Anderson, Robert (Fort Sumter Commander)

Born: 1805-06-14 Jefferson County, Kentucky

Died: 1871-10-26 Nice, France

Anderson spent his early days on his father's plantation, who was a former Revolutionary War soldier and a slaveholder. After graduating from West Point in 1825, Anderson received commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd Artillery. He also briefly worked as his brother, Richard Clough Anderson, Jr.'s, secretary who was minister to Colombia. Anderson fought in the Black Hawk and Seminole wars, winning promotion to 1st lieutenant in 1833. He served as assistant adjutant general of the Eastern Department from 1838 to 1841, at which point he became captain of the 3rd Artillery. In 1845, Anderson married Elizabeth Bayard Clinch, with whom he had four children. During the Mexican War, Anderson fought under Winfield Scott, but was wounded at the Battle of Molino del Rey, which earned him a breveted promotion to major. In 1857, he became a full major. During the secession crisis, Anderson--a slaveholder himself--sympathized with the South but opposed secession. Thus, Scott placed him in command of the three forts in Charleston Harbor in November 1860. Anderson subsequently became famous for refusing to hand over Fort Sumter to Confederate forces and only surrendered it after it was put under fire, officially beginning the Civil War. Following the surrender, Abraham Lincoln promoted Anderson to brigadier general and placed him in command of the Department of the Cumberland. However, Anderson soon began to suffer from poor health due to exhaustion and requested that he be relieved in October 1861. He retired in 1863, although he was present at Fort Sumter when the U.S. flag was again raised there on April 14, 1865.

Lowell H. Harrison, "Anderson, Robert," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1:481-82.