The American Civil War was typical of the new type of war in the industrial age. Tactics had not changed greatly since the days of Napoleon, yet the new, more efficient weapons meant the battlefield was more deadly than ever before, resulting in huge numbers of casualties during this four-year conflict. Although an all-American affair, the Civil War had always attracted the attention of makers of model soldiers, and this set and the companion set of Confederate Infantry marked the entry of this war into the Esci range, although as with some others they never added further sets to go with them.
A lot of the Esci sets follow a particular pattern, and indeed the same review could be used for these. That review would say that there are 50 figures in 15 poses, all of which are useful but not exciting. Sculpting is excellent and there is a high degree of accuracy, with authentic variation in uniform and kit. That general description certainly applies to this set, but as usual there is more to say, particularly about some of the poses. Most of them are perfectly fine, but the rather 'balletic' man who seems to be running sideways with one leg high in the air and not looking where he is going in the middle of the top row is a good example of where Esci poses sometimes got very weird and unnatural. Another much-seen poor Esci pose is the man apparently using his musket as a club, but given the positioning of his hands he cannot possibly be able to swing it, so just looks bizarre. The two men carrying a wounded man make for a nice little scene, though they are a bit fiddly to put together, but a worthy effort nonetheless.
There is one private in a full-length frock coat and Hardee hat - a perfectly reasonable uniform, but looking rather out of place amongst his more casually dressed companions. While it is true that dress often varied even within units, and the short sack coat and the frock coat would sometimes be seen together, having a single figure that varies so much from his fellows seems a bit odd to us, and a more even spread of uniform variation would have looked better. However the uniform here is well represented, although the equipment is not so good. Almost everyone has a cartridge pouch and canteen, but many are missing their haversack and no one has a bayonet scabbard, which explains why no one has fixed a bayonet. Also just one man wears a knapsack, which is not a problem as they were not popular, but only a couple have rolled their blanket round their bodies, which was a common alternative to the knapsack, so most of these figures are seriously under equipped for a campaign, and we can only hope that they have deposited their possessions just before battle (but not the bayonet!),
Muskets look good, but the drummer suffers from a problem found in many sets by many manufacturers - he has only been issued a toy drum. In reality the drum should be at least three times as deep as this example, which just looks ridiculous, and for no apparent advantage in terms of the mould. Excessive shrinkage is also a huge problem for the flag bearer, who holds a very small flag that has been engraved as the national flag. This should be about two metres wide and slightly less tall, yet what we actually have is, once again, a miniature toy. The design on the flags varied, but none looked like this, with only 20 stars in the canton. The war started with 34 states in the Union, so 34 stars on the national flag. After July 1863 West Virginia entered the Union and a thirty-fifth star was added. Despite Nevada entering the Union in October 1864, no new star was added to the flag until after the war. The arrangement of these stars varied considerably, but none resembled the flag moulded here, so Esci would have been much better advised to leave the thing without any engraving.
Sculpting is crisp and the detail very nice, so by ignoring the odd poses and the miniaturised drum and flag these are good-looking figures. One particular oddity must be mentioned - our bizarre 'running' man in the top row seems to be wearing some sort of polo neck sweater! Despite its faults this is a generally well sculpted and detailed set, but with some odd design choices. Not the worst Union infantry set on the market, but not the best either.