Brevet (military)

Brevet (military)

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In many of the world's military establishments, brevet referred to a warrant authorizing a commissioned officer to hold a higher rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

 temporarily, but usually without receiving the pay of that higher rank except when actually serving in that role. An officer so promoted may be referred to as being brevetted. For example, "He was brevetted major general
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

." The promotion would be noted in the officer's title, for example, "Bvt. Maj. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain
Joshua Chamberlain
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain , born as Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain, was an American college professor from the State of Maine, who volunteered during the American Civil War to join the Union Army...

".

United States


The Articles of War
Articles of War
The Articles of War are a set of regulations drawn up to govern the conduct of a country's military and naval forces. The phrase was first used in 1637 in Robert Monro's His expedition with the worthy Scots regiment called Mac-keyes regiment etc. and can be used to refer to military law in general...

 adopted by the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 in 1776 and slightly revised in 1806 established the use and significance of brevet ranks or awards in the U.S. Army. When first used, a brevet commission in the U.S. Army entitled the officer to be identified by a higher rank but the award had limited effect on the right to higher command or pay. A brevet rank had no effect within the officer's current unit, but when assigned duty at the brevet rank by the U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 such an officer would command with the brevet rank and be paid at the higher rank. This higher command and pay would last only for the duration of that assignment. The brevet promotion would not affect the officer's seniority and actual permanent rank in the army. Beginning on April 16, 1818, brevet commissions also required confirmation by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, just as all other varieties of officer commissions did.

Early use


Brevets were first used in the U.S. Army during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. Often the nation's Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 could not find suitable positions for foreign officers—mostly from France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

—who sought commissions. The first U.S. brevet was given to Jacques Antoine de Franchessin on July 20, 1776, allowing him to hold the rank of lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 within the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

. Franchessin and another 35 men of foreign birth would hold brevet commissions in the army by the end of the war. By 1784 an additional 50 officers would receive brevets for "meritorious services" during the conflict.

In the 19th century U.S. Army, brevet promotions were quite common because the army had many frontier forts to garrison and other missions to perform but could not always appoint appropriately ranked officers to command these forts or missions. The U.S. Congress permitted only a limited number of each rank of officer. Thus, an officer of lower rank might receive a brevet commission to a rank more appropriate for his assignment. Also, newly commissioned officers often received brevet rank until authorized positions became available. For example an officer might graduate from West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 and be appointed a brevet second lieutenant until a permanent posting opened up. In early 1861, some recent graduates of West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 temporarily were named brevet second lieutenants because not enough Regular Army officer vacancies were available to give them commissions as regular second lieutenants. In addition to officers being appointed to brevet rank for temporary service in positions designated for higher ranked officers in lieu of promotion to permanent rank, officers might be awarded brevet rank as recognition for gallantry or meritorious service.

American Civil War


During the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 almost all senior officers received some form of brevet award, mainly during the final months of the war. These awards were made for gallantry or meritorious service, not for command. In addition to the authorization in a previous law for awards of brevet ranks to Regular Army officers, an act of Congress
Act of Congress
An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by government with a legislature named "Congress," such as the United States Congress or the Congress of the Philippines....

 of March 3, 1863 authorized the award of brevet rank to officers of the United States Volunteers
United States Volunteers
United States Volunteers also known as U.S. Volunteers, U. S. Vol., or U.S.V.Starting as early as 1861 these regiments were often referred to as the "volunteer army" of the United States but not officially named that until 1898.During the nineteenth century this was the United States federal...

 . Thus, brevet awards became increasingly common later in the war. Some officers even received more than one award. Because of the existence of both Regular Army and United States Volunteers ranks and the possibility that an officer could hold actual and brevet ranks in both services, some general and other officers could hold as many as four different ranks simultaneously. For example, by the end of the war Ranald S. Mackenzie
Ranald S. Mackenzie
Ranald Slidell Mackenzie was a career United States Army officer and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, described by General Ulysses S. Grant as its most promising young officer...

 was a brevet major general
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 of volunteers, an actual, full rank brigadier general
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

 of volunteers, a brevet brigadier general
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

 in the United States Regular Army, and an actual Regular Army captain.

Brevet rank in the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

, whether in the Regular Army or the United States Volunteers
United States Volunteers
United States Volunteers also known as U.S. Volunteers, U. S. Vol., or U.S.V.Starting as early as 1861 these regiments were often referred to as the "volunteer army" of the United States but not officially named that until 1898.During the nineteenth century this was the United States federal...

, during and at the conclusion of the American Civil War may be regarded as an honorary title which conferred none of the authority, precedence or pay of real or full rank. The vast majority of the Union Army brevet ranks were awarded posthumously or on or as of March 13, 1865 as the war was coming to a close. U.S. Army regulations concerning brevet rank provided that brevet rank could be claimed "in courts-martial and on detachments, when composed of different corps" and when the officer served with provisional formations made up of different regiments or companies, or "on other occasions." These regulation were vague enough to support the positions of some brevet generals who caused controversies by claiming supposed priorities or privileges of brevet ranks that had been awarded to them at earlier dates during the war.

Some full rank brigadier generals in the United States Volunteers (USV) in the American Civil War were awarded brevet brigadier general rank in the USV before they received a promotion to full rank brigadier general of United States Volunteers. Some full rank brigadier generals in the USV were awarded the rank of brevet major general in the USV, but were not promoted to full rank major generals in the USV. Some United States Regular Army officers who served with the USV in ranks below general officer were awarded brevet general officer rank in the USV, but were not promoted to full rank general officers in the USV. On the other hand, at least a few USV general officers also were awarded brevet general officer rank in the Regular Army in addition to their full rank appointments or brevet major general awards in the United States Volunteers. Many of the Regular Army officers of lower rank who became full rank USV generals, however, received neither actual promotions to a general officer rank or brevet general officer awards in the Regular Army in addition to their USV ranks or awards. Some of them who stayed in the United States Regular Army after the war did achieve general officer rank in later years.

In addition to the brevet awards to current or future full rank United States Volunteers (USV) generals during the American Civil War, 1,367 other USV officers of lower ranks were awarded the rank of brevet brigadier general or brevet major general or both in the United States Volunteers but were not promoted to full rank USV generals. At least one enlisted man, Private
Private (rank)
A Private is a soldier of the lowest military rank .In modern military parlance, 'Private' is shortened to 'Pte' in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries and to 'Pvt.' in the United States.Notably both Sir Fitzroy MacLean and Enoch Powell are examples of, rare, rapid career...

 Frederick W. Stowe, was brevetted as a second lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War.

The Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 had legislation and regulations for the use of brevets in their armed forces, provided by Article 61 of the nation's Articles of War, and by their 1861 Army Regulations, which were based on the U.S. Army's 1857 version of their regulations. Although Article 61 was revised in 1862, it ultimately had no practical effect since the Confederate States Army
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 did not use any brevet commissions or awards during its existence.

The United States Marine Corps
Marine corps
A marine is a member of a force that specializes in expeditionary operations such as amphibious assault and occupation. The marines traditionally have strong links with the country's navy...

 also issued brevets. After officers became eligible for the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

, a rare Marine Corps Brevet Medal
Marine Corps Brevet Medal
The Marine Corps Brevet Medal, also known as the Brevet Medal, was a military decoration of the United States Marine Corps; it was created in 1921 as a result of Marine Corps Order Number 26. The decoration was a one-time issuance and retroactively recognized living Marine Corps officers who had...

 was issued to living officers who had been brevetted between 1861 and 1915.

Modern usage


The practice of brevetting disappeared from the (regular) U.S. military at the end of the 19th century; honors were bestowed instead with a series of medals. However, the similar practice of frocking
Frocking
Frocking is a United States military term for a commissioned or non-commissioned officer selected for promotion wearing the insignia of the higher grade before the official date of promotion . An officer or NCO who has been selected for promotion may be authorized to "frock" to the next grade...

 continues in four of the five branches of the U.S. armed forces. The U.S. Air Force does not allow the regular practice of frocking before a promotion date.

Although brevetting as such was no longer in effect in the 20th century U.S. military, it was common during the First and Second World Wars for officers in the Regular Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 (the peacetime, permanent standing army composed of career soldiers) to be given temporary promotion to higher ranks in the wartime National Army or Army of the United States
Army of the United States
The Army of the United States is the official name for the conscription force of the United States Army that may be raised at the discretion of the United States Congress in the event of the United States entering into a major armed conflict...

 composed primarily of volunteers and draftees. For instance, Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 had the permanent rank of Captain but the effective rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the First World War. At war's end, the National Army was disbanded and he reverted to his permanent rank of Captain. Such quasi-brevet promotions may become permanent: during the Second World War Eisenhower had the permanent rank of Brigadier General but served as General of the Army
General of the Army
General of the Army is a military rank used in some countries to denote a senior military leader, usually a General in command of a nation's Army. It may also be the title given to a General who commands an Army in the field....

; at war's end, this promotion was confirmed in the Regular Army.

Today, brevetting still occurs on rare occasions when officers are selected for promotion to a higher rank, but have yet to reach the effective date of promotion. For brevetting to occur today, an unusual set of circumstances must be present to justify wearing the higher rank before the promotion becomes effective. For example, in 2005, two U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonels selected for promotion to Colonel were brevetted (frocked) Colonel about six months ahead of their effective dates of promotion due to the high-profile nature of the duties that they were performing.

The U.S. National Guard, which depends on the governor of a state to concede its commissions, may still confer brevets. Many states maintain a clause permitting the governor to confer any rank in its defense forces, including the militia and National Guards. Some states provision that the sitting governor may confer any rank, but this appointment is considered valid only for the duration of the governor's own term in office.

Some states also confer brevets as part of their regular honors system. Georgia confers honorary ranks into its state police force. Kentucky is famous for its colonels
Kentucky colonel
Kentucky colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given by the Governor and the Secretary of State to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation...

, and so too is Tennessee, both of which make the appointment as an honorary member of the governor's staff. Alabama, Texas and Nebraska
Nebraska Admiral
Nebraska Admiral is Nebraska's highest honor, and an honorary title bestowed upon individuals by approval of the Governor of Nebraska, a landlocked U.S. state. It is not a military rank, requires no duties, and carries with it no pay or other compensation...

 also confer an admiralty within a symbolic navy. Similar honors have been issued for Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

's militia navy, which has only existed on paper since 1908. In all cases these honorary titles may be considered effective brevets, equal to that of the National Guard, by being conferred by a sitting governor.

United Kingdom


In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 the brevet commission was only by courtesy. Officially both titles were used, as: "Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Cornwallis." Originally the term designated a promotion given on such occasions as a coronation, or the termination of a great war, and had its origin during the reign of James II
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 (1685–88); but it was abused so frequently and used to such an extent by the general award of brevet commissions, that in 1854, during and after the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, its bestowal was limited strictly to cases of very distinguished service in the field
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....

 and on the principle of seniority. In the United Kingdom, brevet commissions were confined to grades from captain to lieutenant-colonel.

The Brevet conferred rank in the army, but importantly, not in the regiment. Advancement in the regiment could take place generally only by purchase
Sale of commissions
The sale of commissions was a common practice in most European armies where wealthy and noble officers purchased their rank. Only the Imperial Russian Army and the Prussian Army never used such a system. While initially shunned in the French Revolutionary Army, it was eventually revived in the...

 or by seniority, and when there was a suitable vacancy (caused by the death, retirement or promotion of a more senior officer). When on duty with his regiment, only regimental rank counted; if the regiment was with a larger formation then brevet rank could be used to determine command of temporary units formed for special purposes. In particular Brigadier
Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

 was not then a permanent rank so command of brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s was determined by seniority, including date of promotion to any brevet rank. Thus it was possible for a regimental Major
Major (UK)
In the British military, major is a military rank which is used by both the British Army and Royal Marines. The rank insignia for a major is a crown...

 to hold a brevet Lieutenant-colonelcy
Lieutenant-Colonel (UK)
Lieutenant colonel is a rank in the British Army and Royal Marines which is also used in many Commonwealth countries. The rank is superior to major, and subordinate to colonel...

 with seniority over the commission of his own commanding officer as Lieutenant-Colonel and be given command of a brigade (potentially including his own regiment). Similarly, if the officer was serving in a staff position or as an Aide-de-camp
Aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

 then they could use their brevet rank. Appointment to a brevet also counted towards the requirement to have served for a sufficient time in a lower rank to be eligible for promotion (by purchase) to a more senior one.

France


In French usage it applies to commissions in general. The French military used provisional commissions much similar to current US brevet ranks, that is, promotions given to officers performing high-profile duties before the effective date of promotion. As an example, Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 was promoted "provisional brigadier general" (général de brigade à titre provisoire) in 1940 when he was commander of an armoured division.

In French, an "officier breveté" is known between 1870 to 1940 as an officier who studied in L'école supérieure de guerre, where lieutenants and capitaines could enforce their knowledge.

Germany


In the Prussian and German army and navy, it was possible to bestow a Charakter rank on officers that was in many respects similar to a brevet rank. For example, an Oberst could receive the Charakter als Generalmajor. Very often, German officers would be promoted to the next higher Charakter rank on the day of their retirement.

Spain


It was not uncommon during the 19th century to distinguish between empleo ("employed") rank and graduación ("grade") being the effective command position. In the 1884 rank regulations (which with minor modifications were in force during the Spanish–American War) stars marked the rank whilst the actual post was reflected in gold lace on the cuffs.

As in practice both situations coincided the system was dropped in 1908 leaving only the starred system of denoting rank. Nevertheless during the Spanish Civil War the system was revived in the Nationalist side due to the lack of trained officers because of the enlargement of the army. The breveted officers (known as habilitados or estampillados) wore their actual rank on the cuffs but their brevetted one in a rectangular black patch on the left breast of their coats or shirts.

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