History of Army Officers

While the US Army structure is based on the British military tradition, the History of Army Officers dates back to the 18th century. The categorisation of Privates and Commissioned Officers required distinction among the ranks, which called for the introduction of badges of distinction – this was followed up with the introduction of two stars for major generals and one star for brigadier generals, in 1780. The commissioned officers of the Army of United States were called the “General of the Armies of the United States”. By 1798, three stars were introduced to indicate Lieutenant Generals, while four stars were awarded to the rank of General, in 1866.

The “General and Commander-in-chief of the Army of the United Colonies” appointed in 1775 was George Washington, on the instance of the Revolutionary War, holding his post till 1783 under a Commission. George Washington was supposed to have been conferred the “Commander of the Army of the United States” and his position of “Lieutenant General” was to be abolished, but George Washington died while still under the commission of Lieutenant General.

By 1866, the title of the “General of the Army of the United States” was established and was awarded to General Ulysses S Grant, who was succeeded by William T Sherman as the General of the Army of the United States, in 1869. However, he was the last to hold the position, as the position was discontinued on the death of Sherman. The rank of Lieutenant General was discontinued, which was merged with the position of the General of
Army, with Lieutenant General Philip H Sheridan taking up the position. However, the office was discontinued with the death of Sheridan.

It was after the First World War that the title of the General of Armies was introduced. The only person to hold the rank of the General of the Armies was General Pershing. By 1944, General of the Army was established, with the appointment of General George Marshall, General Douglas MacArthur, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Henry H. Arnold.

However, the General of the Army is deemed to be next in line in terms of rankings, to the general of the Armies, and the third to follow was the General. Colonels of the Army were identified with red or pink colored cockades in their hats as early as in 1775, and eagles were introduced in 1829 as a mark of identifying colonels. It was in 1935 that the leaf was established to mark Lieutenant Colonels and Majors.

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