Robert Anderson was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, during the turbulent years before the Civil War. Young Robert was educated in the local school system and then went on to graduate from West Point in 1857. He would be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army and serve in upstate New York before returning to “The Point” as a cavalry instructor. He later would be stationed in the northwestern part of the country and rise to the rank of major before the attack on Fort Sumter. In the spring of 1861, he would resign his position with the United States Army and join the Confederate forces.
Anderson was a very accomplished soldier and leader. He would eventually rise to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He was a major player in the defense of the southeastern coast of the Confederacy, the Nashville Campaign, the Atlanta Campaign, and the Savannah Campaign. He fought with bravery and skill and was highly respected by Confederate leaders such as P.G.T. Beauregard, John Bell Hood, Joseph E. Johnston, and “Fighting Joe” Wheeler. Anderson was wounded three times during battle in the Civil War.
After the war, Anderson returned to Savannah and would serve as the Chief of Police for 23 years until his death in 1888. He organized the force into one of the best in the nation. The cornerstones of his leadership were discipline and integrity. He utilized veterans of both the Confederate and Union armies on the police force in Savannah. By hiring men from both sides, he helped heal the wounds of the war and helped bring unification to Savannah through the police department.
He was a trusted advisor to both President Rutherford B. Hayes and President Grover Cleveland on the reunification efforts. Both presidents appointed him to the Board of Visitors at West Point where he was very influential in the academy’s efforts to heal the wounds of the Civil War. He was also instrumental in bringing electricity and telephones to West Point while serving on the board.
Robert H. Anderson died of pneumonia in 1888 at the age of 53. He scored a lot of accomplishments in those 53 years, and Savannah will be forever grateful. He and his wife and children are buried in Bonaventure Cemetery just outside of downtown.