Facts, information and articles about Robert Anderson, a Union Civil War General during the American Civil War

Robert Anderson Facts



June 14, 1805


October 26, 1871

Beginning Rank

Major, U.S. Army, 1st Artillery

Highest Rank Achieved

Brigadier general, U.S. Army; breveted major general

Battles Engaged

Fort Sumter

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Robert Anderson Summary: Robert Anderson commanded Fort Sumter during the bombardment of that fort by Confederate forces, the opening shots of the American Civil War. Forced to surrender due to lack of supplies, Anderson considered himself a failure but found he was hero upon his return to the North.

Anderson was a graduate of West Point (1825) and had served in the 1832 Black Hawk War—in which Abraham Lincoln led a company of volunteers—the Second Seminole War (1833) and the Mexican War (1846–48). He wrote Instruction for Field Artillery, Horse and Foot in 1839 and had risen to the rank of major, commanding the 1st Artillery Regiment when he was placed in command of the U.S. Army garrison at Charleston Harbor, South Carolina—a mere two companies—on November 15, 1861. That state voted to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860, and six days later he moved his little command, including wives and children of some of the officers, from Fort Moultrie, a position that was virtually indefensible, to unfinished Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor. There, he remained, trying not to do anything that might tip the scales of Southern dissent into full-scale civil war.

By April, his command was running short on rations. The Union merchant ship Star of the West was dispatched from New York with food and ammunition, but was turned back by Confederate artillery. On April 12–13, Confederate guns in Charleston bombarded the fort, and Anderson responded with his own cannons, but without adequate provisions, he was forced to surrender and was allowed to return North with the rest of the garrison.

On May 15, 1861, he was promoted to brigadier general in the U.S. Army and was placed in command of the Department of Kentucky (later absorbed into the Department of the Cumberland, which he also commanded.)

Forced to resign by ill health on October 27, 1863, he was brevetted a major general for his actions at Fort Sumter. When Charleston was recaptured by Union forces, he participated in a special ceremony there, raising the same flag that had flown over the fort four years earlier. He died in Nice, France, in 1871.


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