American Civil War: Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson

Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Richard H. Anderson - Early Life & Career:

Born near Stateburg, SC on October 7, 1821, Richard Heron Anderson was the son of Dr. William W. Anderson and his wife Mary Jane.  Raised on the family's plantation, Borough House, Anderson received his education locally and developed an understated, reserved personality that was in contrast to the firebrand nature that characterized many of his peers.  Seeking a military career, he applied for and obtained an appointment to the US Military Academy.

  Arriving at West Point in 1838, his classmates included William Rosecrans, James Longstreet, D.H. Hill, Lafayette McLaws, and John Pope.  A middling student, Anderson graduated four years later ranked 40th in a class of 56.  Commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant, he received an assignment to the 1st US Dragoons.

Ordered to Carlisle Barracks for cavalry instruction, Anderson moved to the frontier in 1843.  Seeing time in Little Rock, AR as well as Forts Gibson and Washita, he shifted south to Fort Jesup, LA a year later.  Marching into Texas with Brigadier General Zachary Taylor in 1845, Anderson departed in 1846 to commence recruiting duty.  With the beginning of the Mexican-American War, he was assigned to Major General Winfield Scott's army.  Sailing south in early 1847 with the 2nd US Dragoons, Anderson took part in the successful Siege of Veracruz and again saw action at La Hoya on June 9.

  As the army neared Mexico City, he returned to combat during the fighting at Contreras and Molino del Rey.  Brevetted to first lieutenant for his performance, Anderson later took part in the final capture of Mexico City.  

Richard H. Anderson - Antebellum Years:

With the conclusion of the war, Anderson received a promotion to first lieutenant in 1848 and spent a number of months on recruiting duty.

  In 1849, he began alternating between service at Carlisle Barracks and recruiting before returning to the frontier three years later.  Serving at various installations in Texas, Anderson earned a promotion to captain on March 3, 1855.  Ordered to Fort Riley, KS, he aided in trying to quell the Bleeding Kansas crisis which saw pro- and anti-slavery settlers clashing over the territory's future.  After a brief return to Carlisle in 1858, Anderson joined Colonel Albert S. Johnston's expedition during the Utah War.  Ordered to Fort Kearny, NE in 1859, he was there until March 1861.  

Richard H. Anderson - The Civil War Begins:

With the secession of several Southern states following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, Anderson began to debate his future.  Casting his lot with his native state, he resigned from the US Army (accepted on March 3, 1861) and accepted a commission as colonel of the 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment on January 28, 1861.  Following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and beginning of the Civil War in April, Anderson assumed command of the Charleston defenses.  Promoted to brigadier general on July 19, he received orders to move south to Pensacola, FL.

  There he attacked Fort Pickens on October 9.  Defeated at the resulting Battle of Santa Rosa Island, Anderson was wounded in the arm during the fighting.  Recovering from this injury, he was transferred north to Virginia in February 1862 and given command of a South Carolina brigade in General Joseph E. Johnston's army.

Richard H. Anderson - An Understated Leader:

That spring, Anderson's brigade, serving in Major General James Longstreet's division, moved to the Virginia Peninsula to oppose Major General George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac.  On May 5, he first led his new command in combat and performed well at the Battle of Williamsburg.  This was followed later that month by another solid outing at Seven Pines.  After the battle, General Robert E. Lee replaced Johnston who had been wounded in the fighting.

  Initiating the Seven Days Battles in late June, Lee began a series of attacks against McClellan's army.  During this campaign, Anderson continued to perform well and saw fighting at Gaines' Mill and Glendale.  At the latter, he assumed command of the division allowing Longstreet to direct the overall battle.  

In recognition of his efforts in May and June, and with support from Johnston and Longstreet, Anderson received a promotion to major general on July 14 and assumed command of Major General Benjamin Huger's division.  Unlike many of his fellow generals, he had no inclination to pander to the press or politicians with an eye towards advancing his career.  Continuing to serve under Longstreet, Anderson and his division fought at the Second Battle of Manassas in late August and mounted the final assaults against the Union line on Henry House Hill.  Engaged a few weeks later at the Battle of Antietam, Anderson assumed overall command for the defense of the Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) and was wounded in the thigh. 

Removed from the field, Anderson recovered during the fall and led his men at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13.  Occupying the northern end of Marye's Heights, his division was only lightly engaged.  Detached from Longstreet's First Corps, which shifted south to Suffolk, in the spring of 1863, Anderson's division remained with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  In early May, Confederate forces moved west to block Major General Joseph Hooker at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

  Engaging Hooker on May 2, Anderson and McLaws held Hooker's attention while Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's corps moved west to flank the Union line.  The next day, Anderson shifted back towards Fredericksburg to block a thrust by Major General John Sedgwick.

Richard H. Anderson - Gettysburg:

Following the victory at Chancellorsville, Lee was forced to reorganize his army due to the death of Jackson.  Creating a new Third Corps led by Lieutenant General A.P. Hill, he reassigned Anderson's division to this formation.  As the army moved north to invade Pennsylvania, the division was at Fayetteville on the morning of July 1 when Major General Henry Heth, also of Hill's corps, opened the Battle of Gettysburg.  The furthest west of Hill's divisions, Anderson did not reach the town until late afternoon and his men were placed in reserve by Lee.  On the following day, he received instructions to deploy along Seminary Ridge and attack east in conjunction with Longstreet's corps to the south.  Advancing late in the day, in a disjointed fashion, his men succeeded in pushing back Brigadier General Andrew A. Humphreys' division, but were ultimately stopped by Union forces along Cemetery Ridge.  The next day, two of his brigades supported Pickett's Charge, but were turned back.    

Richard H. Anderson - Overland Campaign:

That fall, Anderson saw further service during the Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns.  In early May 1864, Lee moved to block Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign.

  Clashing at the Battle of the Wilderness, Anderson led his division into the fray.  On May 7, Lee appointed him to lead Longstreet's corps as his former commander had been badly wounded the previous day.  In this new role, Anderson immediately led his men south and secured a vital position in the opening actions of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.  Successfully holding this line throughout the fighting, Anderson received a temporary promotion to lieutenant general on May 31.  His corps later repelled Union assaults at the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 1-2.  His promotion was made permanent on June 4.

Pursuing Grant south to Petersburg, Anderson's men held part of the city's defenses through the summer.  In August, he briefly departed to lead a force intended to support Lieutenant General Jubal Early's efforts in the Shenandoah Valley.  Returning in September, Anderson stepped aside when Longstreet returned to active duty the following month.  In recognition of his service, Lee created a Fourth Corps on October 19 and appointed Anderson to lead it.  Centered on Major General Bushrod Johnson's division, this new corps remained in the Petersburg defenses through the winter.  When Union troops finally broke through on April 2, 1865, Anderson and his men joined the rest of the army in retreating west.  

Richard H. Anderson - Later Career:

On April 6, Anderson and Lieutenant General Richard Ewell attempted to make a stand at Sayler's Creek.  In the resulting battle, their commands were shattered by Union forces.  A day later, the remnants of Anderson's corps were merged with the remainder of Major General John B. Gordon's Second Corps.  Left without a command, Lee relieved Anderson on April 8 and he departed the army to return home to South Carolina.  With the end of the conflict, he received a pardon on September 27, 1865.  Settling near Stateburg, Anderson attempted to farm cotton in the years immediately after the war but was unsuccessful.

In 1868, Anderson secured a job as an agent for the South Carolina Railroad.  Holding this position for ten years, he was fired in 1878.  Made a state phosphate inspector the following year, he only held this position briefly as he died on June 26, 1879.  His remains were buried at St. Helena's Episcopal Church in Beaufort, SC.                                

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Your Citation
Hickman, Kennedy. "American Civil War: Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson." ThoughtCo, Aug. 12, 2015, Hickman, Kennedy. (2015, August 12). American Civil War: Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson. Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "American Civil War: Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 11, 2017).