic and the muskets being featureless strips. Flash too is common in copies of this set, and while our pictured examples are fairly clean, others have not been so fortunate.
In general the figures have a clumsy look about them, and are not appealing, so this is a set that shows its age. It has a lot of nostalgic value for many older collectors, but there are many much better products than this for building Civil War armies, and it is no surprise that over recent years Airfix have not seen fit to rerelease their civil war range.