U.S. ARMY AIDE TO BRIGADIER GENERAL INSIGNIA

One of the first times the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army is mentioned in historical documents also references the aides that served them. A General Order issued by George Washington on July 14, 1775 stated that “General Officers and their Aids-de-Camp” would be distinguished by the wear of colored ribbons, with “Brigadiers General” wearing ribbons and their aides green.

From that time up until the Civil War, the one-star rank of Brigadier General was effectively one of just two grades of General Officers (along with Major General): Only George Washington and Winfield Scott were appointed to a rank above Major General during that period. With the abolition of the rank of Major General 1802, Brigadier General became the highest rank in the U.S. Army, a position it held until the threat of war with Great Britain led Congress to restore the Major General rank.

The rank of Brigadier General derives its name from the fact that, in the 18th and early 19th century, the officers appointed to it in fact commanded brigades. Today, brigades are typically commanded by colonels.

While the total number of General Officers is limited by statute to 231, the maximum number of Brigadier Generals is dependent on how many higher-ranked Generals are in service at a given time. If all three higher grades—Major General, Lieutenant General, and General—have their maximum allotted number of Generals, the number of Brigadier Generals would be capped at 95, or 41 percent of the total of General Officers.
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