Anderson was born in the High Hills of Santee at Borough House Plantation (Hill Crest), near the town of Stateburg located in Sumter County, South Carolina on Oct 7, 1821. He was the son of Dr. William Wallace Anderson and his wife, Mary Jane Mackensie, and the grandson of American Revolutionary War hero and namesake Richard Anderson.
Anderson graduated 40th out of 56 cadets from the United States Military Academy in July 1842, and was brevetted a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons.
Anderson chose to follow his home state and the Confederate cause, and he resigned from the U.S. Army (accepted on March 3, 1861) to enter service with the Confederate Army. Anderson accepted a commission as colonel of the 1st South Carolina Infantry Regiment as of January 28. He was given command of the Charleston harbor area after the capture of Fort Sumter that April. He was promoted to brigadier general on July 19, 1861 and transferred to Pensacola, Florida, where he was wounded in the left elbow during the Battle of Santa Rosa Island on October 9.
Anderson joined the Confederate Army of the Potomac in February 1862 (which was absorbed into the Army of Northern Virginia later in the spring) as a brigade commander. During the Peninsula Campaign, he distinguished himself at the Battle of Williamsburg in May, during the Battle of Seven Pines, and in the Seven Days Battles in June and July. At Glendale, he took temporary command of Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's division. Because of his excellent performance on the Peninsula, he was promoted to major general on July 14, 1862, and was given command of the 2nd Division of Longstreet's First Corps.
During the spring of 1864, at the Battle of the Wilderness, Longstreet was severely wounded and Anderson took command of the First Corps, leading it throughout the Overland Campaign.
When Longstreet returned from his convalescence on October 19, 1864, Anderson reverted to the rank of major general but led the newly created Fourth Corps through the Siege of Petersburg and the retreat towards Appomattox Court House in 1865. Because of several attacks by Federal cavalry nipping at his corps, Anderson was forced to slow and even stop from time to time and beat off the attacks. This caused the Confederates to become isolated from the rest of Lee's army moving west, and they were now the army's rear guard. The corps finally halted and fought at Sayler's Creek on April 6, 1865 which ended in a rout, and as Lee witnessed it he exclaimed "Has the army been dissolved?"
General Richard H Anderson is portrayed by Stan Kauling who has been in Civil War reenacting since 2008 and Lee’s Lieutenants Living History Group since July 2010. He, also, is collateral descendent of two Confederate Veterans.