Rank(s): Quarter Gunner
Dates of Service: -
Robert Anderson’s origins are something of a mystery. The court martial testimony of HMS Guerriere’s Lieutenant Bartholomew Kent sheds some light on his birth and earlier career:
Court: Did you see many English men on board the enemy [Constitution] when you were taken Prisoner.
Answer: There were several pointed out to me as Englishmen. There were some I knew personally as Deserters from the Halifax Squadron.
Court: Did you understand generally the number she was supposed to have.
Answer: I understood about 200. The Gunner of the Constitution was Captain of the Forecastle in the Eurydice, when she came from England. He was a Scotchman and went by the name of Robert Allen in the Eurydice and in the Constitution by the Name of Anderson. The Third Lieutenant I believe to be an Irishman ‑ his name is Reed.
Court: How many of them were supposed to have been in the Action of Trafalgar.
Answer: I understood seventeen of the Captains of Guns were in the British Service in that Action, but I cannot say from what authority.
Based on this account, it seems likely that Anderson (or Allen) was in fact a Scotsman by birth, but it is likely he considered himself a naturalized American citizen by 1812.
Anderson enlisted in the Navy and joined the crew of USS President on 16 January 1810 as a quarter gunner.
Anderson was transferred from the President to Constitution on 17 June 1810. He was promoted to gunner on 29 July 1811. He left the ship on 22 September 1812.
The gunner was responsible for all of the ship’s cannons and their equipment, small arms, gunpowder, shot, and magazine tools. Gunpowder is highly flammable, so great attention was paid to properly securing the powder magazine; the captain kept the keys, and only the gunner was allowed to open the space. The gunner also supervised gunnery drill and in some cases small arms drill. In battle, the gunner’s station was the magazine, where he oversaw the filling and passing of cartridges. He made $20.00 per month and received two rations per day.
Battles and Engagements
During his time on board, the ship carried out a diplomatic mission to France and Holland. Anderson was later aboard ship during Constitution’s victory over HMS Guerriere on 19 August 1812. He received $42.30 in prize money for the victory.
Anderson’s date and place of death are unknown.