Union Naval Officers Insignia

An officer was recognized by the insignia on his tunic, and that in the Union Navy derived chiefly from prewar usage, which in turn owed much to Army insignia. The shoulder strap markings were the most direct and reliable, and usually could be counted on to depict the officer's correct current rating. The sleeve or cuff stripes, on the other hand, took more time and effort to alter with promotions, and therefore were often ignored. As a result, there were many officers of all ranks whose cuffs were one (sometimes even two) promotions behind their shoulder straps. Officers of staff or specialist ranks, like engineers, surgeons, and paymasters, showed the usual insignia of their rank, with the color of their straps denoting their special service. Cap badges for all officers except specialists comprised a silver foul anchor over a gold wreath. It was a uniform system that remained in use for years after the Civil War.

The highest rank in the navy was that of rear admiral, equivalent to a major general in the army. Until 1862 the next lower rank of commodore was given on a temporary basis to a captain placed in charge of a small group of ships, but could be withdrawn if the group was disbanded. In 1862, however, the rank was made a permanent feature; it equated to an army brigadier general.

Ensign

Master

Lieutenant Corrmandflf

Ranks Union Navy

Commander

Commodore

Captain

Rear Admiral

Captain

Commander

Commodore

Rear Admiral

Captain

Captain

Civil War Navy Insignia

Union Naval Insignia and Medal

In the top row are officers' shoulder straps, the dark-blue backing and gold surround showing officer status. In the center is the shoulder strap of a Master, indicated by the large fouled anchor and a single bar at each end. That is surrounded by a pair of shoulder straps with the ship's wheel indicating a pilot.

Below in the center is the campaign medal inscribed. 'Civil War 1861-1865." That is flanked by a pair of captain's eagles.

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