Many nations have tried to depict defeats as glorious episodes in their history, and one such action is the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Frequently very inaccurately depicted both in art and on film, this is the most famous battle of the Indian Wars, yet it was far from being typical of the wars as a whole. Several sets of US Cavalry from this era have been produced, but all have been quite poor, and there has long been a real need for an accurate set of these brave men.
The first reaction when seeing these figures is not positive. The sculpting is really quite poor and the figures are thin and awkward. Several men do not even hold their weapons but merely have them in their open palms (for example the right hand of the first figure, row one), and others have impossible positions, like the left hand of the fourth figure on the top row. Faces are distorted and ugly, and much of the folds in the clothing is either missing or unrealistic. Detail too is thin on the ground, and when it is there it is often difficult to make out.
Even if these had been beautifully sculpted figures, there are many problems with accuracy. First of all, all the men are wearing shirts with the classic white woven cotton braces often seen in Hollywood films and on Timpo figures. Familiar and classic these braces may be, but these were not seen on that fateful day. In reality the hard life of the cavalryman meant they had considerable latitude in terms of clothing, particularly as much of the issue kit was inappropriate and fell apart or wore very quickly. One good aspect of these figures is that most wear a broad brimmed hat, although one still has the fatigue cap (or 'bummer'). The boots and neck handkerchiefs are correctly done. The man with the guidon wears a sack coat and gauntlets - highly unlikely for such a hot day as 25 June 1876.
The weaponry and equipment is also less than impressive. Many have pistols, which are OK, and the rest have carbines, though in some cases these have a barrel that is too short. Many wear their carbine slings, but these have had a cartridge pouch put on them, which is wrong. Those with pistol holsters have them below the belt and reaching almost to the knee, which looks ridiculous. Also most or all should have a knife - an indispensable tool for all troopers - but none are apparent here. The one saving grace is no one has a sabre, which is correct.
The Custer figure (row 2, figure 4), of which there are four in each set, is reasonably accurately done, with a flannel shirt and buckskin trousers tucked into long boots. He also carries two pistols and no sword, which is the correct armament on that day. However a witness stated he removed his buckskin jacket before the fight, and although this item was later recovered and can still be seen today, it seems very unlikely that he was wearing it when he died.
The guidon is swallow-tailed, which is good, but the design engraved on it is pure fantasy. In fact two such standards were taken into the battle - one based on the national flag and the other being Custer's own personal HQ flag. The latter did have two horizontal halves, but it had the crossed sabres in the middle and no '7' as shown here.
Finally, there is the downed horse. The creature itself is a fairly nice job, and has a hole into which the lance is supposed to fit, indicating cause of death. However the lance does not fit. Also the horse clearly has a scabbard, yet all the men boxed their sabres before the campaign.
If they had been properly realised then most of the poses would have been OK. The man apparently clubbing with his carbine is not believable as he holds his weapon more than half way along. The man about to shoot himself is realistic - Indians did not take prisoners, or if they did a grisly and painful death awaited them, so many chose to save the last bullet for themselves. However most of the men are standing, whereas the firepower of the Indians meant in reality most would quickly be kneeling or prone, ideally sheltering behind a horse.
The man with the guidon has that item separate, but this does not fit properly into the groove in the hand. The figures have a few large bits of flash, but otherwise have an average amount around the seam. A very disappointing set which does provide the most accurate Custer figure so far, but does nothing to fulfill the need for good US plains cavalry. Despite the lack of decent competition, this is one to avoid.