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

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Waterloo50

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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)
So did this apply to both sides, I’d always assumed that if an NCO was taken out of action, the oldest or more experienced man would lead the section or platoon at least until someone was officially appointed. Like I said I’d ‘imagined’ that’s how things would be. It seems more likely that would happen in a confederate unit given that the men would have some kind of pecking order. There must have been situations on both sides where an NCO was killed or wounded, it makes sense to me that the younger more inexperienced men would look to the oldest guy to lead especially in regiments formed from towns where the men knew each other.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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So did this apply to both sides, I’d always assumed that if an NCO was taken out of action, the oldest or more experienced man would lead the section or platoon at least until someone was officially appointed. Like I said I’d ‘imagined’ that’s how things would be. It seems more likely that would happen in a confederate unit given that the men would have some kind of pecking order. There must have been situations on both sides where an NCO was killed or wounded, it makes sense to me that the younger more inexperienced men would look to the oldest guy to lead especially in regiments formed from towns where the men knew each other.
Platoons, sections or squads were generally not infantry formations in the CW, on either side, during combat. The company went into battle as a unit. The captain (or other company commander) led the company (and everybody followed that lead), and was the only one who would need replacing.
Artillery units were different. The captain commanded the battery, lieutenants generally commanded two gun sections of the battery. Each gun had a commander, and that was the critical job in artillery. The officers were partially expendable, but the gun commander had to be replaced if he fell. Gun crews cross trained and had a pecking order so the gun could continue to be served and fired.
Cavalry was different, also. Small patrols could be led by a junior officer or non-com. I think that if the patrol leader was taken out, the patrol would return to its company and report. Toward the end of the war, some US cavalry regiments developed a battalion system that allowed permanent divisions of the regiment.
The Confederate Marine Corps had a company organization, but the USMC did not. The USMC was a single unit from which companies and battalions could be formed if needed. Non-coms were more important to marines as small detachments sometimes had no marine officers. Still, in combat, marines looked to officers, whether navy or marine.
 
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Mark Roth

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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.
My working assumption is that the 1866 edition at worst incorporated lessons from the war into it. While the army did shrink after the war, which could lead to things becoming less complex, that wasn't until late in 1866 that the drastic cuts started.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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My working assumption is that the 1866 edition at worst incorporated lessons from the war into it. While the army did shrink after the war, which could lead to things becoming less complex, that wasn't until late in 1866 that the drastic cuts started.
In terms of lower enlisted grades, I'm not sure much was learned during the CW. Historically, corporals and sergeants had been instructed by officers as to what was expected in camp or post, but those non-coms did little as far as command. They would train or drill privates, but did not command in combat. The captain was the responsible party in the company.
That went on before and after the CW. In the 1870's-80's the US army was top heavy with officers. New junior officers had to be created, and there was no shortage of veteran officers who had served during the war. On paper, a company might not have more than 60 officers and men. The ratio of privates to others in a company would not be very high.
What turned things later was the use of smokeless powder and repeating firearms, and, automatic weapons. Small units could then make an impact on a battlefield. The US army did not begin this until the 1890's. A chain of command down to privates then made sense.
 

Mark Roth

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In terms of lower enlisted grades, I'm not sure much was learned during the CW
...The captain was the responsible party in the company.
...On paper, a company might not have more than 60 officers and men. The ratio of privates to others in a company would not be very high.
What turned things later was the use of smokeless powder and repeating firearms, and, automatic weapons. Small units could then make an impact on a battlefield. The US army did not begin this until the 1890's. A chain of command down to privates then made sense.
Absolutely. I am not sure the platoon and the squad were combat units anywhere before repeaters and automatic weapons became a real thing.

Also, FWIW, army company size varied tremendously down to World War I or thereabouts. Often the army would shed soldiers from the companies to absorb funding cuts rather than cut companies or regiments. In the Revolution and at one other time in the mid-19th Century that cannot recall off hand, companies were designed to be basically of modern platoon sized. While still have three officers and three or four sergeants.
 
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thomas aagaard

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Absolutely. I am not sure the platoon and the squad were combat units anywhere before repeaters and automatic weapons became a real thing.
They where in the danish army.
In 1863 a 800man (privates and under-corporals) battalion was split into 4x 200man companies. Each under a Captain.
Each company was split into 4x 50 man Platoons, each under a LT or commandersergent.
And each platoon was split into 4x sections under a NCO (if needed an under-corporal)

As the 1863 drill book makes very clear. Each part of the unit must have its own commander and be able to be detached and reattached without any issue or interference in the command structure.

50/4 is 12½, but each company "lost" two men to being medics, and a few other was lost to other none combat jobs.
And some sections might be under the command a professionel nco, and others under a under-corporal.

So the section would effectively be 10-12 privates under a NCO that could do things on their own.
(but most of the time things was done as part of a platoon or company)

The main tactical unit was the company. and the main fighting was to be done by using up to half the company in the "skyttekjæde" a heavy skrimishline. (Still in 2 ranks, just with a few steps between each file.)
And the rest of the unit would be further back in column ready to reinforce or relieve the part of the unit that was fighting.


The system had no issues with gabs in the lines, as long as the ground can be covered by fire. And it make it completely clear that open ground have to be avoided if at all possible. And if not, you get across it at the run.
This make a lot of sense, when one look at the terrain in Southern Denmark and in Sleswig where the army expected to fight.
Each field was bordered by thick bushes... comparable to the Bocage in Normandy. (a swell known from 1944)

Iam not 100% sure when this structure was implemented, but I believe (but can't prove it atm) that is was already in place when the 1st sleswig war broke out in 1848. (the 4 company structure had been in use since before 1800)

And I believe you find the same system in "german" armies during the 1840ties and 1850ties.
 
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Claude Bauer

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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?
An interesting topic! Just as an aside, the rank of Musician was just below Corporal and just above Private. In some units it was more or less equal to the rank of Private. They were also paid $1 more a month than privates because they had a special skill (the equivalent of an extra $20 a month.)
 
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Mark Roth

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They where in the danish army.
I stand corrected. Am I misreading your explanation or did the Danish abandon strict linear tactics in favor of, to quote a handful of Civil War era tacticians, making the skirmish line the "main line of battle?"

An interesting topic! Just as an aside, the rank of Musician was just below Corporal and just above Private. In some units it was more or less equal to the rank of Private. They were also paid $1 more a month than privates because they had a special skill (the equivalent of an extra $20 a month.)
Is that so much a rank or just a paid "extra" duty?
 
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thomas aagaard

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I stand corrected. Am I misreading your explanation or did the Danish abandon strict linear tactics in favor of, to quote a handful of Civil War era tacticians, making the skirmish line the "main line of battle?"
Yes. Allready in 1848-50 did this happen.
When looking at period maps of the battles most units are shown as a square block with a lot of dots in front of it.
each "block" is a 200-250 man company with 2-3 platoons in column. and 1-2 (for a total of 4) out in front in "skyttekjæde".
(in the first war the army enlarged its size by making the companies 250 and later 275 men and later adding more units)
IMG_2963 (2).JPG


When the war broke out in 1848 the army already had a number of jäger battalions. and the line battalions also had men in each company with a (slow firing flintlock) rifle.
With 4 line battalion and one jägerkorps joining the rebels as I remember it.

In 1849 a number of line battalions was converted to light infantry battalions.
By the end of the war in 1850, about 25% of the danish infantry was armed with a rifle-musket and 80% of the "german" rebels had a rifle musket.
For most of the 1850ties all danish soldiers first learned to use a smoothbore, then the best 20% of the men in each company got a rifle musket also.
By 1860 the army started up rifling the smoothbores to minierifles.

The 1863 drill book have all the close ordered formations and evolutions one can expect.
But half the pages in the book is spend on how to fight in "skyttekjæde"
Where the closer order is strict and a lot of details on how to do thing, the open order chapters have very few clear instructions.
It actually make it a bit hard to understand, since it got fewer clear instructions with clear orders. And more a "get it to work" attitude.

In the battalion chapter, is It also have an interesting rule. It basically tell the battalion commander to let his company commanders do their wok without interference from him...

When this updated drill book was published the "secretary of war" Thestrup knew very well that a war was likely. (and against Prussia who had fast firing breechloaeded rifles)
Another difference is the fact that it include more about how you teach soldiers. That is language, attitude and similar and it also include more about when to do something, Where the american drill books only explain how.

Unfortunately many of the good ideas did not get used. The army more than doubles in size with mobilization in late 1863 /early 64.
By making each battalion into a regiment of 2 battalions. Resulting in a critical lack of officers and NCOs, too many too old soldiers and with the war starting in February and heavy snow there was no good way to do something about the situation.

So close ordered formations did get used way more than they should have had.
But usually with a platoon or max a company doing something in one formation. Not the long slow lines we see in north america.

And just to compare the two.
A american skirmish line by Hardee's is in one rank with 5 paces between each man.
A danish Skyttekjæde is in two ranks and with 4 paces between each file.
(both have options of making this more or less)

So the by the book danish version got more then 2 times the number of rifles pr. m of front line.

Another is how you do fire and movement.
In the US (french) system the two men of a file do fire and movement as a team.
In the danish system it is done as a unit. So if a platoon is in Skyttekjæde and need to move forward then you order 2 sections to fire and the other two to move.
And the ordered are just "forward" or "retreat" or similar.
With the use of whistles as an option is yelling is not sufficient.

Very much a 19th century case of "keep it simple stupid"
It even mention this in the first part. What ever you do, it need to work under combat conditions.
 
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Claude Bauer

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"Is that so much a rank or just a paid "extra" duty?"

No quite sure what you mean, but from what I understand "Musician" was a rank and that's what they were--musicians, i.e., not just privates that did what all privates did and played music too. The Field Music had specific duties, specifically Camp Duty which consisted of playing a series of short tunes or "calls" throughout the day to signal specific events--Reveille (which was actually a collection of tunes, not just the bugle Reveille that modern people recognize), as well as dinner call, supper call, breakfast call, surgeon's call, pioneer's call (fatigue duty), drill call, etc. on and on. They were the timekeepers and PA systems of the camps. They also participated in other capacities like working as stretcher bearers and helping ambulance crews while the fighting was going on.

So, what was their "special skill" that merited the extra pay? Well, first they had to learn to play the instrument, then they had to learn how to read sheet music, then they had to learn all the songs and camp duty calls in the manual, then they had to memorize it all, and they also had to be able to play while marching--anyone who's been in marching band knows how challenging that can be. It was a big job, and not a glamorous one--they weren't there for entertainment. All day, every day, regardless of the weather, they played music from Reveille until Tattoo, day in and day out. Yeah, that's worth an extra $1 a month.
 
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Saphroneth

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My understanding, at least, is that it's because of the specialization of soldiers and the development of the initiative in the 20th century. In the 19th century, a good soldier in a properly operating line unit might never have to do anything during combat which wasn't directly in obedience to orders - the words of command said when to march and in which direction, when to stop, turn, how to hold the firearm, when to reload, to aim, you fire on the word of command, you fix bayonets on the word of command and so on. Privates are functionally (meant to be) interchangeable, and a man could go through the whole war and never hit the enemy - and nobody would ever know it, including himself.

In 20th century armies, especially as a result of WW1, this became less tenable. Units operated in smaller groups and were more specialized - a platoon would have riflemen, bombers, tommy-gunners and so on - and in small unit combat like that the role of initiative is much more important. Just as importantly, it's much easier to notice when someone outperforms, or indeed when they screw up, and similarly a soldier who brings a good education into the army at the rank of private is rewarded by the PFC role. (In the 19th century he'd have either been an officer straight-off or he'd just have been a particularly educated "robotic" private.)


With all that being said, it seems that the US did in fact have a PFC rank in the engineer corps at least since 1846 or before, because of the distinction between skilled artisans and unskilled labourers.


I stand corrected. Am I misreading your explanation or did the Danish abandon strict linear tactics in favor of, to quote a handful of Civil War era tacticians, making the skirmish line the "main line of battle?"
This was also the case for the Prussians in their military reforms prior to the Unification wars, and while the British army hadn't gone that far they pushed the skirmishers out a long way and had a three-wing drill - the skirmishers were expected to carry a lot of the weight of main line combat, though they fell back on their supports (who were in line) as the enemy advanced.
In practice even in the Crimean War the British troops often shook out into skirmish line as part of main combat, probably because light infantry drill had become compulsory some years prior.
 
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...With all that being said, it seems that the US did in fact have a PFC rank in the engineer corps at least since 1846 or before, because of the distinction between skilled artisans and unskilled labourers. ...
Right, Artificers. I think they were used in the artillery as well, though I don´t know if the were enlisted there or attached to those units.
 

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"Is that so much a rank or just a paid "extra" duty?"

No quite sure what you mean, but from what I understand "Musician" was a rank and that's what they were--musicians
I certainly do not dispute that musicians had different skills and duties. I am merely saying that calling it a "rank" is perhaps not the appropriate term. Having a higher "rank" than private would assume that they have some sort of authority. I know certain individuals with rank did not have authority, a surgeon would never take command for example. But Civil War terminology gave surgeons "rank with" not the rank "of" whatever level of relative authority that they may have possessed.

Do musicians outrank privates? Or do they just have a different job?
 

Saphroneth

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Right, Artificers. I think they were used in the artillery as well, though I don´t know if the were enlisted there or attached to those units.
If it matters, US battery sizes (men per gun) were small compared to contemporary European ones, but I understand they made up the numbers by bringing in labour from the infantry they worked with. So it might be that artificers were a big fraction of the "permanent" battery staff, and that labour was done by detached infantry.
 
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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?
An interesting topic! Just as an aside, the rank of Musician was just below Corporal and just above Private. In some units it was more or less equal to the rank of Private. They were also paid $1 more a month than privates because they had a special skill (the equivalent of an extra $20 a month.)
So far I think everyone has missed the primary reason for the difference between then and now, though Claude has touched lightly on it (if I missed something else in my scanning of some of the posts, please excuse me): PAY. Since ranks are directly related to pay grades, in "modern" armies there has been an ever-expanding table of ranks, many involving the exact same duties and responsibilities, but allowing for a means of promotion in pay in order to encourage continuing service for those "professional" soldiers.
 

Saphroneth

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It's how entering the army to get a PFC rank is rewarded, so I sort of touched on it.

Interestingly as I understand it the British Army at this time instead granted pay increments to those with certain skills (e.g. sharpshooters), which was functionally the same thing.
 

unionblue

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Held all three ranks of private during my time.

Pvt E-1 (Slick sleeve, no rank shown on uniform).
Pvt E-2 (Mosquito wing, single stripe on uniform).
PFC E-3 (Private First Class or mosquito wing with a rocker).

But trust me, a Private at any grade was just that, a Private.

Unionblue
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Claude Bauer

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I certainly do not dispute that musicians had different skills and duties. I am merely saying that calling it a "rank" is perhaps not the appropriate term. Having a higher "rank" than private would assume that they have some sort of authority. I know certain individuals with rank did not have authority, a surgeon would never take command for example. But Civil War terminology gave surgeons "rank with" not the rank "of" whatever level of relative authority that they may have possessed.

Do musicians outrank privates? Or do they just have a different job?
They just had different jobs. I doubt any privates ever felt outranked by a musician! But some of them probably resented the fact that musicians got paid more than the men doing the fighting and the dying.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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So far I think everyone has missed the primary reason for the difference between then and now, though Claude has touched lightly on it (if I missed something else in my scanning of some of the posts, please excuse me): PAY. Since ranks are directly related to pay grades, in "modern" armies there has been an ever-expanding table of ranks, many involving the exact same duties and responsibilities, but allowing for a means of promotion in pay in order to encourage continuing service for those "professional" soldiers.
I have never known of anyone who re-uped so he could make E-3, not in the last 60 years, anyway. I think some mistake was made by Congress and the military when the enlisted pay grades increased from 7 to 9.
After the CW a grade between private and corporal eventually solidified as PFC. This was a useful rank. In WW2 through Korea PFC's were EXPECTED to replace non-coms if needed. There was a need for that rank. PFC was in the second lowest pay grade, but had purpose. And a purpose that really was not needed during the CW. The need was followed by the pay. Previously, if a private were ordered to assume some responsibility, no pay was attached. The grade between private and corporal filled a possible need, and when codified, got more pay. Between the World Wars, some US Army Air Corps units allowed specialist ranks to indicate skill and responsibility, but on paper all were PFC's. That was addressed with the technician ranks during WW2 that rewarded skills. No system will be perfect for all uses. Between 1861 and 1950, the army probably got things as close ro right as they could get. That was with 7 basic enlisted pay grades.
During the CW, it was no doubt best that officers led men into battle. The concept of rank has changed with the nature of warfare.
 
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