James J. Archer: Biography
A brief biography of the legendary General James Archer. It includes information about his pre-war experience and about his character.
Confederate General James Jay Archer was born on December 19, 1817 in Bel Air, Maryland. Archer was the eighth of eleven children. He attended Princeton and the University of Maryland to become a lawyer. While attending Princeton University he was given the nickname "Sally Archer," because of his good looks. As time went on, Archer's good looks faded with his years of service in armed combat. In 1847, Archer was commissioned as a Captain in the United States army. He was soon off to Mexico to fight under the stars and stripes. He was promoted to Major and recognized by the Maryland legislature for bravery at Chapultepec. After the Mexican war, he served in the ninth infantry regiment in Washington and Oregon.
In 1861, he started off as a colonel in General Hood's brigade. At first other officers did not know what to think about him.
"The make up of Gen. Archer was enigmatical. His exterior was rough and unattractive, small of stature and angular of feature, his temper was irascible, and so cold was his manner that we thought him at first a Martinet. Very non-communicative, and the bearing and extreme reserve of the old army officer made him, for a time, one of the most hated of men. No sooner, however, had he led his brigade through the first Richmond campaign, than quite a revolution took place in sentiment..."
He was not a politician or aristocrat, but never lost the dignity or bearing of an officer. While in battle he seemed the very God of war, and every inch a soldier according to its strictest rules, but when the humblest private approached his quarters he was courteous. There was no deception in him and he spoke his mind freely, but always with the severest dignity. He won the hearts of his men by his wonderful judgment and conduct on the field, and they had the most implicit confidence in him. He was dubbed "The Little Game Cock"
-Captain F. S. Harris
On June 3rd of 1862 Archer became a brigadier general and commanded a brigade at Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Cedar Mountain, 2nd Bull Run, Ox Hill, Harper's Ferry, Antietam, Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. On the first day of the battle of Gettysburg he was captured and held for a year. In 1864, he returned to the Army of Northern Virginia in a prisoner exchange. Archer died in Richmond on October 24th, of 1864, only three months after being released. He was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.