Bruce was born on the 19th of June, 1845 in Mexico City and at the beginning of the Civil War, was a farmer in New York. He enlisted in the 142nd New York Infantry in Schenectady, New York on the 31st of August, 1864. He was with Company K during the second attack on Fort Fisher when he and twelve other men volunteered to go ahead of the main attack and it was his actions that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Bruce Anderson, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 15 January 1865, while serving with Company K, 142d New York Infantry, in action at Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Private Anderson voluntarily advanced with the head of the column and cut down the palisading.
General Adelbert Ames actually put all thirteen men in for the Medal of Honor but the paperwork got misplaced and five of the men, including Bruce, did not receive the Medal. In 1914, Bruce knew that another member of the team that didn't initially receive the Medal had petitioned for the award and was successful so he hired a lawyer to begin his petition. An investigation was launched and General Ames' letter of recommendation was found. This led to Bruce and two others being awarded the Medal of Honor on the 28th of December, 1914. The last member of the team, Dewitt Hotchkiss, was overlooked a second time and was never awarded the Medal of Honor.
Bruce lived in Illinois for some time but settled in Amsterdam, New York. Bruce Anderson died on the 22nd of August, 1922 at the age of 77 in Albany, New York, and is buried in the Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam.