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Joseph Anderson (1790–1877)

by John V. Barry

This article was published:

Joseph Anderson, by Samuel Calvert

Joseph Anderson, by Samuel Calvert

State Library of Victoria, 49330164

Joseph Anderson (1790-1877), soldier, was born on 1 July 1790 at Keoldale, Sutherland, Scotland, the son of James Anderson of Rispond. He became an ensign at 15, and continued in the army for forty-three years, serving with the 78th, 24th and 50th Regiments. He took part in the battle of Maida in Italy, 1806, under Colonel Acland; in the expedition to Egypt, 1807; and in the Peninsular war, April 1809 to January 1812, at the battle of Talavera (where he was wounded), in the lines of Torres Vedras, and in the battles of Busaco and Fuentes de Onoro. In 1813 he was a captain and brigade major in the York Chasseurs in the West Indies and was present at the recapture of Guadeloupe in 1815. In 1821 he was appointed captain in the 50th Regiment, and promoted major in 1826.  

In 1834 the 50th Regiment was sent to Sydney, and the governor, Sir Richard Bourke, appointed Anderson to the command of Norfolk Island, where the convicts had staged an unsuccessful revolt. He was commandant of the island from March 1834 to February 1839. Among his first duties was the investigation of the revolt and on 22 and 23 September 1834 twenty-nine convicts were sentenced to death and thirteen of the twenty-nine were executed. In his Recollections of a Peninsula Veteran (London, 1913) he claimed that under his administration corporal punishments ranged from 50 to 300 lashes, averaging 70 to 75 cases a year, as against 1000 cases a year under his predecessor, Colonel James Morisset. The island was quiet under his administration, and Bourke attributed the tranquillity to Anderson's 'humane but firm and vigilant superintendence'. Rev. Thomas Atkins, Church of England chaplain on the island from November 1836 to January 1837, did not share Bourke's opinion; he considered Anderson unfitted for his post, and in communications to the governor and in his Reminiscences he charged Anderson with cruelties, fraud and gross abuses of his position for financial gain, observing that Anderson 'could embrace as a brother and hate as a fiend'. While at Norfolk Island, Anderson, with his brother General John Anderson, took up 85,000 acres (34,398 ha) of land on the Goulburn River, Victoria, calling the area Mangalore after John Anderson's military station in India. In 1843 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He served in the Maratha campaign in that year and was wounded while commanding a brigade in the battle of Punniar. He revisited Australia in 1846, and bought land in South Yarra adjacent to the Botanical Gardens on which he later erected a house, Fairlie. In 1841 the 50th Regiment had moved to India under his command, and he retired, selling his commission for £6000. Returning to Australia, he settled in Melbourne, and was a nominated member of the Legislative Council of Victoria from 1852 to 1856. He supported the Convicts Prevention Act, and advocated legislation to prevent the influx of Chinese. He stood unsuccessfully in 1856 for the Eastern Province of the new elected Legislative Council.

On 25 November 1826, at St Pancras Church, London, he married Mary, only daughter of Colonel Alexander Campbell. There were two sons and four daughters. One son, John, died in infancy, and the other, William Acland Douglas, served in the 50th Regiment, and was colonel-commandant of the military forces in Victoria until his death in January 1882. Of the daughters, Mary Walkman married Alfred Rush of Northamptonshire, England; Fairlie Gordon married Lloyd Jones of Avenel, Victoria; Elizabeth Ann married Paul de Castella of Yering, Victoria; and Juliet Vivion married Charles Hugh Lyon of Ballanee, Victoria.

Anderson was appointed K.H. in 1838, and C.B. in 1844. A firm disciplinarian, Anderson was a courageous soldier, but limited in outlook and with a well-developed acquisitive sense. He died at Melbourne on 18 July 1877. When probate was granted of his will and codicils in August 1877 his estate was valued at £37,085, consisting of real estate £13,802 and personal estate £23,283.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 18-20
  • T. Atkins, Reminiscences of Twelve Years' Residence in Tasmania and New South Wales (Malvern, Eng, 1869)
  • ‘Sketches in Council, Colonel Anderson, (a Nominee Member)’, Melbourne Monthly Magazine, vol 1, no 5, Sept 1855, pp 276-280
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 July 1877
  • J. A. Panton papers (State Library of Victoria).

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Age (Melbourne), 21 July 1877, p 5

Citation details

John V. Barry, 'Anderson, Joseph (1790–1877)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 28 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Joseph Anderson, by Samuel Calvert

Joseph Anderson, by Samuel Calvert

State Library of Victoria, 49330164

Life Summary [details]


1 July, 1790
Keoldale, Sutherland, Scotland


18 July, 1877 (aged 87)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
Key Places