Joseph Washington Anderson

A black and white bust portrait of Joseph W Anderson in uniform
Major Joseph Washington Anderson

The University memorial; biographical sketches of alumni of the University of Virginia who fell in the Confederate War.

Born in 1836 in Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia, Joseph Washington Anderson was a 1859 graduate of the University of Virginia (top of his Law Class), a former lawyer, and plantation owner. Early in his education, Anderson developed an aptitude for military concepts, was elected a lieutenant in a militia company formed after John Brown's Raid, and when the Civil War erupted, Anderson had been elevated to captain of his milita company, "The Mountain Rifles," which became Company H, 28th Virginia Infantry.

By the time of the Vicksburg campaign, Captain Anderson's company had been converted from infantry to artillery and transferred west join to Brigadier General Seth M. Barton's brigade of Major General Carter Stevenson's division in Kentucky. Ordered to initially join General Braxton Bragg's forces around Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Stevenson's division was sent to reinforce Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton's Confederate army in Mississippi. Anderson and his artillery battery arrived at the end of the battle of Chickasaw Bayou in December 1862. Captain Anderson was promoted to Chief of Artillery, Stevenson's Division, on January 28, 1863, and promoted to major the following March.

On April 28, 1863, Major Anderson was left in Vicksburg while his former command, the Botetourt Virginia Artillery, marched south to reinforce Brigadier General John Bowen at Grand Gulf. The Botetourt Artillery found themselves heavily engaged at the battle of Port Gibson on May 1, 1863. As the deserate struggle south of Vicksburg ensued, Anderson grew anxious. Writing a letter to his parents back the following day, Anderson lamented, "I am uneasy...[and] am very much afraid that a number of my gallant boys have gone under...I begged the General (Stevenson) to let me take only one of the other batteries and go to their assistance. He did not think it prudent and refused it..."

Knowing the full weight that a desperate struggle to retain Vicksburg would have to be fought, Anderson also let his parents know his wishes if he lost his life:

"I hope it is unnecessary for me to assure you and my noble mother of my undying devotion, and to request that, in case I should fall, you would devote yourselves to the care of my wife and children. On their account I shall try not to expose my life unnecessarily; but if, in the heat of action, my conduct should appear to be contrary to this principle, it will be due to the extreme manner in which I am wedded to the cause in which I am engaged...and if it should be my fate to die, I couldn't do so in a better cause." Anderson's former brigade commander, Seth M. Barton, wrote that Anderson delivered orders to Barton on May 12 and mentioned that he "had a presentiment that he should not survived the impending engagement...that he could not shake it off."

On the morning of May 16, Anderson was dispatched by General Stevenson to ensure that the army's wagons had cleared the roadway in order for the Confederate army to retrograde back to Edward's Station. Anderson had helped place the remnants of the Botetourt Artillery to protect the army as it began its rearward movements. However, the Federal forces on marching west attacked the Confederates in this exposed position.

The battle of Champion Hill (Baker's Creek) opened up and Major Anderson found himself in active pursuits to thwart Confederate disaster. Late in the afternoon, after the final Confederates counterattack and repulse, Anderson was seen shot from his horse attempting to rally Barton's retreating soldiers. Anderson was found on the field by a Dr. VanDyke and carried to a field hospital where he died around 2 A.M. on May 17. Buried on the battlefield, Anderson's remains were brought back to the family plot in Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia, in December 1863.
Bronze relief portrait of Joseph W. Anderson
Bronze relief portrait of Major Joseph Washington Anderson, Chief of Artillery, Stevenson's Division.

NPS Photo

Major, Chief of Artillery, Stevenson's Division

Formerly Captain, Botetourt Virginia Artillery

Cost: $250 for bronze by the Federal Government.

Sculptor: George T. Brewster

Erected: May 17, 1919

Location: Outside the current park boundary just over the Hall's Ferry brigade overpass on Confederate Avenue.

Last updated: November 16, 2019

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