Pvt. Frederick C. Anderson won nation’s highest battlefield honor. In this second part, we trace his military service.

Since Frederick C. Anderson left no diary and never was mentioned in any letters or diaries written by his comrades, for the most part it is impossible to know his thoughts or actions on any particular day of the war.

We can, however, trace his path through the movements of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. Regimental records were quite thorough in recording who was present or absent on a particular day.   “The battles in which Anderson took part are confirmed by Regimental records,” writes Donald Thompson, an author currently working on an extensive history of the 18th Regiment. “So we know, at the least, he was not a 'skulker,' i.e. someone who made themselves conveniently absent prior to going into battle.”   Based on the Muster Records, indicating he was present when rolls were taken, Anderson did not have any absences or furloughs, nor was he sick from the date he was mustered, Aug. 24, 1861, until July 15, 1863, when he was noted as “Absent, straggled on the march July 15, 1863.”   On that July morning, 11 days after the Union victory at Gettysburg, the 18th Massachusetts marched 24 miles through Keedysville, Md., over South Mountain and into camp for the night near Burkittsville, Md. During this long march, Anderson became separated from his unit and lost, or got rid of, some of his equipment. When he caught up with the Regiment, he was charged $3.44 for the loss of a cartridge box, belt and plate, one ball screw, one cone, one wipe, one screwdriver, one knapsack, and two great coat straps.   This must have been quite a blow for a solider making the typical private’s salary of $11 dollars a month. (The equivalent of $175 today.)   The regiment saw its first action, and its bloodiest confrontation of the war, during the Second Battle of Bull Run, which took place Aug. 28-30, 1862. The 18th suffered 183 casualties - 54 killed, 101 wounded and 28 missing – Aug. 30 when Confederate General James Longstreet’s counterattack crashed into the flank of the Union Fifth Corps, to which the 18th was attached.   The regiment may have enjoyed its finest hour Dec. 13, 1862, during the battle of Fredericksburg. The latest in what had been a long line of Union calamities, the battle has been described as the most one-sided contest of the war.   After a series of attacks had failed on the left, Union General Ambrose. E. Burnside ordered the right wing of his army to advance across open ground up Marye’s Heights in a frontal attack against the entrenched forces of James Longstreet.   General Porter Alexander, commander of the Confederate artillery, surveyed the ground the Union forces would have to cross and told General Lee, “A chicken could not cross that road when we open on it.”   The 18th was facing Cobb’s Georgia Brigade, dug in along the “Sunken Road” behind a stone wall.   “There may have been as many as eight thousand Confederates in front of the 18th on Marye’s Heights,” said Donald Pfanz, head historian at Fredericksburg Battlefield. “They were taking fire not only from the troops directly ahead of them, but from oblique fire coming from their left and right.”   As southern shot, later described as a “sheet of flame” riddled the regiment, the men of the 18th moved toward the stone wall.   “Lt. Col. Hayes, commander of the 18th, lamented that his regiment 'melted away as we advanced.'” Francis Augustín O'Reilly wrote in “The Fredericksburg Campaign.” “To a Massachusetts soldier It seemed that none could live in such a storm of Bulletts.”   Sixteen hopeless brigade size attacks were made against Marye’s Heights that December day at Fredericksburg. Not one of them came within 100 yards of the Confederate lines.   There was much debate over which Union unit came the closest to the stone wall on Marye’s Heights. The 18th Massachusetts along with the “Irish Brigade” are often mentioned as the two most likely.   The answer will never be known. What is known as that the 18th Massachusetts sustained 125 casualties that day, the most of any of the seven regiments in Barnes's brigade.     Capturing the flag   The 18th Massachusetts reached Gettysburg on the morning of July 2, 1863, as part of the Union Fifth Corps. Later that day, the Fifth Corps would catch the brunt of the Confederate attack in an exposed outpost, a half mile in front of the Union lines, known as “The Wheatfield.”   After a sharp struggle, the Union forces in the Wheatfield were overwhelmed and forced to retreat. The Confederate advance ran out of steam later that day in “The Devils Den” and “Little Round Top.”   The Battle of Gettysburg cost the 18th 28 casualties - two killed, 23 wounded and two missing. One-hundred twenty men who enlisted at the start of the war with the 18th were mustered out of service Sept. 2, 1864, when their three-year enlistment expired. Another 87, including Frederick Anderson, accepted the inducement of a re-enlistment bonus in January and February 1864.   Anderson re-enlisted for three years service Jan. 1, 1864, and was given a $325 bounty (the equivalent of $5,100 today), which was paid in three installments, two of which were for $50 each, and a 45-day furlough, which began Feb. 25, 1864.   By August 1864, the end of the war was in sight. Ulysses S. Grant, now commander of the Union forces, had Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia nearly bottled up in Petersburg, a city located about 20 miles south of the Confederate capitol of Richmond.   Union forces had cut the Weldon railroad, one of the last supply lines left to Lee’s army.   It was during a Confederate counterattack to retake the railroad that Anderson captured the battle flag of the 27th South Carolina.   The 27th, as part of Hagood’s brigade, hit the Federal line at an angle, splitting into two divisions. The Confederates were greatly outnumbered, however, and were soon surrounded in a Union counterattack led by the 18th Massachusetts. During this counterattack, Anderson took the colors of the 27th.   It’s impossible to overstate the importance of a regimental battle flag during the Civil War. These flags were used for identification and communication and served to inspire morale within the unit.   In the fog of battle, flags served as a rallying point and they were a focal point of enemy assaults. Being selected to carry the flag was considered a great honor even though it often meant certain death.   “In many cases, regimental flags were gifts from a local community before the men left for war,” Donald Thompson writes. “Regiments would assign up to a dozen Color Corporals to guard the flag. There was a concerted effort to keep the flag from touching the ground if a color bearer was killed or wounded and others would take the flag into their own hands and assume the roll of color bearer.    “Losing the regimental flag was an act that could cause a regiment to lose face and honor and they strove mightily to ensure it was kept safe.  Additionally, the capture of an enemy flag, meant fighting had taken place at very close quarters, a sign of an individual or regiment’s bravery in the face of fire.”   Of the 1,520 Medals of Honor awarded during the Civil War, 326 were awarded for capturing the enemy flag and 138 for actions involving the saving or planting of the Union flag.   Anderson received his Medal of Honor during a ceremony held Sept. 13, 1864. A large number of generals were present including the commander of the Army of the Potomac, George Gordon Meade.   A New York Herald story, dated Sept. 16, 1864, describes the scene:   “An impromptu platform was erected, which was gayly decked off with flags, among which were the captured rebel flags, bands of music stationed, and everything done to make the occasion one long to be remembered and talked over by those who witnessed it. … MAJOR GENERAL MEADE, commanding the Army of the Potomac, then arose, and during the utmost quiet and most respectful attention, addressed the soldiers as follows: - OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS OF FIFTH CORPS - I have to-day to perform a most pleasant and gratifying duty - to present to certain meritorious non-commissioned officers and privates medals of honor, conferred on them by the War Department for distinguished conduct on the field of battle, in capturing flags from the enemy.”   Anderson was wounded in the left foot in December 1864 while the 32nd Mass. Infantry was engaged in the siege of Petersburg.  He was admitted to the 5th Army Corps hospital at City Point, Va., on Dec. 7, 1864 and on Dec. 25 transferred to Jarvis Gen. Hospital in Baltimore, Dec. 26. He was returned to duty Jan. 31, 1865.   He was present at Appomattox Court House and witnessed the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865. He was mustered out of military service at Boston June 29, 1865.   Anderson, then age 23 and a resident of Somerset, married Sarah E. Francis, 24, in Taunton on May 20, 1866. They were the parents of Carrie M., born 1872; Herbert Newell, born April 30, 1875; and Cecilia Ann, born April 25, 1878.    Anderson, age 40, died suddenly due to apoplexy (hemorrhage) while working as a teamer at the Worcester R.R. freight yard in Providence on Oct. 6, 1882. He was purportedly interred at Anderson Family Cemetery in Somerset.    His wife, Sarah, then age 40, married Lacy Atkinson on July 29, 1883. Sarah Atkinson applied for a pension for her dependent children Oct. 15, 1884, but a pension was not granted as Frederick Anderson's death was determined to be unrelated to a disability incurred while in military service.   Raynham’s ghost soldier exited the world stage as quietly as he had entered it. The House of Industry is no more and the Orphan Trains stopped running 80 years ago. The Stilman Wilber farm in Raynham is overgrown. McMansions cover the ground Anderson walked across with the 18th at Fredericksburg.   Much of the Weldon Railroad Battlefield, where Anderson won the Medal of Honor, has been paved over. There are no monuments to Anderson in Raynham, no streets named after him. There is no record of an Anderson Family Cemetery in Somerset.   His final resting place remains unknown.
  Raynham Call. This story would not have been possible without the help of Donald Thompson, whose blog “Touch The Elbow” is dedicated to Frederick Anderson’s unit, The 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.