He ranked above all brigadiers and colonels, and was subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general (Generalleutnant) (in Austria, Feldmarschalleutnant). The title may be literally translated as "master general of field guards", reflecting the original task of the office holder: the inspection of the pickets and the supervision of the dispositions of brigades and regiments in the field and on the march.
At regimental level the corresponding function was carried out by the Feldwachtmeister or Obristfeldwachtmeister, Obrist-Wachtmeister or Oberstwachtmeister. This rank was gradually replaced by that of major.
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