Richard Heron Anderson was a career military officer from South Carolina who came to be known as “Fighting Dick” Richardson. He joined the Confederatcy during the Civil War, reaching the rank of Lieutenant General and becoming a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia

Confederate Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson

Early life

Richard Anderson was born on October 7, 1821 near the town of Stateburg in Sumter County, South Carolina. His parents were Dr. William Wallace Anderson and Mary Jane Mackensie Anderson. He was named after his grandfather, a Revolutionary War hero. He had six brothers and sisters. One, William Wallace Anderson, served as a doctor in the U.S. Army and would also join the Confedeacy as a doctor in the Civil War.

Anderson attended the United States Military Academy starting in 1838. He graduated with the West Point Class of 1842, ranking 40th out of a class of 56 graduates. His classmates included Napoleon Dana, Abner Doubleday, Daniel Harvey Hill, James Longstreet, John Newton, Jonn Pope, William Rosecrans, Gustavus Smith, George Sykes, and Earl Van Dorn. All acheived the rank of Major General in the Civil War.

Early military career

After graduation Anderson was assigned to the First United States Dragoon Regiment with the rank of Brevet Second Lieutenant. He was stationed at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania at the Cavalry School for Practice. In 1843 he was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas for frontier duty. He was stationed at Fort Gibson and Fort Washita in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and in1844 at Fort Jessup in Louisiana. On July 16, 1844 he was promoted to full Second Lieutenant in the Second Regiment of dragoons. In 1845 he took part in the military occupation of Texas before being detached on recruiting duty.

Mexican War

Anderson returned to his regiment for the Mexican War. He took part in the Siege of Vera Cruz from March 9-29 in 1847, as well as the skimish at La Hoya on June 20, 1847, the Battle of Contreras on August 19, 1847. In the Skirmish of San Augustin on August 20, 1847 he was breveted First Lieutenant for “for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct.” Anderson was in the Battle of Molino del Rey on September 8, 1847 and the Capture of Mexico City on September 12‑14, 1847.

Between the Wars

Richard Anderson was promoted to full First Lieutenant of the Second Dragoons on July 13, 1848, and again went on recruiting service in 1849. He spent a year from 1849-1850 at the Cavalry School at Carlisle Barracks, then again to recruiting service. During that time he married Sarah Gibson. The couple would have two children, Richard (in 1852) and Sarah (in 1857).

He returned to his regiment in 1852 on frontier duty in Texas at Fort Graham, Fort McKavett, San Antonio, and Fort Riley. On March 3, 1855 he was promoted to Captain in the Second Dragoons.

From 1856 to 1857 Anderson took part in trying to control the disturbances in Kansas before returning to the Cavalry School at Carlisle Barracks in 1858. He then conducted recruits west to join the army in Utah before returning to Fort Kearney, Nebraska.

After South Carolina seceded in December of 1860 Richard Anderson resigned from the United States Army and returned home. He accepted a commission as colonel of the 1st South Carolina Regulars on January 28, although his resignation in the U.S. Army wasn’t accepted until March 3, 1861.

Early Civil War

Anderson took command at Charleston, taking over from General P.G.T. Beuregard after the surrender of Fort Sumter. He was promoted to brigadier genral on July 19, 1861 and moved to Pensacola, where he was wounded in the elbow at the October 9 Battle of Santa Rosa Island.

After recovering he joined Johnston’s Army of the Potomac in February of 1862. This became the Army of Northern Virginia that spring. He commanded his brigade with distinction in the Peninsula Campaign, earning the nickname “Fighting Dick.” Anderson’s brother Edward served on his staff and was killed at the Battle of Williamsburg. At the Battle of Seven Pines Anderson was made temporary commander of Benjamin Huger’s division.

Second Manassas and Sharpsburg

On July 14 Anderson was promoted to major general and given permanent command of Huger’s former division, which he led at Second Manassas (Bull Run). He was part of Longstreet’s command, which would become the First Corps before the end of the year.

At the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) on September 17 Anderson’s division reached the battlefield just before sunrise on the morning of the battle after an exhausting all-night march. They were put in reserve at Lee’s headquarters just west of the village of Sharpsburg. Mid-morning they were ordered to the Sunken Road to support D.H. Hill’s Division. The division came under heavy artillery fire as they crossed the Pryor Farm. Anderson was badly wounded in the thigh and never reached Hill’s line. Brigadier General Roger Pryor took over command of the division, which was driven back from the Sunken Road with heavy casualties.

Richard Anderson returned to command his division at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13. It was not heavily engaged. At the Battle of Chancellorsville Anderson’s Division reported directly to General Robert E. Lee, as Longstreet had been detached with two divisions to Suffolk. Anderson fought on the extreme right flank of the Confederate line.

In the reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia after the death of Jackson Anderson was considered for one of the two new corps command positions that opened up. But the positions went to others. Anderson’s Division became part of the newly created 3rd Corps except for Armistead’s Brigade, which was transferred to Pickett’s Division.


Anderson’s Division did not reach Gettysburg until late on the first day. It did not take part in the fighting on July 1. On July 2 Anderson’s Division was assigned to attack on the southern part of the field beside McLaws’ Division. It crossed the Emmitsburg Road to drive back Humphrey’s Division of the Union 3rd Corps. One of Anderson’s brigades under Brigadier General Ambrose Wright punched through Union lines to Cemetery Ridge before being forced to fall back due to lack of support. But Anderson had a serious problem controlling his brigades. The brigades of William Mahone and Carnot Posey were not effectively involved in the attack. Mahone did not move at all. On the final day of battle two of Anderson’s brigades took part in reinforcing Pickett’s Charge, but were thrown back with heavy casualties.

The Wilderness and Corps Command

After Gettysburg Richard Anderson continued to command his division. At the Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864 Longstreet was badly wounded by friendly fire. Anderson was given command of the First Corps.

Anderson force marched through the night of May 7 to beat Grant’s army to the critical crossroads of Spottsylvania Court House. He arrived just ahead of the Union troops and was able to hold his position through the the brutal fighting of May 8-12. On May 31 Anderson was promoted to Lieutenant General. He commanded the First Corps through the fighting retreat back to Richmond and the beginning of the Siege of Petersburg in June.

Fourth Corps Command

Longstreet returned from convalescing from his wound in October of 1864 and resumed command of the First Corps. Lee felt that Anderson had performed so well as a corps commander. He created a new corps, the Fourth Corps, from two divisions of the Richmond defenses. Anderson was given command of the new corps, which he led through the Siege of Petersburg.

The Fourth Corps became the rear guard of the Army of Northern Virginia during the retreat to Appomattox. It was scattered and overwhelmed at the Battle of Sayler’s Creek. Anderson was almost captured. Lee merged the Fourth Corps survivors into the Second Corps on April 8 and sent Anderson home to South Carolina.

Anderson took over command of a cavalry brigade when its brigadier general was wounded at the Battle of Monroe Crossroads. Anderson apparently never surrendered and there is no record of his parole, but he was pardoned in September of 1865.

After the War

Anderson settled in Stateburg, South Carolina in 1866, where he attempted to raise cotton. With no experience in farming he was unsuccessful and went bankrupt in 1868. He then went to work for the South Carolina Railroad in Camden, South Carolina. After the death of his first wife he married Martha Mellette in December of 1874. Anderson became an agent for the railroad, but was fired from his position in 1878. He then became a South Carolina state phosphate agent in 1879.


Richard H. Anderson died at the age of 57 on June 26, 1879 in Beaufort, South Carolina. He is buried there in St. Helena’s Episcopal Churchyard. His son Richard survived until 1898 and his daughter Martha until 1949.