Friday, September 21, 2012

Patriots of '61 – Brigadier-General George Burgwyn Anderson of Orange County

Patriots of '61 – Brigadier-General George Burgwyn Anderson of Orange County
Colonel George Burgwyn Anderson:
Born near Hillsboro on 12 April 1831, the oldest son of William E. Anderson, Esq., and wife, Eliza Burgwyn.  George attained high honors and distinction at the University of North Carolina and was appointed to West Point at age seventeen, graduating ninth in a class of forty-one in 1852.  In his memorial address of May 11, 1885, Hon. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington said of George Anderson:
"I am here to-day, in compliance with your invitation, to attempt to pay a tribute to the memory of as noble a gentleman, as knightly a soldier, as true a man, and as devoted a son of North Carolina as any who lived.  Truth and manliness were his distinguishing characteristics, and to them in whomsoever found he was ever ready to do reverence.
When George Anderson became an officer….he buckled on that sword….[and] with fervent love and that inexorable sense of honor and duty which was the all-controlling motive of his life, he turned to North Carolina and reverently laid it at her feet.  It was an offer [by Governor John W. Ellis] gladly accepted, and he was immediately commissioned Colonel of the Fourth Regiment.
The battle of Seven Pines was a bloody baptism for Colonel Anderson's regiment; indeed, it was almost unparalleled in its terrible destructiveness to that command, for of the twenty-seven officers fit for duty all except one were either killed or wounded, and of the five-hundred and twenty men in the ranks, eighty-six were killed and three hundred and seventy-six were wounded, leaving only fifty-eight out of the five-hundred and twenty unhurt – a record which is the best evidence of the perfect discipline and splendid courage exhibited by that glorious regiment in its first hard fight with the enemy.
During this engagement Colonel Anderson seized the flag of the Twenty-seventh Georgia and dashed forward holding it aloft.  Before their resistless sweep the stubborn foe reeled and fled, and the colors which Anderson bore were planted on their breastworks. Such men were worthy of being commanded by the bravest of the brave, and the cordial thanks and commendation of a division commander, who was not given to laudation of any one, caused the immediate recognition of Colonel Anderson's merits by the President, who, being on the field, at once promoted him, and his well-won commission of Brigadier-General was forwarded and received by him on the 9th day of June, 1862.
The brigade assigned to him were all North Carolinians, being composed of the Second, Fourth, Fourteenth and Thirtieth Regiments – as fine a body of troops as ever trod the perilous edge of battle, and one with afterwards achieved as brilliant a reputation as the most brilliant in the Army of Northern Virginia.  Then came the Seven Days' struggle around Richmond, in each of which the brigade took an active part and the young brigadier won new laurels as a most gallant and efficient officer."
At the battle of Sharpsburg and during his brigade's assault on the enemy's center Anderson received a wound in the foot which would prove fatal.  He was taken to Virginia -- with his brother and aide de camp, Captain Walker Anderson, who was also wounded at Sharpsburg and killed at the Wilderness -- to Raleigh, arriving in the latter part of September.
"His wound was a most painful one, and he suffered great agony for two weeks….Finally amputation was decided upon, but it was too late. He sunk under the operation, and on the morning of October 16, 1862, in the thirty-second year of his age, his brave soul bid farewell to earth.  A very large assemblage of the citizens of Raleigh gathered to give expression to their grief and to testify their respect for his memory; his mortal remains were born to your beautiful cemetery and tenderly and reverently laid beneath the sod where his monument now stands.
[He] died, while the banner of the Confederacy still floated triumphant in every breeze. He never saw that banner lowered to the foe, and his proud spirit was spared the humiliation to which his surviving comrades were afterwards subjected.  The government for which he fought and died was long since numbered with the dead empires, and the one against which he bore arms has, with its vast powers constantly centralizing in the hands of an all-absorbing national legislature, become the richest and most powerful on the earth.
If true manliness and an exalted sense of duty; if the strictest integrity, and the most scrupulous regard of the rights of others; if a chivalric sentiment towards woman, and a delicate sense of personal honor; if a commanding presence and cheerful spirit; if dauntless courage and gentle manners; if a brilliant intellect and extensive knowledge; and finally, if patriotic service, ending in painful wounds, heroic suffering and death – if all these combined constitute a theme worthy of commemoration by orator or poet, then the duty assigned me to-day might well have been entrusted to the most gifted of men, and the people of North Carolina would have a juster estimate of the life and services of George Burgwyn Anderson." 
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, XIV, Rev. J. William Jones, editor, January to December 1886,  excerpts, pp. 391-397)
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