Union Insignia of the Civil War

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Union Insignia

By the 1860's the Federal Army had had nearly ninety years to become large and diversified. Enlisted rank insignia, too, had become large and diversified. Chevrons covering the entire outer sleeve, in dashing colors. The several branches of the Army had their respective jobs and used their troops in varying manners. The insignia show, this.

Special thanks for the hard work and design that was used to create these pages needs to be given to Rod Ploessl. Without his contribution to our site we would have to go without a page on Civil War Insignia. Please visit his web site: United States Army Insignia Home Page at: http://usarmyinsigniahomepage.110mb.com/

U.S. Army

Commissioned officers in the Army were identified by their shoulder straps, which was a rectangular device framed in gold, within which was a symbolic identifier of the officer's rank, such as an acorn or bar. The color of the background also identified the officer's position within the Army: light blue for infantry, yellow for cavalry, and so on. General officers and their staff had black backgrounds.

Hat devices were more varied; denoting the position rather than the rank.

Commissioned Officers of the United States Army
Grade 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Shoulder strap USALTGen.png USAMGen.png USABGen.png USAColonel.png USALTCol.png USAMajor.png USACaptain.png USA1stLt.png USA2ndLT.png
Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General Colonel
infantry
Lieutenant Colonel
staff
Major
artillery
Captain
infantry
1st Lieutenant
cavalry
2nd Lieutenant
artillery
Commissioned Officers Hat Insignia, United States Army
GeneralHatInsignia.PNG StaffOfficerInsignia.PNG OfficerHatinfantry.PNG OfficerHatartillery.PNG OfficerHatcavalry.PNG OfficerHatsharpshooter.PNG OfficerHatEngineerCorps.PNG OfficerHatTopoEng.PNG OfficerhatOrdinance.PNG OfficerHatSignal.PNG
General Officer Staff Officer Infantry Artillery Cavalry Sharpshooter Corps of
Engineers
Topographical
Engineers
Ordinance Signal Corps

U.S. Army Enlisted

Enlisted ranks were immediately identified by large chevron stripes on both sleeves (privates had none), which increased with rank. Color of the chevrons denoted which type of service they were attached to.

Service stripes were worn on the uniform's lower sleeve below the chevrons; each stripe denoted five years of service. Scarlet or light-blue trim around a stripe indicated service in wartime.

Cap badges, generally, identified the branch and regiment to which the wearer belonged. The badges were defined by regulation and policy, but in a vast war enforcement often seems less important. Officers purchased their own uniforms and insignia and could be inventive. Their cap badges were embroidered with silver and gold wire, sometimes following Army dictates and sometimes not.

Enlisted troops were issued their uniforms and insignia. Their cap badges were of stamped brass, in some cases they included their regiment number and company letter. Although of less frequency, they were also prone to imaginative substitutions.

Infantry
Grade 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Rank Sergeant-Major Quartermaster
Sergeant
First Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Musician Private Hat Insignia
USASGTMJRinfsleeve2.PNG USAQMSGTinfsleeve1.PNG USA1stSGTinfsleeve1.PNG USASGTinfsleeve1.PNG USACPLinfsleeve1.PNG USA Private1.PNG USA Private1.PNG EnlistHatInfantry.PNG
Artillery
Grade 7 6 5 4 4 3 2 1
Rank Sergeant-Major Regimental
Quartermaster
Sergeant
First Sergeant Battery
Quartermaster
Sergeant
Sergeant Corporal Pioneer Private Hat Insignia
USASGTMAJartsleeve1.PNG USAQMSGTartsleeve1.PNG USA1stSGTartsleeve2.png USABatteryQMSGTsleeve.png USASGTartsleeve1.PNG USACPLartsleeve1.PNG USA Artillery pioneer1.PNG USA Private1.PNG EnlistedHatArtillery.PNG
Cavalry
Grade 7 6 5 4 4 3 2 1
Rank Sergeant-Major Regimental
Quartermaster
Sergeant
First Sergeant Company
Quartermaster
Sergeant
Sergeant Ferrier / Blacksmith Corporal Private / Bugler Hat Insignia
USASGTMAJcavsleeve1.PNG USAQMSGTcavsleeve2.png USA1stSGTcavsleeve1.PNG USAcoQMSGTcavsleeve2.png USASGTcavsleeve1.PNG USAFerriersmith3.pngUSAFerriersmith2.png USACPLcavsleeve1.PNG USA Private1.PNG EnlistedHatCavalry.PNG
Sharpshooter
Grade 7 6 5 4 3 2
Rank Sergeant-Major Quartermaster
Sergeant
First Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Private Hat Insignia
USASGTMAJsssleeve2.PNG USAQMSGTsssleeve1.PNG USA1stSGTsssleeve1.PNG USASGTsssleeve1.PNG USACPLsssleeve1.PNG USA Private1.PNG EnlistHatshooter.PNG
Other Enlisted Ranks
Grade 7 7 7 5 5 4 3 2 2
Rank Hospital
Steward
Ordinance
Sergeant
Sergeant
Engineers
Sergeant
Signal Corps
Corporal
Engineers
Sergeant
Ordinance
Corporal
Ordinance
Private
Signal Corps
Private
Ambulance
Corps
Hat Insignia
USAHospSteward.png USAOrdSGTsleeve.png USASGTcavsleeve1.PNG USASGTsignalsleeve.png USACPLcavsleeve1.PNG USASGTartsleeve1.PNG USACPLartsleeve1.PNG USA Privatesignalsleeve.PNG AmbulanceCorpssleeve.png EnlistHatEngCorps.PNG
Engineers
EnlistedHatOrdinance.PNG
Ordinance
EnlistedHatSignal.PNG
Signal Corps

U.S. Navy

Commissioned officers in the Navy wore shoulder straps similar in appearance to their Army counterparts, the difference being the addition of an anchor in the design, and a single background color (black) for all grades. Rank was further identified by gold striping on the sleeve cuffs, with the addition of an inverted gold star (1863) to identify line officers; staff corps officers would get their own insignia as well.

Nautical tradition dictated particular names to identify ranks; the titles commodore, commander, and ensign are not found in the Army or Marines. In addition, a captain in the Navy is equivalent in rank to an Army colonel, and thus higher in rank than a captain in the Army.

Commissioned Officers of the United States Navy
Grade 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Flag Officer Captain Commander Lieutenant
as commander
Lieutenant
as executive
Lieutenant Master Passed Midshipman
1861 A FlagOfficer Strap.png A Captain Strap.png A Commander Strap.png A Lieutenant Strap.png A Lieutenant Strap.png A Lieutenant Strap.png A Master Strap.png A PassedMidshipman Strap.png
USNcaptain1861.png USNcaptain1861.png USNcommander1861.png USNcommander1861.png USNLTasExec1861.png USNlieutenant1861.png USNmaster1861.png USNmaster1861.png
Rear Admiral Commodore Captain Commander LT Commander Lieutenant Master Ensign
1862 B RearAdmiral Strap.png B Commodore Strap.png B Captain Strap.png B Commander Strap.png B LtCommander Strap.png B Lieutenant Strap.png B Master Strap.png B Ensign Strap.png
USNRADM1862.png USNflagofficer1862.png USNcaptain1862.png USNCDR1862.png USNltcdr1862.png USNlieutenant1862.png USNmaster1862.png USNensign1862.png
Rear Admiral Commodore Captain Commander LT Commander Lieutenant Master Ensign
1863 D RearAdmiral Strap 1864.png D Commodore Strap 1864.png D Captain Strap 1864.png B Commander Strap.png B LtCommander Strap.png B Lieutenant Strap.png B Master Strap.png B Ensign Strap.png
USNRADM1863.png USNflagofficer1863.png USMcaptain1863.png USNCDR1863.png USNltcdr1863.png USNlieutenant1863.png USNmaster1863.png USNensign1863.png

U.S. Navy Enlisted

Sailors in the U.S. Navy came in as seamen, the lowest enlisted rank, and worked their way up to petty officer. Uniforms were either dark blue/black (worn during the winter months) or white (worn during summer). Petty officers were identified by an eagle clutching an anchor, and unlike enlisted men in the Army and Marine Corps, this insignia was worn on one sleeve only; the other was left blank. The insignia served to identify which rating the petty officer was tasked with.

Enlisted ranks of the United States Navy
Rank Petty Officer Seaman Ratings Petty Officer Seaman Ratings
Uniform Sleeve USNpettyofficerRblue.png USNseamanRblue.png Insignia on right sleeve only;
ratings include:

Boatswain’s Mate
Gunner’s Mate
Carpenter’s Mate
Master-at-Arms
Ship’s Steward
Cook
USNpettyofficerLblue.png USNseamanLblue.png Insignia on left sleeve only;
ratings include:

Quartermaster
Quarter-Gunner
Captain of the Fo'c'sle
Captain of the Tops
Captain of the Afterguard
Armorer
Cooper
Ship’s Corporal
Captain of the Hold

U.S. Marine Corps

Marine Corps officers were identified by an elaborate, rope-based shoulder strap, a reduced version of the older epaulettes worn in all branches. The hat device was a version of the Army bugle, with a Gothic-letter "M" within.

Commissioned Officers of the United States Marine Corps
Grade 6 5 4 3 2 1
Title Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain 1st Lieutenant 2nd Lieutenant Hat Insignia
Shoulder Strap 06 USMC Colonel.png 05 USMC LtColonel.png 04 USMC Major.png 03 USMC Captain.png 02 USMC 1stLt.png 01 USMC 2ndLt.png Cw mcOF.png

U.S. Marine Corps Enlisted

Enlisted men carried a version of the chevron similar to the Army, but styled with the point directed up. Unlike the Army, the colors for all chevrons were gold framed in red, a tradition which is carried over to this day.

Enlisted ranks of the United States Marine Corps
Grade 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Rank Sergeant-Major Quartermaster
Sergeant
Drum Major /
Ordinance Sergeant
First Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Private/Musician Hat Insignia
Uniform Sleeve 11 USMC SgtMajor.png 12 USMC QMSgt.png 13 USMC DrumMajor.png 14 USMC 1st Sgt.png 15 USMC Sergeant.png 16 USMC Corporal.png 16 USMC Private.png Cw mcEM.png
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Images Designed by RWD Ploessl. United States Army Insignia Home Page