Discussion In the Civil War both Armies had but one rank of private now the Army has three ranks for private.

major bill

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Was there any need to have more than one rank of private during the Civil War? Let us say a corporal was killed, which pravate stepped up to lead the soldiers until a new corperal was appointed? Was it by date of becoming a private?
 

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Kyle Kalasnik

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Major Bill,

Very interesting question that makes me think.

I would assume it was either the Private who was ordered to “step up” and fill in for the Corporal, or the one who just took over on his own initiative.

I have seen both examples.

I also find it interesting that there are pay grades up to E9, where as before the late 1950s there were 7. Which I think was standardized in the early 1920s. I could be wrong about the time periods, please correct me if I am wrong.

Before that, well back to the Civil War, different branches had different numbers of ranks, ratings, and pay grades. After WWI, I think, the amount of pay grades (7) became standard across the board while different branches of the military could have multiple ranks or rates in a single pay grade.

Even just the increase in amount ranks above Sergeant from the Civil War to WWI are amazing. Of course times (warfare) changes and the military had to adjust.

I’m not to knowledgeable about pre-Civil War Military History but was there also an increase in the amount of ranks from the Revolutionary War up to the Civil War?

Another question? Maybe I should start another thread, but from what I have read, it doesn’t seem as if platoons and squads (although a level of organization) were really used all that much during the time period. Except for maybe accountability, guard duty / details, and etc....

Were Platoon Sergeants and Squad Leaders as involved as they are now in modern times? What were their duties? I have heard of Lieutenants commanding companies when there was no Captain, but what about as a Platoon Commander?

Thanks for the great Major Bill, it really got my brain turning.

Respectfully,
Kyle Kalasnik
 

major bill

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The concept of rank changes over time. In world armies there are 4 levels of privates and in some armies a soldier starts off at a sub private rank of "cadet". Not all world armies use all 4 private ranks. Also there are 7 levels of corporals, and 5 levels of sergeants. The exact rank is not always easy to understand. Is a US Army specialist 4th class E4 a superior private or a corporal?
 

major bill

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By current US Army standards there are normally no platoon commanders they are considered platoon leaders. However, the exact difference can be hard for non military people to understand.
 

Irishtom29

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By current US Army standards there are normally no platoon commanders they are considered platoon leaders. However, the exact difference can be hard for non military people to understand.
Sounds like a euphemism to me. Do these leaders have the power to command?
 

Kyle Kalasnik

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By current US Army standards there are normally no platoon commanders they are considered platoon leaders. However, the exact difference can be hard for non military people to understand.
Yes, as I recall back to my dealings with the US Army, the officer was referred to as Platoon Leader, whereas in the US Marine Corps we used Platoon Commander. Just one more little thing that you had to differentiate between the two services.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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Was there any need to have more than one rank of private during the Civil War? Let us say a corporal was killed, which pravate stepped up to lead the soldiers until a new corperal was appointed? Was it by date of becoming a private?
Because the basic infantry unit was the company seniority among privates was not a big issue. The company tended to act as a single tactical unit.
Recruits might become lance corporals or lance sergeants during the period between induction and assignment to a company to assist keeping order, but recruits were still privates. Once in a company, the need for non-coms decided any promotions.
Generally during the CW, companies in the field were rarely larger than 50-60 men. The concept of part of a company being a fixed tactical unit had not generally been established.... that is the captain commanded the company, not platoons of the company. There could be exceptions, but the company was usually a single unit. Any platoons or squads were administrative units to facilitate command in the company.
In practice, a corporal might have 4 privates he was responsible for. A sergeant would be responsible above the corporal, a staff sergeant above that on up to the captain. If the corporal went down, the privates would follow who the corporal had been following. There is no command issue as the privates follow up the chain of command. If the privates run out of non-coms and officers, then the company would be of little use and would be attached to another company at least temporarily.
The US infantry company of the World Wars compared in size to a lot of CW regiments in the field. The companies of the CW regiment could get so small they would be the numerical equivalent of half a platoon in the 20th century. The increase in private grades represented an organizational need that did not exist during the CW.
 
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It could always be more complicated. I mean the Air Force has 4 of those ranks (Airman instead of Private) but that includes E-4 which equivalents Corporal. Here in Germany we have 6, however two of those are OR-4/E-4 as well. The number of enlisted ranks, both Privates and NCOs, swelled over the last centuries with professional militaries becoming more complicated and more formalized in their organisation, even excluding specific ranks for each branch or speciality (which btw was also more or less done by the Romans). But as said it could always be worse - for example Italy greatly expanded its ranks and its Navy and Coast Guard currently have, I think, some 18 enlisted ranks (as it includes Warrant Officers).
 

Kyle Kalasnik

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Because the basic infantry unit was the company seniority among privates was not a big issue. The company tended to act as a single tactical unit.
Recruits might become lance corporals or lance sergeants during the period between induction and assignment to a company to assist keeping order, but recruits were still privates. Once in a company, the need for non-coms decided any promotions.
Generally during the CW, companies in the field were rarely larger than 50-60 men. The concept of part of a company being a fixed tactical unit had not generally been established.... that is the captain commanded the company, not platoons of the company. There could be exceptions, but the company was usually a single unit. Any platoons or squads were administrative units to facilitate command in the company.
In practice, a corporal might have 4 privates he was responsible for. A sergeant would be responsible above the corporal, a staff sergeant above that on up to the captain. If the corporal went down, the privates would follow who the corporal had been following. There is no command issue as the privates follow up the chain of command. If the privates run out of non-coms and officers, then the company would be of little use and would be attached to another company at least temporarily.
The US infantry company of the World Wars compared in size to a lot of CW regiments in the field. The companies of the CW regiment could get so small they would be the numerical equivalent of half a platoon in the 20th century. The increase in private grades represented an organizational need that did not exist during the CW.
Appreciate it.

Respectfully,
Kyle Kalasnik
 

thomas aagaard

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Were Platoon Sergeants and Squad Leaders as involved as they are now in modern times? What were their duties? I have heard of Lieutenants commanding companies when there was no Captain, but what about as a Platoon Commander?
Didn't exist in the US/CSA army during this period.
The captain was the company commander.
He commanded the 1st platoon.
The 1st LT commanded the 2nd platoon.
But it was very rare for a unit to do anything "by platoon", basically only if marching in a column of platoons, the 1st LT get to gie a few orders.
The 2nd LT did not hold command.

But it rarely mattered since civil war companies very very rarely did anything on their own.
The battalion was the main tactical unit. (or the brigade by late war)

Most firing orders was given by the Battalion commander, only with some movement orders where the captains involved.
So most of the time he was managing his company, but not making command decisions.

There where no squads like to day. And there where no squad leaders/commanders.
The sergeants did not have a command job in combat. The corporals was just men in the line.
Both groups had their jobs outside of combat. (leading work and part of the picket line or the guard)
 

Mark Roth

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Building on the lesser degree of organization in the Civil War...

From the "CUSTOMS OF SERVICE FOR OFFICERS OF THE ARMY" 1866 edition.

"The officers upon whom the duties and responsibilities of administration fall are Company, Regimental or Battalion Commanders, and Commanding and General officers. Lieutenants, Field and Staff officers are a class whose duties are subordinate to the administrative class, and the latter are in the main responsible for the acts and duties of the former."

"THE Lieutenant is the assistant or aide of the Captain. When the Captain is present he is under his orders, and in his absence or sickness the duties fall upon the Senior Lieutenant. He should, therefore, be familiar with the Captain’s duties, as well as his own..."

"In reality one officer is quite sufficient to attend to all the duties requiring the presence of a commissioned officer, and if the Company would always be sure of an officer competent to do his duty, there would probably be no Lieutenants; but it is to provide against the Company being left without an officer that the law has provided Lieutenants. "
 

Carronade

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"THE Lieutenant is the assistant or aide of the Captain. When the Captain is present he is under his orders, and in his absence or sickness the duties fall upon the Senior Lieutenant. He should, therefore, be familiar with the Captain’s duties, as well as his own..."

"In reality one officer is quite sufficient to attend to all the duties requiring the presence of a commissioned officer, and if the Company would always be sure of an officer competent to do his duty, there would probably be no Lieutenants; but it is to provide against the Company being left without an officer that the law has provided Lieutenants. "
Indeed, that was the origin of the lieutenant, "place holder" in French, to fill in when the captain was away.
 
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An E4 in today's Army is equivalent in duty responsibility however not every unit or company has corporals. Also a corporal gets an NCOER evaluation where an E4 doesn't. Now the confusing part is both are on the verge of becoming a Sergeant upon completion of school and time in grade.

Sounds like LT's were squad leaders during the Civil War where today a Squad Leader is usually a SSG (E6).
 

DixieRifles

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Is a US Army specialist 4th class E4 a superior private or a corporal?
In WW2 they created the Technical rank such as Technical 4th Grade which was 3 stripes with a "T" in the center. This was a method of promoting soldiers who had special training but it came without the command responsibility. You saw this technical rank worn by a lot of gunners on bomber crews and HQ staff who had training as interpreters and radio operators and such.

I think the Specialists ranks came out in the late 1950's and used through Viet Nam.

This is a Tech 3 with 4 stripes. A little confusing: Tech 5 had 2 stripes.
Tech5.JPG
 

Kyle Kalasnik

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It could always be more complicated. I mean the Air Force has 4 of
In WW2 they created the Technical rank such as Technical 4th Grade which was 3 stripes with a "T" in the center. This was a method of promoting soldiers who had special training but it came without the command responsibility. You saw this technical rank worn by a lot of gunners on bomber crews and HQ staff who had training as interpreters and radio operators and such.

I think the Specialists ranks came out in the late 1950's and used through Viet Nam.

This is a Tech 3 with 4 stripes. A little confusing: Tech 5 had 2 stripes.
View attachment 320332
s Corporal. Here in Germany we have 6, however two of those are OR-4/E-4 as well. The number of enlisted ranks, both Privates and NCOs, swelled over the last centuries with professional militaries becoming more complicated and more formalized in their organisation, even excluding specific ranks for each branch or speciality (which btw was also more or less done by the Romans). But as said it could always be worse - for example Italy greatly expanded its ranks and its Navy and Coast Guard currently have, I think, some 18 enlisted ranks (as
In WW2 they created the Technical rank such as Technical 4th Grade which was 3 stripes with a "T" in the center. This was a method of promoting soldiers who had special training but it came without the command responsibility. You saw this technical rank worn by a lot of gunners on bomber crews and HQ staff who had training as interpreters and radio operators and such.

I think the Specialists ranks came out in the late 1950's and used through Viet Nam.

This is a Tech 3 with 4 stripes. A little confusing: Tech 5 had 2 stripes.
View attachment 320332
Dixie Rifles, thanks for the photo and information provided.
I have seen those technician ranks insignia in photos and movies. From the early 1920s to 1947 (I think) pay grades were reversed. So grade 1 was the the highest, with grade 7 being the lowest, very confusing when dealing with today E1 - E9 pay grade.

Respectfully,
Kyle Kalasnik
 

thomas aagaard

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Sounds like LT's were squad leaders during the Civil War where today a Squad Leader is usually a SSG (E6).
But they where not.
The 1st LT did command the 2nd platoon, when a unit (rarely) marched by platoon.
The rest of the time he just helped push men back into line if needed.
The 2nd LT didn't command anything. He was just a file closer.

Both had their primary job outside of combat. Officer of the Day, Officer of the Guard and taking over for the captain.
 

Mark Roth

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Sounds like LT's were squad leaders during the Civil War where today a Squad Leader is usually a SSG (E6).
No, sergeants still lead squads.

Again quoting from "CUSTOMS OF SERVICE FOR OFFICERS OF THE ARMY" 1866 edition.

"The company should be divided into four squads or sections, each under a Sergeant, with Corporals to take the place of the Sergeant when he is absent"

"The practical exercises are carried out, thus; the men of each company are divided into squads of three or more men each, and exercised in the “School of the Soldier,” under a Non-Commissioned Officer, and these exercises are superintended by the Commissioned Officers of each Company, respectively. These exercises are continued daily, until the men are sufficiently instructed to be united into platoons, when they are drilled by the Commissioned Officers, until the men and officers are perfect in the School of the Company."

The last two above quoted sentences include the only reference to the word platoon in the entire document. Squads and platoons do not, as I read things, seem to be formal "units." While in WWII, a squad or a platoon may be sent on a mission, in the Civil War a detail would have simply been made from the company, the basic unit. Men from the same squad or platoon may have been routinely sent out as pickets together, for example, but they would not have been a formal subdivision of the company.
 
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Does the same apply for the Civil War? Your reference is dated 1866 which is post war albeit a year later. Just curious.
 

thomas aagaard

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No, sergeants still lead squads.
That is a post war idea that make perfect sense in the much, much smaller peacetime army.
Where a company might very well be stationed on its own somewhere.

But you don't find in his book
"CUSTOMS OF SERVICE FOR NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS"

That one is from 1864 and about the nco's

368. The most important duty of sergeant is that of file-closer. Posted in the rear of the company
when paraded, it is his duty to see that the men pay attention to their duty, preserve order, march
properly, and keep closed.
369. In time of battle, it is his duty to keep the men in ranks, not to allow them to fall out on any
pretext, and to prevent them from misbehaving before the enemy. He is even required to shoot
men down when they attempt to run away in times of danger.


There is nothing about leading anything in combat.
the 1st sergeant covers the captain, and is the right guide.
the 2nd sergeant is the left guide.
The rest are file closers.

And look in the drill books.
They do not use squads as any sort of tactical thing. It is the name given for a small group of soldiers doing drill.
It mention splitting the company into sections, but don't use them for anything. And there is no defined section leader.

But they do use platoons for a few things. Mainly If a battalion in line is marching and something get in the way of part of the line, a platoon can fall out of the line and behind the neighboring platoon to get past it.
In this case the 1st LT command the 2nd platoon. (and the captain the 1st platoon)
 


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