The approach of the war found Anderson's family divided over the issue of slavery. His father was an ardent supporter of states' rights and a defender of the institution of slavery. Anderson was not as impassioned, and he attempted to remain neutral on the emotional issues. Privately he objected to slavery. The pressures of his father and his state forced him to take a stand when the war came, and on 15 February 1861 he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army. He was commissioned colonel of the First South Carolina Regular Regiment, which he commanded until 27 May 1861, when he relieved General P. G. T. Beauregard as commander of South Carolina forces and defenses.
D. Scott Hartwig, "Anderson, Richard Heron," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/05/05-00027.html.