Charles DeWitt Anderson

Charles DeWitt Anderson, colonel of the 21st Alabama Infantry, was born July, 1827, in South Carolina. In 1839 the Anderson Family immigrated to Texas. His parents died on board ship, and when the ship docked in Galveston the orphaned Anderson and his brother were taken in by the minister of the local Episcopal church, who raised the two boys. In 1846 Anderson was the first cadet appointed to West Point from the new state of Texas (Texas founder Sam Houston personally recommended Anderson for the appointment). As a result of deficiencies in math and French, Anderson left West Point after his freshman year; he was discharged in 1848. Eight years later he was commissioned lieutenant of artillery in the U.S. Army directly from civilian life. He served with the 4th Artillery in Florida and the Utah Territory until 1861.

Anderson was with his regiment in the northwest when the Civil War broke out. Securing a leave of absence, he immediately left for the South, traveling overland hundreds of miles in the dead of winter. Reaching the South after an eventful journey, he resigned from the U.S. Army (effective April 1,1861) and enlisted in the Confederate army. A commission as captain in the regular Confederate army awaited him. Posted to Fort Morgan near Mobile, Alabama, he took command of a detachment of Confederate regulars who handled the ordnance duties at the fort. On December 9,1861, Anderson was promoted to major of the 20th Alabama Infantry, then stationed at Knoxville, Tennessee. Anderson was detached from the 20th on February 15, 1862, and returned to Mobile to join the staff of Brigadier General Adley H. Gladden. At the Battle of Shiloh (April 6 and 7, 1862) he was Gladdens acting assistant adjutant general. Gladden was killed at Shiloh, and his staff dissolved. On May 8, 1862, Anderson was elected colonel of the 21st Alabama. The 21st, a regiment largely raised in Mobile, was sent back to that city to serve in Mobile's defenses. A "fine officer," Anderson commanded the 21st throughout 1863 and 1864. During the Union army's August, 1864, operations against Mobile, Anderson commanded Fort Gaines, a small fort on Dauphin Island opposite Fort Morgan, the main defense work guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay. On August 5, 1864, Admiral David Farragut's Union fleet ran past Forts Morgan and Gaines. A Union army force landed on Dauphin Island, and in conjunction with Farragut's fleet began to bombard Anderson's fort. Although the bombardment caused only nominal damage to the fort, the officers of the garrison (six companies of the 21st, plus artillerymen and reservists) demanded that Anderson surrender. Union shells were penetrating the walls of Fort Gaines as if they were made of cheese. The small fort was encumbered with a superfluous number of conscripts and reservists, many mere boys, who could find no shelter from the shelling. Their panic spread to the rest of the garrison. At first Anderson was inclined to resist, but seeing that the officers and men were demoralized by Farragut's passage of the forts and ready to mutiny, Anderson gave in. On August 8, 1864, Anderson surrendered Fort Gaines, its 864-man garrison, and 26 cannon. Brigadier General Richard Page, Anderson's superior, criticized the surrender as a craven "deed of dishonor and disgrace." Anderson was also criticized for allowing his second-in-command to abandon Fort Powell, a small earthwork guarding Mobile Bay, after an even briefer bombardment.' Admiral Farragut, on the other hand, thought that Anderson displayed great courage for holding out as long as he did. One of the admiral's dying requests was that Anderson's sword, surrendered at Fort Gaines, be returned to him in recognition of his gallantry. Anderson spent the remainder of the war in a Union prison in New Orleans.

After the war Colonel Anderson returned to Texas and got a job in railroad construction. He served two terms as city engineer of Austin, Texas, then returned to Galveston, where he built the Galveston lighthouse. His last six years were spent as a lighthouse keeper on Galveston Island. Anderson died (of the "grippe") on November 21, 1901, and is buried in Galveston's Old Cahill Cemetery.

Heitman lists Colonel Anderson as a Confederate general, confusing him with Brigadier General Charles D. Anderson of the Georgia militia.

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Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.