Lamenting the Death of Major Archibald Anderson

Archibald Anderson began his military career as first lieutenant in 1776 and fought with the First Maryland Regiment at the Battle of Brooklyn. A capable and brave officer, Anderson rose quickly through the ranks, receiving a promotion to captain in December 1776, and to major in June 1777. Anderson survived the major engagements of the New York and New Jersey Campaign and the Philadelphia Campaign, and continued to serve in the army as the focus of the war shifted to the south.

At the disastrous Battle of Camden in South Carolina on August 16, 1780, Anderson was one of few officers that performed heroically, rallying his men and organizing resistance while the rest of the army fled in panic. Anderson’s bravery and leadership under fire endeared him to his men and fellow officers. In addition to his capabilities as a soldier, Anderson’s comrades were equally impressed by his social qualities.[1]

On March 15, 1781 Major Anderson again took to the field and led his Marylanders during the Battle of Guilford Court House in North Carolina. Although the British drove the Americans from the field, the heavy casualties suffered by the British led General Cornwallis to eventually abandon the Carolinas and head to Yorktown, Virginia. Anderson did not live to see the ultimate victory; he was cut down by enemy fire while leading his men during the battle.

Anderson’s death was a major blow to the Americans; many reports about the battle make mention of the loss of the high ranking officer. Anderson’s sacrifice particularly impacted his fellow Marylander’s. A lengthy elegy to Anderson was published in the Maryland Gazette on April 12, 1781:

Major Anderson was amongst the first who enlisted under the banners of freedom…his patriotism was too enlarged to be satisfied with serving her its wishes…he felt a greater obligation; he owed her his personal assistance; nor did he hesitate to exchange the sweets of domestic life…for the dangers and fatigues of war…A strong and decisive judgment, an unshaken resolution and unwavering vigilance, were his. No officer could be more distinguished for cool intrepidity in the hour of action…But to have a just idea of his character, you must have seen him in his last moments; the Soldier, the Christian, and the Patriot, mingled their rays to irradiate his fall.[2]

Notes:

[1] “Extract of Letter from an Officer of Distinction in the American Southern Army,” Maryland Journal (Baltimore, MD), Tuesday, April 3, 1781. From Genealogybank.com.

[2] Maryland Gazette, (Annapolis, MD), April 12, 1781.

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One Response to Lamenting the Death of Major Archibald Anderson

  1. David L. Smith says:

    What a wonderful and inspiring story. Thanks for bringing it to the surface of Maryland’s seldom published but important role in the war of independence. I pray that our country’s future will continue to be as honorable as those who helped create it and those who have sustained it.
    David L. Smith

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