Rank Insignia

     

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From the Ten Years War to the end of the Spanish American War two different systems of distinguishing rank were employed by the Spanish Colonial Army.  Both systems used a combination of metallic braid and stars on the cuffs and sleeves to indicate an officer's grade, and metallic or worsted wool braid for soldier's ranks.  In general, the color of the braid and stars matched the button color of the wearer's branch of service, either gold or silver.  Exceptions to this rule were the rank of Major - Comandante, and after 1890, the rank of 2nd. Lieutenant - Alférez, both of which wore a mix of gold and silver distinctions, and the red wool braid used by junior NCO's and First Class Soldiers.  Officers of the non-combat support services including Medical, Veterinary, Administrative and Judiciary Corps used a special rank braid with a serrated edge on one side.  These officers also used professional titles, such as 2nd. Veterinary Professor -  Segundo Profesor Veterinario, in place of the military rank, 1st. Lieutenant - Teniente.

An 1884 pattern Artillery Lieutenant Colonel's dark blue wool removable cuff.  The two rows of gold braid are the pattern authorized for Field grade combat branch officers.  Each is 12 mm wide and separated by a line of black silk.  The 30 mm gold bullion eight point stars are embroidered onto black wool discs.  A souvenir of an unidentified soldier from Indiana.

A cuff from the peninsular tunic of a Subinspector de Segundo Medico, equivalent to a Lieutenant Colonel.  Note the serrated edge of the braid as worn by non-combat branch officers.  From the archive of Don José Castellvi Vila who served as a doctor with the Sanidad Militar in Cuba.

   

Examples of the Field Officer's eight point rank stars from several souvenir groups.  On the left are two specimens of both "gold" and "silver" 30 mm stamped metal stars.  Center, a brass star on a dark blue Infantry or Artillery branch of service color wool disc that was captured in Puerto Rico.  Right, the reverse of a star complete with its brass backing plate and attachment ring.

   

A selection of 25 mm six point Company Officer rank stars from different Cuban campaign veteran souvenir sources.  Left, variations of the metal stars. Center, embroidered bullion devices.  Both bullion and metal examples were used in the period.  Note the branch of service color wool backings with two of these stars, and one with a brass backing plate.  Right, the reverse of a star shows a typical attachment ring.

  

Non-Commissioned Officers' rank stripes from the souvenirs of John F. Jenkins, 71st. New York Volunteer Infantry.  Left, three silver braid on sky blue wool insignia of a Cavalry First Sergeant - Sargento Primero.  Right, red worsted wool braid insignia of a First Corporal - Cabo Primero, as used by all branches.

In addition to rank worn on cuffs and sleeves, officers also displayed their grade on various pieces of headgear.  On the dress shako - Ros, the same braid worn on the cuff was found around the top edge.  This braid was also displayed on the bands of the kepi - Teresiana, the visor cap - gorra de plato and the garrison cap - gorro de cuartel.  On the straw hat, a strip of rank braid was worn horizontally across the center of the cockade.  General officers, in civilian dress and some classes of uniform, also wore a cumber bun of crimson silk, called a fajín, with the rank braids embroidered vertically on the center front.

   

Three images of alternative rank insignia placement.  Left, a Peninsular Artillery Captain sports a kepi - Teresiana with rank braid around the band; Madrid 1890.  Center, two Captains of Peninsular Infantry Regiment Zaragoza #12 display their rank on the visor cap - gorra de plato and the garrison cap - gorro de cuartel; Cuba 1896-98.  Right: General of Division José  Lachambre wears his cumber bun - Fajín with a service dress uniform; Philippines, 1896.  Published in the November 12, 1896 edition of "Nuevo Mundo" magazine.

Artifact courtesy of Christopher Magewick

National cockade of an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel - Teniente Coronel as worn on the straw hat showing the rank braid placed over the badge. 

Both of these rank systems were universal throughout Spain's empire, the same insignia being used in Spain and Africa as well as in Cuba and Puerto Rico by the regular army and the volunteers.  Cuff rank was also used in the Philippines up to 1897 when rank displayed on shoulder straps was introduced.

On the wool uniforms of the Peninsular Army, the braid and stars were permanently sewn in place.  On the rayadillo uniforms of colonial troops, however, the braid was generally pinned or loosely stitched in place, or sewn to removable cuffs, and the stars were held on with rings, often with a metal backing plate under the uniform cloth.  This allowed easy removal of the devices to facilitate the frequent laundering of these cotton garments. 

A third rank system was introduced on January 7, 1884 but was short lived and never put into practical use in Spain or the colonies.


Braid and Star "Metal" Color by Branch of Service

Infantry - Infantería : Gold - Oro                                              

Artillery - Artillería : Gold - Oro

Cavalry - Caballería : Silver - Plata except for Hussars - Húsares : Gold - Oro      

Engineers - Ingeniers : Silver - Plata                                   

Carabineers - Carabineros : Gold  - Oro                                       

Carabineers of the Philippines - Carabineros de Filipinas : Silver - Plata

General Staff - Estado Mayor : Gold  - Oro                                    

Medical Corps - Sanidad Militar : Gold - Oro

Veterinary Corps - Veterinaria Militar : Silver  - Plata                              

Military Administration - Administración Militar : Silver - Plata

Corps of Military Justice - Cuerpo Jurídico Militar : Gold  - Oro                   

Civil Guard - Guardia Civil : Silver - Plata

Veteran Civil Guard of Manila - Guardia Civil Veterana de Manila : Silver - Plata          

Public Order Corps - Orden Público : Gold - Oro

Municipal Guards - Guardia Municipal : Silver  - Plata                             

Fire Fighters - Bomberos : Gold or Silver - Oro o Plata


1860 Pattern Rank Insignia

The system in use at the time of the Ten Year's War was established by a Royal Order of July 2, 1860 and remained in effect until 1884.  General and Field officers displayed rank on their cuffs.  Company officers wore inverted chevrons on both upper sleeves.  In several of the support services, stylized initials were used in place of the six and eight pointed stars.  Medical officers used the letter "S", veterinarians the letter "V" and horsemanship or equitation instructors the letter "E".  The use of these initials was suspended by the late 1880's and replaced with the appropriate star devices.

General Officers

Captain General - Capitán General : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, three bands of gold bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons.

Lieutenant General - Teniente General : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, two bands of gold bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons.

General of Division - Mariscal de Campo : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, one band of gold bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons.

Brigadier General - Brigadier : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, one band of silver bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons over three rows of gold or silver braid, depending on branch of service metal color, as worn by a Colonel.

Field Officers

Colonel - Coronel : Three rows of braid, each 10 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the cuff front, three 8 point stars, each 30 millimeters in diameter.

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel - Teniente Coronel : Two rows of braid, each 10 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the cuff front, two 8 point stars, each 30 millimeters in diameter.

Major - Comandante : Two rows of braid, each 10 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the cuff front, two 8 point stars, 30 millimeters in diameter.  In units that wear gold distinctions, the top braid is gold and the bottom is silver.  Likewise, the front star is gold and the rear star is silver.  For units with silver distinctions the braid and star colors are reversed.

Company Officers

Captain - Capitán : Three rows of braid, each 12 millimeters wide, displayed on the upper arm of both sleeves as an inverted chevron with the point at the top of the shoulder and extending at a 60º angle down to the elbow.  Three 8 point stars, each 30 millimeters in diameter, arranged as a triangle inside the chevron.

 

 

 

1st. Lieutenant - Teniente : Two rows of braid, each 12 millimeters wide, displayed on the upper arm of both sleeves as an inverted chevron with the point at the top of the shoulder and extending at a 60º angle down to the elbow.  Two 8 point stars, each 30 millimeters in diameter, arranged side by side inside the chevron.

 

 

 

2nd. Lieutenant - Alférez : One row of braid, 12 millimeters wide, displayed on the upper arm of both sleeves as an inverted chevron with the point at the top of the shoulder and extending at a 60º angle down to the elbow.  One 8 point star, 30 millimeters in diameter, placed in the center of the inside the chevron.

 

 

 

Non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers

First Sergeant - Sargento Primero : Three rows of metallic braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

Second Sergeant - Sargento Segundo : Two rows of metallic braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

First Corporal - Cabo Primero : Three rows of red worsted wool braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

Second Corporal - Cabo Segundo : Two rows of red worsted wool braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

Private First Class - Soldado de Primero : One row of red worsted wool braid, 13 millimeters wide, displayed on the upper arm of the left sleeve as an inverted chevron with the point at the top of the shoulder and extending at a 60º angle down to the elbow.

 

 

 

 


1884 Pattern Rank Insignia

The last major change in rank distinctions came on September 25, 1884.  This would be the system in use during the remainder of the colonial period, including the Spanish American War, until the uniform changes of 1908.  All officer's ranks were displayed on the uniform cuffs.  The 1898 edition of the U.S. Army's Notes and Tables on Organization and Establishment of the Spanish Army in the Peninsula and Colonies lists the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major - Sargento Primero Superior with the rank represented by a single gold inverted chevron worn on both upper sleeves.  This rank has not been confirmed in Spanish sources and may be a period error. 

General Officers

Captain General - Capitán General : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, three bands of gold bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons.

Lieutenant General - Teniente General : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, two bands of gold bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons.

General of Division - Mariscal de Campo : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, one band of gold bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons.

Brigadier General - Brigadier : On the top and rear seam of the cuffs, one band of silver bullion embroidered branches of laurel entwined with three batons over three rows of gold or silver braid, depending on branch of service metal color, as worn by a Colonel.

Field Officers

Colonel - Coronel : Three rows of braid, each 12 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the cuff front, three 8 point stars, each 30 millimeters in diameter.

Lieutenant Colonel - Teniente Coronel : Two rows of braid, each 12 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the cuff front, two 8 point stars, each 30 millimeters in diameter.

 

 

 

 

Major - Comandante : Two rows of braid, each 12 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the cuff front, two 8 point stars, 30 millimeters in diameter.  In units that wear gold distinctions, the top braid is gold and the bottom is silver, the front star is silver and the rear star is gold.  For units with silver distinctions the braid and star colors are reversed.

 

 

Company Officers

Captain - Capitán: Three rows of braid, each 6 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the sleeve above the cuff, three 6 point stars, each 25 millimeters in diameter.

 

 

 

 

1st. Lieutenant - Teniente: Two rows of braid, each 6 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the sleeve above the cuff, two 6 point stars, each 25 millimeters in diameter.

 

 

 

 

2nd. Lieutenant - Alférez: Before 1 August, 1890 - One row of braid, 6 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the sleeve above the cuff, one 6 point star, 25 millimeters in diameter.

 

 

 

 

2nd. Lieutenant - Alférez: After 1 August, 1890 - Two rows of braid, each 6 millimeters wide, around the top and down the back seam of the cuffs.  On the sleeve above the cuff, two 6 point stars, each 25 millimeters in diameter.  In units that wear gold distinctions, the top braid is gold and the bottom is silver, the front star is silver and the rear star is gold.  For units with silver distinctions the braid and star colors are reversed.

 

 

 

Non-commissioned Officers and Soldier

First Sergeant - Sargento Primero : Three rows of metallic braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

Second Sergeant - Sargento Segundo : Discontinued in the Infantry and Artillery after 1889.  Two rows of metallic braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

 

 

 

 

First Corporal - Cabo Primero : Three rows of red worsted wool braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

Second Corporal - Cabo Segundo : Discontinued in the Infantry and Artillery after 1889.  Two rows of red worsted wool braid, each 13 millimeters wide, worn above both cuffs on a diagonal starting on the front seam just above the cuff and rising at about a 45º angle to the back seam.

 

Private First Class - Soldado de Primero : One row of red worsted wool braid, 13 millimeters wide, displayed on the upper arm of the left sleeve as an inverted chevron with the point at the top of the shoulder and extending at a 60º angle down to the elbow.

 

 

 

 


 

     

All material is Copyright 2009 by William K. Combs.  No portion may be used without permission.