Robert Anderson (June 14, 1805 – October 26, 1871) was a Union Army officer in the American Civil War, known for his command of Fort Sumter at the start of the war. He is often referred to using his rank of that time, Major Robert Anderson.
Anderson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1825 and received a commision as a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. He served in the Black Hawk War of 1832 as a colonel of Illinois volunteers, where he had the unusual distinction of twice mustering Captain Abraham Lincoln in and out of army service. Returning to the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant in 1833, he served in the second Seminole War, as an assistant adjutant general on General Winfield Scott's staff, and in the Mexican War, where he was severely wounded at Molino del Rey, and for which he received a brevet promotion to major. He eventually received a permanent promotion to major of the 1st U.S. Artillery in the Regular Army on October 5, 1857. He was the author of Instruction for Field Artillery, Horse and Foot in 1839.
As Southern states began to secede, Major Anderson remained loyal to the Union. He was the commanding officer of Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, at the time it was bombarded by forces of the Confederate States of America. The artillery attack was commanded by General P.G.T. Beauregard, who had been Anderson's student at West Point. The attack began April 12, 1861, and continued until Anderson, badly outnumbered and outgunned, surrendered the fort on April 14, 1861. The battle began the American Civil War. He was promoted to brigadier general a month later and brevetted to major general for his actions at the fort, as of February 3, 1865.
Anderson took the fort's 33-star flag with him to New York City, where he participated in a Union Square patriotic rally that is thought to have been the largest public gathering in North America up to then. Anderson then went on a highly successful recruiting tour of the North before taking a leave of absence due to ill health.
Days after Robert E. Lee's surrender and the effective conclusion of the war, Anderson returned to Charleston and, four years to the day after lowering the 33-star flag in surrender, raised it in triumph over the recaptured but badly battered Fort Sumter during ceremonies there. Ironically, that same evening, April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
After the war, he and his wife left for Europe, hoping to improve his condition, but in 1871, he died in Nice, France. He was buried at West Point.
Anderson's brother, Charles Anderson, served as Governor of Ohio from 1865 to 1866. His nephew, Thomas M. Anderson, was a brigadier general who fought in the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War.