From China via la belle France come these five, new, Union soldiers, hand painted, and as delightful as they are ideosyncratic.
These guys are fairly new to the market appearing within the last two years. Hand painted and of a semi-rigid plastic they are the first of four sets of both Union and Confederate troops. My friend Brian acquired these for me during a recent trip to Shiloh National Military Park.
The sculpting of these little 54 mm soldiers is very pleasing to the eye and I would have to call them more cute than accurate, and in this instance cute is just fine. The anatomy of this set is very nice though photos of some of the figures in the Confederate sets show poses that are quite stilted and unnatural.
The color, finished flat, is vivid and very pleasing to the eye. The details of the uniforms put me in mind of my always pleasant visits to Canada where everything seems very familiar though somehow "off". In this case the figures strike me as renderings not of Civil War soldiers but actors in the Audie Murphy movie version of "The Red Badge of Courage" in that their uniforms are not authentic but a "close enough" Hollywood interpretation of Civil War uniforms, and that is part of their charm.
Pass in Review!
Flag guy is the least stable, that is, most apt to fall over. Nicely-sculpted but poorly-balanced, this little soldier, though marching steadfastly on, bears a most hapless expression.
Somehow I think he realizes how he is currently standing out in the crowd. The flag is without stars, and considering the fairly steep retail price ($15.00) this seems an unconsionable omission, however it does provide the ambitious collector the opportunity to paint whichever state device or motif he or she wishes upon the starless field.
The flag-bearer, like all but one of the others, has the trouser stripes of a corporal though no accompaning chevrons. Perhaps a mixup at the base laundry. Using a broom handle rather than a regulation flagstaff may account for the less-than-confident expression on this soldiers face.
Kneeling shooting guy.
With the facial hair of a porn star, kneeling shooting guy is particularly stable and well-sculpted, though his rifle is at such an unusually high elevation that he appears to be either a reenactor or an unsportsman-like doughfoot about to shoot his adversary in his "special man parts" Ouch! Shades of Alonzo Cushing. Equiped with tiny blanket roll, little knapsack, canteen, and haversack he is without a cartridge box. Apparently with only "one in the chamber" his work will soon be done. "See you back at the PX. fellers!"
Semi-crouching loading guy.
His posture is odd,
more that of a polling flatboatman than a soldier ramming one home.
And his odd backward-leaning stance makes him seem to defy gravity. but of the five he is the one most resembling Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees...
and that' good enough for me. Note that corporal Mickey has chevrons to match his trouser-stripes.
Fully-upright loading guy
Of the four armed soldiers, fully-upright loading guy bears the least personal equipment - knapsack only.
Perhaps he intends to borrow cartridges, caps, hardtack, and water from his comrades. There's one in every company "Hey man, can I bum a smoke?"
Though it appears that he's ramming his rifle with a length of black gas pipe, and reenactors will balk at his abundance of buttons,
I look askance at his abundance of mascara.
Standing shooting guy.
This soldier has a very forthright and determined stance, he is a contender, very well balanced and wonderfully sculpted. This is the best sculpted figure of the group
Drawing a bead on the sesesh.
The scowl on his face is probably reflective of the fact that in his haste to action he mistakenly...
grabbed his disco bag rather than his cartridge box.
Nonetheless, I wouldn't trifle with him...
or with his comrades, a distinctly soldierly looking group of Yankees and an asset to any regiment.
On the down side, these figures are cast sans base, as a result they are very unsteady on their feet, usually as likely to become casualties as they are to stay steadfastly on the firing line.
Safari Ltd would do well to reengineer these little GIs to provide them the ability to actually participate in a "standup fight".
The packageing is attractive,
and the "Enclosed Educational Leaflet" is all that it promises..."enclosed".
A fairly pedestrian fragment of a wall is included, somewhat sub-scale.
Additional history is on the package and does do a concise, if overly simple, history of the causes of the war citing "state rights" and slavery. Owing to the manufacture of this product in China, the slavery nod rings with an odd irony.
All in all, perhaps my friend Brian has provided some needed role modelling for other friends in hopes they will buy me the remaining sets of Safari Ltd 54mm American Civil War soldiers.
Retailing at around $15.00 they are priced at about twice what they should be, but at this price they provide another reason to be thankful for thoughtful and generous friends.
See you on the 1st