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Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Confederate Military
Also known as: J. J. Archer
Nicknames: Little Game Cock, "Sally"
James Jay Archer was born on December 17, 1817 in Bel Air, Maryland and captured by Union forces on July 1, 1863 after his brigade was routed in the Early action at Herbst Woods (McPherson Woods). He died on October 24, 1864 as a result of poor treatment during his imprisonment as one of the Immortal 600.
James Archer returned home to Bel Air, Maryland, northeast of Baltimore, as a lawyer following his graduation from the University of Maryland. He entered the United States Army a captain and served with honor throughout the Mexican-American War. He reached the brevet rank of major for his brave performance at Chapultepec on September 13, 1847. Following the war, Archer decided to move to Texas, where he joined the regular army in 1855.
James Archer joined the Confederate Army on March 16, 1861 but did not resign his commission in the U. S. Army until May 14 (effective date April 14, 1861, the day after Fort Sumter). That October, he assumed command (as a "brigade colonel") of the 5th Texas Infantry under BG Louis T. Wigfall. For a brief time, Archer assumed command of the entire Texas Brigade in February, 1862, when Wigfall left to serve in the Confederate Congress. John Bell Hood assumed command of the Texas Brigade on March 14, 1862 and Archer returned to command of the 5th Texas.
Battle of Etham's Landing
During his time as commander of the 5th Texas his men were engaged in a single battle, as skirmishers for Hood's Brigade at the Battle of Etham's Landing. When Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1862, Lee formed a new division under A. P. Hill. Archer moved to command the First Brigade, known as Archer's Brigade. He remained in this position until his capture at Gettysburg.
Stonewall Jackson credited Archer's Brigade with advancing to support the Confederate line during an onslaught of federal cavalry, tuning the tide of the battle in favor of the Confederates. Almost everyone involved, however, claims that Archer arrived after the federal cavalry had withdrawn.
On July 5, 1863, James Archer entered Fort Delaware, on an island off Delaware City in Delaware Bay. He was escorted to the second floor officer's quarters inside the fort. General Archer quickly realized that the fort could easily be overthrown by the Confederate prisoners. The only problem would be gaining access to boats to leave the island.
Unfortunately, Brigadier General Albin Francis Schoepf, then in command of the prison got wind of Archer's plot to overthrow the guards and he ordered Archer into solitary confinement in the fort's powder magazine. He remained here until Archer became one of the "First 50" of the Immortal 600. Selected on July 24, Archer left Fort Delaware on July 26, 1864 and traveled to Charleston Harbor.
In Charleston Harbor the captive Rebels moved into tents and were poorly fed to purposely mirror the treatment of Union captives at Confederate prisoner-of-war camps. Since the camp was in a swampy march, mosquitoes were rampant and blankets were unknown. Men were forced to sleep in the sand, ensuring savage attacks by sand fleas. Cannon from both sides rained destruction overhead.
James Archer was exchanged in early August, making him one of the few of the 600 to escape the treatment of the federals. On August 19, 1864 Archer returned to active duty.
Brigadier General James Archer died of pneumonia in Richmond, Virginia on October 24, 1864. He is interred at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond.
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James Archer was last changed on - September 12, 2009
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