General Robert Anderson
By John T. Marck
He was born outside Louisville, Kentucky on June 14, 1805 and was fifty-six years old when the Civil War began, and became the Union's first hero.
At the age of twenty, Anderson graduated fifteenth in his class at West Point. Following this he fought in the Black Hawk and Seminole Indian Wars, and worked as a translator, transcribing important military text from French into English. While working in this capacity, he was then ordered by Secretary of War John B. Floyd in November 1860 to take command of the Federal garrison at Charleston Harbor, South Carolina known as Fort Sumter. In spite of the fact that Anderson's family was of Virginian ancestry, and that his wife was a Georgian, he was sympathetic to slavery. He also believed that military action would never prevent secession. Still, he was very loyal to the Union and his devotion inflexible.
While in command of Fort Sumter in April 1861, he was confronted with a demand to surrender the fort. Refusing, he stood his ground and withstood thirty-four hours of continuous bombarding. It was not until the forts gates were destroyed, the walls broken, and his ammunition supplies were surrounded by flames that he finally gave in to surrender to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard on April 14.
To honor him for his bravery at Fort Sumter, President Lincoln promoted him to brigadier general on May 15, 1861. He was then given the command of the Department of Kentucky; then the Department of the Cumberland. In 1863, his health began to deteriorate forcing him to retire from military service. Although still in ill health by war's end, he was able to return to Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865, the fourth anniversary of the surrender, to raise the Stars and Stripes once again, now that the fort was back in Union control.
Robert Anderson died at Charleston, South Carolina on October 26, 1871.
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