Short History of the Specialist Rank By CSM Dan Elder
When Washington assumed the role as Commander in Chief of the fledgling Continental Army in 1775, it had adopted the British model of organization. There were basically four enlisted grades, sergeants, corporal, musicians and privates. The musicians were fifers and drummers, who of course directed the linear movements of the Army. If the sergeants, corporals and privates were the combatants, it could be a stretch to argue that those musicians were the Army’s first “specialists.” Though no special rank insignia signified enlisted soldiers of that era, Washington directed that sergeants and corporals would wear epaulettes sewn on their right shoulder, red for sergeants and green for corporals. During the winter of 1776-1777, Washington ordered the establishment of three artillery regiments. In the Army’s 1967 comprehensive Enlisted Grade Structure Study noted, “Artillerymen were recognized as specialists from the start and were given higher pay than Infantryman.” It also noted a need for other “specialists” in the enlisted ranks to perform certain technical skills for the artillery. During this period service and support tasks were typically performed by civilians or detailed enlisted soldiers from the line. When Gen Washington ordered the formation of three artillery regiments, he directed one regiment to be “artificers” to be employed in performing “essential specialist services” for the other two. These men were to be later known as “enlisted men of Ordnance” instead of artillerymen. The artificers included carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, turners, tinmen, harness makers and farriers. In 1777 the Congress noted the need for a “slightly different organization” in providing a regiment of Cavalry. The regimental staff was organized with a saddler, and a trumpet major, and each company had a trumpeter and a farrier. The famous “Blue Book” by MG Freidrich von Steuben, published in 1779, listed duties of...
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