Chain of Command

Private

  • Most soldiers were privates
  • Provided army fighting base for both armies
  • Acted on commands of their company officers
  • Shoulder to shoulder in straight battle lines
  • Force of numbers

Corporal

  • Served in regimental color guard or in companies of the regiment
  • Helped keep uniform line in the movement of a company
  • Guided privates during battle

Sergeant

  • Served in regimental color guard or in companies of the regiment
  • Could be further divided by administrative duties (first sergeant, ordnance sergeant, quartermaster sergeant, etc.)
  • Both behind and in line of battle depending on role
  • Guided troop movements and kept men in position leading by example and command

Sergeant Major

  • Keeps reports for the regiment
  • Stayed behind the line of battler on the left to help guide movement of men during battle

Lieutenant

  • 2nd in command of infantry and cavalry companies and artillery batteries
  • Infantry lieutenants stayed behind the line assisting the company captain through guidance of troops and firing of weapons

Captain

  • Commanded a company
  • Provided company with commands for movements and fighting cohesively with other companies in the regiment
  • Also had administrative duties

Major

  • 3rd in command of regiment
  • Assisted colonel administratively and in combat
  • Infantry majors led the regimental attack
    • Positioned in front of the line with the color guard
  • Major takes command if lieutenant colonel and colonel are killed or wounded

Lieutenant Colonel

  • 2nd in command of regiment
  • Assisted colonel in all responsibilities (administrative and combat)
  • Takes command of colonel is killed or wounded

Colonel

  • 1st in command of regiment
  • Require to lead regiment into battle personally
  • Often killed or wounded in action due to involvement in battle

Brigadier General

  • Commanded infantry or cavalry brigades
  • Combat and administrative duties
  • Positioned regiments in battle
  • Confederate Congress initially made the rank of brigadier general the highest rank
  • By the end of the War, the Confederacy had at least 383 men in the PACS and three men in the ACSA who were ranked this high
  • Union and Confederate army brigadier generals were similar in assignment
  • Confederate brigadier generals mainly commanded brigades while Union brigadier generals at times would lead divisions as well
  • Often led sub-districts within military departments 

Major General

  • Commanded divisions and led brigade commanders
  • Led districts that made up military departments
  • 88 Confederate men made it to this rank
  • Confederate major generals had to be nominated by Davis and confirmed by the Senate
  • Union major generals led divisions, corps, and entire armies

Lieutenant General

  • Rank of lieutenant general remained inactive until Winfield Scott received a brevet promotion to the rank in 1855
  • Unlike the Union, the Confederates promoted numerous officers to the ranks of Lieutenant General and General
    • 18 lieutenant generals in the Confederate Army over the course of the war
  • Confederate lieutenant generals were nominated by Davis and confirmed by the Senate; served as corps commanders
  • Confederate lieutenant general not the same as Union lieutenant general; U.S. Grant and Winfield Scott were the only two Union lieutenant generals

General

  • Many more appointed Confederate generals than Union generals
  • Outranked all military officers
  • Only seven men achieved the rank of (full) general; the highest ranking was Samuel Cooper, Adjutant General and Inspector General of the Confederate States Army
  • Confederacy: entire army or military department commanders and advisers to Jefferson Davis
  • All Confederate generals enrolled in the ACSA to ensure that they outranked all militia officers

President

  • Acted as Commander in Chief and held highest authority regarding military issues
  • Secretary of War provided a link between each president and his commanders in the field

(2, 3, 4, 6, various internet sources)

Photo: by Matthew Brady – Library of Congress

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