Historical Marker #828 in Paducah notes the location of Fort Anderson, a Union earthen fortification named for native Kentuckian Robert Anderson, the "Hero of Fort Sumter."
When Confederate forces invaded western Kentucky in early September 1861, the Unionist state legislature promptly declared its allegiance to the United States. With the state now in Union hands, Federal forces quickly occupied Paducah. The town's strategic location at the Tennessee River's confluence with the Ohio River made it of prime location for a base of operation and a potential avenue of invasion into the heartland of the Confederacy.
In order to protect Paducah, an earthen fortification was constructed by General Charles F. Smith's command in the fall of 1861. Fort Anderson was originally meant to be a quartermaster supply base, but the 400 foot by 160 foot fort was eventually armed with 32-pounder artillery pieces, which faced the Ohio River. An imposing fifty foot, water-filled ditch surrounded the fort. The interior of the fort held the Marine Hospital building, which burned in 1863.
For much of the war, Fort Anderson served as a garrison and communications center. But, on March 24, 1864, Confederate cavalry under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest attempted to capture Paducah. Fort Anderson was under the command of Colonel Stephen G. Hicks.
Forrest first demanded Fort Anderson's surrender, but Hicks, having the support of gunboats on the Ohio River, refused to surrender. After two unsuccessful assaults, the Confederates occupied homes in Paducah and fired on the fort. The Southerners burned the town's railroad depot, a steamboat, and some military supplies and then withdrew toward Mayfield. The greatest property damage, however, probably occurred on March 25, when Hicks ordered the burning of a number of Paducah homes that were used by the Confederates for cover during the engagement.
One unit that was garrisoning Fort Anderson at the time of Forrest;s attack was the 8th United States Colored Heavy Artillery. This unit consisted largely of formerly enslaved men from McCracken and surrounding counties and was one of the first black regiments enlisted in Kentucky.