Van A. W. Anderson (10 Feb. 1837-8 Feb. 1876)

Van A. W. Anderson was born in Mississippi, the son of Thomas Anderson (b. ca. 1788-d. after 1866), a physician, and his wife, Anne E. Anderson (1809-5 Jun. 1866). (Evidence from the 1850 U.S. Census suggests that her maiden name might have been Kinkade.) The family lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi until the Civil War. Van Anderson attended the University of Virginia in session 33 (1856-1857). He practiced as a lawyer in Vicksburg up until the War. (1850 & 1860 U.S. Census)

In Nov. 1862, Van Anderson wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, requesting him to “see that his commission as a second lieutenant was sent, since he had ‘no friend in Richmond.’” Davis passed the request along, adding the following note to the Secretary of War: “The applicant is favorably known to me as a Gentleman of talent & standing at the Bar of Vicksburg. If such an appointment is necessary he is commended to consideration & comparison.” (Davis)

The next month, on 13 Dec. 1862, Anderson was appointed a 2nd lieutenant as of 24 Aug. 1862, and served as a Drillmaster and Enrolling Officer. (Though Anderson remained at the rank of 2nd lieutenant throughout the war, he was later called “Captain Anderson” by the newspapers of Memphis, TN.) He served during the bombardment of Vicksburg, and on 4 July 1863, Anderson appeared on a list of prisoners captured at Vicksburg and imprisoned, signing an oath of parole on 6 July 1863. He surrendered and was paroled again at Jackson, Mississippi on 15 May 1865. On this card he is listed as living in Memphis, Tennessee.

After the Civil War, Van Anderson and his parents and siblings settled in Memphis, and he appears in the city directories from 1865 to 1876. His mother, Anne Anderson, died there in 1866, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

About 1865, Anderson married Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Jones (b. ca. 1840), the daughter of former Tennessee governor and U.S. Senator James Chamberlain Jones. The Van Andersons had three children: Sarah V. “Sally”, Mary V., and James J. Anderson. Van Anderson died at the age of 40 in 1876, and the Memphis Bar Association provided the pallbearers for his funeral. The city’s courts closed so that the legal community could attend the funeral.

Newspaper articles indicate that widow’s home was foreclosed on in lieu of taxes later in 1876, and that in 1879, Mrs. Anderson and one of her daughters caught yellow fever during a series of epidemics that swept the South, including Memphis. (Bolivar bulletin, 1879; Gann) However, they must have recovered since Mrs. Anderson and her three children appear in the 1880 U.S. Census living with her brother Robert B. Jones, the keeper of a livery stable in Memphis.

[Note: Van A. W. Anderson’s birth date is from the U.Va. Matriculation Books. — JLC]


  • 1850-1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc.
  • U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
  • “Court stands adjourned,” Memphis Daily Appeal, 11 Feb. 1876, p. 1,4.
  • Davis, Jefferson. The papers of Jefferson Davis. Baton Rouge, LA, 1995, v.8 (1862), p. 489.
  • “The Fever; the infected district to be guarded and isolated.” Bolivar bulletin (Bolivar, TN), 21 Aug. 1879, p. 3.
  • [Funeral announcement of Mrs. Anne E. Anderson.] “Daily Memphis Avalanche” 6 June 1866, in Nichols, Elizabeth R. & Mary L. Nazor. “Death records found in Memphis, Tennessee, 1866.” Ansearchin’ News (Tennessee Genealogical Society, Memphis, TN), v.27, no. 2 (Summer 1980), p. 58-62.
  • Gann, Josh. “Yellow Fever.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. [database online] c2012.
  • Hall, Rita, Scotts of VA and TN – Tricentennial Tree. [database online]
  • “James Chamberlain Jones (1809-1859)” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present.
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865; Catalog ID: 586957; Record Group #: 109; Roll #: 7.
  • [Obituary of Van A. W. Anderson]. Memphis Daily Avalanche, 9 Feb. 1876 in Smith, Jonathan Kennon Thompson. Genealogical Tidbits from the Memphis Daily Appeal, Addendum I. Tidbits from the Memphis Daily Avalanche. 2002. (8/20/2011)
  • University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
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