Ray Anderson, chairman and founder of
Interface, Inc., and a native of West Point, loves to tell the story of
Alexander "Major" Anderson, a distant relative of his, who received a
battlefield commission on that East Sunday in 1865, when the Yankees overran
Fort Tyler several days after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. It was a
story his "Aunt Pauline" told him which is part of what makes it special.
Young Alexander was at home with his
folks a short distance to the north of town when news that the Yankees were
coming reached him. He was just eight years old, but he had already
developed a mature hatred for the Yankees as a result of having lost two
brothers who were killed earlier in a Mississippi campaign.
When Alexander heard the troops were coming, he saddled up and rode to the fort
to volunteer his services to the General. The confederate commander
admitted he needed plenty of help, but he said, in effect, "our needs are
not so great as to send an eight-year-old boy into battle."
Alexander was so disappointed, he collapsed on a stump outside the fort and
broke into tears.
When the General noticed how severe young Alexander's disappointment was, he
decided on another strategy. He told the boy he was going to enlist his
help after all. He told him to go to a particular hill on the north side
of town (remember, the Yankees were coming from the south), and watch for the
first signs of an approaching army. When he sighted the Yankees, he was to
hurry back to the fort and report to the General.
"And just to be sure you have sufficient authority to get through any
lines, I'm going to make you a Major in the confederate army," the General
The Yankees came and went, but no harm came to Alexander thanks to General Tyler
assigning the lad to the relative safety of an outpost far to the north of the
Dozens of brave men died that Easter Sunday morning in 1865, in what was surely
one of the last battles of the Civil War, but the only thing young Alexander
lost was his name. From that day forward, eight year old Alexander was
known as "Major" Anderson. Only the closest of kinfolk ever knew
that the Major had another name - Alexander. Major Anderson may well have
been the youngest commissioned officer on either side of the war.