- "Soldiers win battles. Generals take credit."
- ―Kal Skirata
General was a high-level military rank, often denoting the commander of an army. It was widely used among the armed forces of both major galactic powers and more localized militaries.
Generals were typically senior officers posted to command ground troops, special operations forces, and starfighter commands. The rank normally didn't exist among spacefaring navies, where the comparable rank of Admiral was used instead. Specialized divisions within large fleet organizations, however (such as the integrated starfighter forces of the New Republic Defense Force), often retained the rank of General, while a minority of interstellar fleets, such as the Dornean navy, favored General in place of Admiral as the standard term for senior capital ship commanders. Some officers integrated into the command structure who hold a function similar to that of an admiral (such as former Senator Garm Bel Iblis) hold the rank of general instead, muddying the classification waters further.
Often, a military rank-hierarchy would contain a number of different grades of General, known collectively as general officers. The titles used were usually, though not always, variations on the basic rank of "General" (i.e. Brigadier or Major General), and officers holding such ranks could normally be addressed as "General" for brevity. A General was usually outranked by a Marshal, though some militaries used very different systems. In the Grand Army of the Republic, for example, a simple "General" was in fact the lowest of the three recorded grades of general officer.
However, evidence of usage of the rank of General is first clearly seen during the Mandalorian Wars and the Jedi Civil War, shortly after 4000 BBY. The Jedi Exile served as a General in the volunteer army raised by Revan to prosecute the war against the Mandalorians, while General Vaklu was the military commander serving Queen Talia of the planet Onderon. Yusanis, a leader of the Echani warriors, is also described as a general.
The rank of General may also have existed in the Republic Navy at this time, but Admirals such as Cede, Saul Karath and Forn Dodonna were more common. A General Derred is mentioned as defecting with Revan at the start of the Jedi Civil War, but little is known of this officer’s career, and it is possible that their rank of General represented a commission in Revan’s forces rather than the Republic military.
Little clear evidence survives of the rank's usage over the next two thousand years of relative peace, but the title of General continued to be used among the Jedi Order during the New Sith Wars of c. 2000–1000 BBY, as it had been in Revan’s time. By the end of that long series of conflicts, the Army of Light consisted of Legions, each led by a General like the Twi'lek Jedi Knight Newar Forrth.
After the subsequent Ruusan Reformation, the Jedi reinvented themselves as peacekeepers rather than warriors, and the military forces of the Republic were reduced and reorganized under the authority of the Judicial Department. For a thousand years, there is once again little evidence of the existence of general officers, but as before, the Republic’s military continued to be regarded primarily as a naval organization, and its officers generally used naval ranks, with senior officers—if any existed—being ranked as Admirals. Some forces under federal command did retain army ranks, such as the Senate Guard, but they were not large enough to warrant the appointment of general officers; while the Republic might still have some sort of Navy, it was widely accepted that there was no standing Army.
Of course, Generals continued to be found serving in many local militaries and militias across the galaxy. On Annoo-dat, for example, General Ashaar Khorda attempted to seize power in a coup, while the military of the planet Typha-Dor was led by an officer with the rank of High General, a position filled by a woman named Bycha shortly before the outbreak of the Clone Wars. The Gungan Grand Army on Naboo also contained a rank of General, borne by warriors like Tobler Ceel, and Bombad General, an apparently higher rank bestowed on Jar Jar Binks by Boss Rugor Nass. Yet while some of these generals became known throughout the Republic, the forces they commanded rarely operated on much above the planetary scale.
It appears, though, that at least one man did regard himself as a general officer in the service of the Republic in the decades before the outbreak of the Clone Wars. In 44 BBY, Ranulph Tarkin the Republic Senator for Eriadu and Seswenna sector, claimed the rank of General, and in spite of a lack of ratification by the Galactic Senate, he mobilized a federal fleet under his own command to fight in the Stark Hyperspace War.
Regardless of the exact nature of Senator Tarkin's status as General, however, it must be noted that in 22 BBY, his cousin, Gideon, already held the rank of Brigadier before the passing of the Military Creation Act, when he welcomed a squadron of Jedi Starfighters to bolster the Republic defenses on Eriadu. A Republic loyalist, he would later serve in the reborn federal military during the Clone Wars, although it is not certain how he perceived his commission before the outbreak of the conflict.
At the outbreak of the Clone Wars in 22 BBY, knights of the Jedi Order were appointed as Generals to command the Grand Army of the Republic, leading a fighting force that initially consisted entirely of clone troopers supplied by Kamino. Additionally, alongside these Jedi Generals, GAR formations up to Corps level had a parallel hierarchy of Clone Commanders bred for battlefield leadership: it is not clear to what extent these men were considered as general officers, but the overall structure of the command hierarchy can be outlined thus:
- High Jedi Generals commanded the ten Systems Armies.
- Senior Jedi Generals commanded the twenty Sector Armies.
- Jedi Generals commanded each Corps alongside a Clone marshal commander, and each Legion alongside a Senior clone commander.
- Smaller units were led by Jedi and clone officers with the rank of Commander.
All Jedi Masters, and perhaps even Jedi Knights, were apparently given the authority of Generals in the GAR, but it is not clear whether Senior General and High General were abstract grades of general rank bestowed on individual Jedi personally, or whether they were essentially temporary positions, attached to specific levels of army command.
Over the course of the war, non-Jedi troops were gradually integrated into the line forces of the Republic’s military, including general officers such as General Bavris, the Lutrillian General Solomahal, and Brigadiers like Gideon Tarkin and Locus Geen. By the time of the Declaration of a New Order in 19 BBY, the military thus had an extensive cadre of general officers who were neither Jedi nor clones, who could provide leadership for the new Imperial Army.
In the military forces of the opposing Confederacy of Independent Systems, general officers were also known, although usage of the rank was perhaps more restricted than in the Republic hierarchy. General Grievous, as Supreme Commander of the Droid Armies was regarded as the most senior Separatist military commander during most of the Clone Wars, and the Sith garrison world of Thule was also commanded by a General. However, some of the Confederacy’s most senior officers seem to have used the more generic title of Commander instead of General, such as the Force-sensitive women Asajj Ventress and Sev'rance Tann. The Confederacy of Independent Systems relied heavily on the T-series tactical droids and used them as generals and fleet commanders.
|General|| (pre-Battle of Yavin)|
(post-Battle of Yavin)
- Surface Marshal commanding a Sector Army.
- High General commanding a Systems Army.
- General commanding an Army
- Major General commanding a Corps or garrison Corps HQ
- High Colonel commanding a Battlegroup.
It is not clear, however, whether this summary reflects the gradation of substantive general ranks within the Imperial military, nor is it known how strictly the connection of ranks and was adhered to in practice. For example, command of a Battlegroup could certainly be held by a Major General, probably using the title of High Colonel, as with Tessala Corvae and the 1st Tapani Assault Battlegroup. At the top of the hierarchy, Surface Marshal seems to have been a title borne by the Moff or his senior subordinate General, rather than a substantive military rank.
The chain of command could also evolve over time, and such changes could be reflected in changes in the grades of general officers: the High General and Systems Army had been inherited from the GAR, although numbers had proliferated to such a degree that what had once been the premier command rank had become an essentially administrative position embedded within each Sector Army. Nor can it be said for sure that High General was a substantive rank, rather than a title denoting a Systems Army command.
Moreover, it is by no means that each Sector's Surface Marshal had even one full field army at his disposal, although conversely it is known that troublesome individual planets such as Derilyn in Elrood sector could boast a complete Sector Army as their garrison, even where the naval Sector Group was small.
Other sources reveal other ranks of General: a Brigadier is known to have been a senior officer with Blizzard Force during the Battle of Hoth, while Malcor Brashin, victor of the Battle of Kalaan, is identified as a Grand General. Given that stormtroopers formed an important element of both these officers’ commands, it is possible (though by no means certain) that the ranks of Brigadier and Grand General were specific to the Stormtrooper Corps, perhaps replacing High Colonel and Surface Marshal within that hierarchy.
Nor were general ranks restricted just to the commanders of men performing the traditional functions of army troops. For instance, Generals served with the starfighter forces of the Imperial Navy, and also in the Imperial Security Bureau. It is not known for sure how the different grades of general rank within these arms of the military were organized, however: they may have paralleled Army or Stormtrooper forces, but there may have also been specific variations and idiosyncrasies.
The standard rank insignia of an Imperial General seems to have been four red tabs above four blue, with a single code cylinder at the left shoulder. Although some variations are known, both in the number of code cylinders and the number of rank pips, it is possible that these denoted increased grades of authority relating to specific posting, rather than variations in substantive rank.
After the Battle of Endor, regular promotions through general ranks continued in some parts of the Empire: Colonel Freja Covell was promoted to Major General after Endor, and subsequently elevated by Grand Admiral Thrawn to become General commanding all Army forces attached to the main strategic fleet. However, in some areas, the chain of command broke down as Warlords seized power, and. By 12 ABY, for example, one Warlord, an officer named Sander Delvardus, was claiming the rank of Superior General for himself—apparently a calque on "High General".
Rebel Alliance, New Republic and Galactic Alliance
In the Alliance to Restore the Republic, Generals were found in all arms of the military except the capital ship forces of the Fleet: Starfighter Command, Intelligence, SpecForce, and Sector Command. The rank, regardless whether it is the Alliance Army or starfighter corps, or whether on the chest or on the left shoulder generally utilized five dots depicted in an X-like formation. At least up to the Battle of Endor, the rank of General within the Rebel Alliance's starfighter corps was the highest rank, being directly above the rank of Commander, with its shoulder insignia remaining the same save for minute differences prior to and post-Battle of Hoth (i.e. the bumps being yellow pre-Battle of Hoth and red post-Battle of Hoth, and there being a gold trimmed border to the shoulder insignia post-Battle of Hoth when there was originally simply a silver patch pre-Battle of Hoth).
The rank of General commanded sufficient prestige within the Rebel forces for it to be borne even by the Supreme Allied Commanders, the senior officers of individual arms of the military who collectively formed the High Command. In Intel, the position of Supreme Commander seems always to have been held by General, first Vernan and then Airen Cracken, while similarly, Crix Madine of SpecForces and Jan Dodonna of Starfighter Command, were both Generals, but some Marshal ranks (which we would expect to be more senior) are also known, although their exact position is not entirely clear.
Marshal Pashna Starkiller of Starfighter Command was probably Dodonna’s predecessor, and Ground Marshal Haras Jundop, said to have been in charge of Alliance surface troops, may have been Madine’s forerunner at SpecForces; but the Ground Marshal might alternatively have been commander of SecCom, as individual Sector Commands affiliated to the Alliance were typically led by one or more general officers, such as Trep Reskan in Brak sector.
After the Battle of Endor, the usage of General ranks in the New Republic seems to have remained broadly as it had been under the Alliance, although the high command was reorganized, with a single position of Supreme Commander emerging as the Fleet asserted its dominance over every other aspect of the military except the intelligence apparatus. Nevertheless, the ranks of General and Admiral bestowed equivalent command authority, graded ‘C-1’, and Starfighter Command officers like Wedge Antilles often opted to retain their existing title of General when appointed to fleet commands, as did the Dornean Etahn A'baht during the Black Fleet Crisis.
Little is known of gradations of general ranks within the Rebel Alliance and New Republic. As mentioned above, some Marshal rank apparently existed at an early stage, and by the time of the Battle of Yuuzhan'tar in 29 ABY, a rank of Major General had been introduced by the Galactic Alliance; but there are surprisingly few examples of distinct grades of General officer in the intervening decades.
The disappearance of Marshals from active service and the subsequent lack of evidence may mean that differentiation of rank among general officers was kept relatively tightly constrained until the expansion of the military in the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. Alternatively, evidence may simply be lacking.
New Republic Intelligence, which evolved out of the separation of Intel from the combat military, had senior personnel with the rank of Brigadier, who could be considered at least quasi general officers; but it is not certain that NRI actually had any rank of General. It is true that the heads of NRI were often Generals, such as Cracken and Carlist Rieekan, but these men had held their rank since the days of the Alliance, and Admiral Dif Scaur, who was Director of Intelligence during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, had earned his flag rank in the Navy as commander of the Fourth Fleet.
Lastly, mention must be made of the perplexing rank of Etahn A'baht. The Dornean officer's status as "General" during the Black Fleet Crisis of 16-17 ABY was explicitly equivalent to that of an Admiral—indeed, he outranked Admiral Tolokus during the campaign. In 26 ABY, however, he is found as a Brigadier General, a rank which we would expect to have been equivalent to a mere Commodore in the Navy. It is possible that this title was an eccentric attempt to provide an army-style alternative to the senior command title of Commodore, which was separate from the substantive rank of the same name; alternatively, it might be that A'baht had transferred from the line military to New Republic Intelligence, as Bren Derlin, Rieekan and Dif Scaur had done before him, and that his rank of Brigadier General was a grade within the NRI hierarchy.
Notes and references
- Brigadier (General)
- Major General
- Lieutenant General
- High General
- Grand General
- Bombad General
- Jedi General
- Sector General
- Senior Jedi General
- Superior General
- General on Wikipedia