A Civil War Biography

Joseph Reid Anderson


Anderson was born on 16 February 1813 in Botetourt County, Virginia. He attended West Point, graduating 4th in the class of 1836, and was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Artillery. Recognizing his engineering abilities he was assigned as an assistant engineer in the Engineer Bureau in Washington before being officially transferred to the Corps of Engineers on 1 July 1837 as a brevet second lieutenant. His primary duty with the Corps of Engineers was in the construction of Fort Pulaski to guard the Port of Savannah, Georgia.

Deciding his engineering career would best be served outside the military Anderson resigned his commission on 30 September 1837 and accepted the position of assistant engineer of the State of Virginia. He was chief engineer of the Valley Turnpike Company from 1838 until 1841 when he began what would be a long association with the Tredegar Iron Company of Richmond, Virginia. The Tredegar Ironworks had been established in 1836 but due to poor management was nearly bankrupt by 1841 when Anderson joined the firm as a sales agent. He bought the ironworks on 4 April 1848 and established the Joseph R. Anderson Company as proprietors. Under Anderson's guidance the ironworks thrived making it one of the country's leading foundries and him the largest industrialist in the South. By 1860 Tredegar was producing locomotives, boilers, cables, naval hardware, and cannon.

When the war came Anderson, a supporter of secession, offered his services to the Confederacy and was commissioned a brigadier general on 3 September 1861. He was initially assigned to command the Confederate forces at Wilmington, North Carolina. On 25 April 1862 he was assigned to the area around Fredericksburg to attack the enemy, commanded by Irwin McDowell, or confine enemy field operations. With the mounting threat during the Peninsula campaign Anderson was placed in command of the 3rd Brigade in A.P. Hill's newly formed light infantry Division. Anderson saw action at Mechanicville, Gaines' Mill, and Frayser's Farm (White Oak Swamp) during the latter on 30 June 1862 he was wounded. He resigned on 19 July 1862 and returned to run Tredegar. Under Anderson's supervision the ironworks became continually more productive held back only by a lack of natural resources in the South. When Richmond was abandoned on 2 April 1865 Tredegar was confiscated by Federal authorities.

The ironworks would remain under Federal control until 1867 when Anderson again assumed control. Brigadier General Joseph Reid Anderson died 7 September 1892 while visiting the Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire.

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