Military Rank Structure

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Written by Paul Cramer

Given that people are wondering what to do at a LH, this document regarding "Duties in a Company" may stir some thoughts.


The basic building block is the company, which at full strength would contain just over one hundred souls; a number of companies would constitute a regiment. Sometimes the size and number of companies would vary depending on the regiment's role. The junior companies would be stripped of men to keep the senior companies up to strength.

The three field officers of the regiment, Colonel, Lt Colonel and Major, would also technically be the captains of their own infantry companies. In reality a Captain Lieutenant ran the company on their behalf. Although the companies had the highest status in the regiment, these Captain Lieutenants themselves, ranked below the Captains actually in charge of their own companies

At the time of the Civil War, the phrase 'non-commissioned officer' had not yet come into existence, hence the use of the phrase l'ower company officers'. These lists of responsibilities and duties have been drawn from a number of drill books from 1619 to 1660. It is remarkable how little they changed over this period and that they would remain recognisable to NCOs today. It should be noted that this represents the ideal which was not always met.

The rates of pay can be used as an indication of the level of responsibility of an individual.


Daily pay before stoppages 12s 0d

His word was final, acting as a father figure to the troops under his command.

Summary of duties

  1. Be responsible for the military actions of his company
  2. Appoint the officers, sergeant, corporals and soldiers for the company. Review individuals' performances in these roles.
  3. Be conversant with all the roles and duties of his men. From time to time train them himself, which is a great honour for the soldiers.
  4. Ensure that all maimed, wounded, and sick soldiers are taken care of.
  5. Ensure that all victuals and equipment are provided for his company, together with a true account of any expenditure incurred in doing so.


Daily pay before stoppages 4s 0d

He was the Captain's deputy

Summary of duties

  1. Stand at the rear of the company in combat or other position as designated by his Captain
  2. Ensure the sergeant and corporals fulfil their duties.
  3. Discuss company matters with the Captain daily.
  4. Take the soldiers through their training daily.


Daily pay before stoppages 3s 0d

Guardian of the Colour and the company's honour,

Summary of duties

  1. Command in the absence of his Captain and Lieutenant.
  2. Command the pike division when other officers are present.
  3. Carry the company’s colour standing in front of the pike division. In combat, retire to the second rank of the division.
  4. Discuss the affairs of the company with the Captain and Lieutenant.
  5. Receive deputations from the soldiers to bring to the attention of the Captain.


Daily pay before stoppages 1s 4d

He was a skilled veteran and in combat he managed a shot division in accordance with his Captain's orders. There was no such thing as a Pike Sergeant.

Summary of duties

  1. Oversee the soldiers' training and correct any errors seen.
  2. Assign the file leaders and soldiers to their dignity in rank and file.
  3. Be responsible for camp discipline and march discipline.
  4. Receive the Watchword from the Major and pass it to the Captain, Lieutenant, Ensign and Corporals.
  5. Be responsible for the posting and relieving of the sentinels within his company's designated area of responsibility.
  6. Inspect the sentinels to ensure they are alert and performing their duties.
  7. Ensure that provisions, fuel and munitions are provided for his company.
  8. Refer misdemeanours to the company officers and on their instructions escort prisoners to the provost marshals for punishment.
  9. Maintain records of the troops in the company and the equipment allocated to them.
  10. Allocate billets to troops when garrisoned.
  11. Be skilled in writing and arithmetic


Daily pay before stoppages 1s 0d

The senior soldier of his division, whether it be pike or shot. He was an experienced, dual discipline soldier. He fulfilled a mainly administrative role with no recognised combat position, though no doubt he did tactically command from time to time. In garrison the divisions they were in charge of were mixed weapons both pike and shot. The 'management span' of a Corporal was deemed to be around the 30 - 35 mark.

Summary of duties

  1. Be responsible for the posting and relieving of sentinels within his designated area of responsibility.
  2. Receive the watchword from the sergeant.
  3. After the setting of the watch, the corporal along with his escort is to examine any person approaching the sentinels.
  4. Maintain records of the troops under his command, advising the sergeant when soldiers leave his command (injury, death, and desertion) and when new ones are recruited.
  5. Maintain records of equipment possessed by each member of his division.
  6. Maintain discipline within his division, no drinking or gambling allowed. Any misdemeanours to be reported to the sergeant.
  7. Train the troops in the use of their equipment and also in its maintenance on a daily basis.
  8. Inspect the troops and equipment in his division on a daily basis.
  9. Ensure that provisions, fuel and munitions are provided for his division.
  10. Be responsible for the security of possessions and monies of any injured troops in his division.


Daily pay before stoppages 1s 0d

The glue that hold it all together; flippantly think Radar from MASH.

Summary of duties

  1. Maintain the company muster roll from the NCO records.
  2. Attend the setting of the watches to call the roll and note those who are absent.
  3. With his Captain's authority to draw such provisions, fuel and munitions as are required by the sergeants and corporals from the magazines and victuallers. Keep a record of all tickets and receipts.
  4. Dispense monies to the troops as directed by his Captain.
  5. Maintain the company accounts, so as to be able to give a true report to his captain every pay day.
  6. Lecture the troops on the Military laws set by the General and question them to ensure they have a good understanding.
  7. Discuss with the Captain the care and relief for the sick and wounded of the company based on the reports of the company officers.
  8. Maintain records of prisoners held and own troops held as prisoners for the purposes of parole and exchange.
  9. Be skilled in writing and arithmetic.
  10. Be honest and just.


Daily pay before stoppages 1s 0d

Experienced soldiers, usually two but occasionally up to four in the larger companies. The variable speed gear box of the company, changing the beat rate of the music in accordance with the Officer's signals.

Summary of duties

  1. Act as emissaries in negotiations between units
  2. Whilst on such duties gather intelligence.
  3. Regulate the day to day life of the garrison by playing the various administration calls such as Taptoo (lights out), Diana (reveille)
  4. Daily teach the drum calls to the troops.


Daily pay before stoppages 0s 10d

A rarely occurring rank, a deputy to the Corporal. In effect, a Lance Corporal.


Daily pay before stoppages 0s 8d

If individuals had sewing or leatherworking skills from civilian life they might be designated as company tailor, cobbler etc etc. Might be be excused some duties in recognition of other services undertaken for the company.

Unless they were officers, any equipment to support these roles would be carried by the individuals themselves. Cargo transport for a company was extermely limited, bordering on none existent.

Paul Cramer

September 2003 - February 2012