The Civil War was a terrible time for America. Any war is bad enough to be involved in but this one was different. This was the United States no longer being united as a split emerged making it states in the North battling against those in the South. However; putting it under a microscope, it painfully became clear that it was friend against friend, brother against brother and father against son. Despite this, there were those who were on opposite sides but when a face-to-face encounter occurs, signs of humanity can be seen. One such example involves a Confederate General named James Archer, who was born on December 19th, 1817 in Harford County, Maryland.
Princeton University was where Archer received his education and was involved in the Mexican War from 1846-1848 as he served with the Maryland volunteers. Archer was recognized for bravery during the Mexico City campaign at the Battle of Chapultepec. He earned what was known as a brevet promotion to the rank of major; this is an honorary promotion that normally is given for heroism on the battlefield. Once the war had ended, Archer went into law until in 1855 in which he enlisted in the U.S. Army. When the Civil War started, he was serving in the Pacific Northwest but was now in the Confederate army and joined the Texas Brigade under the command of General John Bell Hood.
Throughout the war, he battled with the Army of Northern Virginia. In recognition for his effort at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia in June of 1862, Archer was given a promotion to the rank of brigadier general; his brigade would one month later play a significant part during the Seven Days Battles in Virginia. Unfortunately, he was unable to command the army’s invasion into Maryland during the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862; Archer became ill and was forced to relinquish his command.
Archer, who was part of Henry Heth’s division in A.P. Hill’s corps, marched north into Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863. He was now in the middle of battle’s first action on July 1st. He commanded an attack at the heart of the Union line on Seminary Ridge and his success put him and his troop to be separated from the other Confederates. This led to his capture which made him the original Confederate general representing the Army of Northern Virginia to be taken prisoner June of 1862; this was when Robert E Lee took command. Ironically, General Abner Doubleday, an old friend of Archer, was the commander of the Union troop that captured him. Abner rode up to the rear after noticing Archer and said he was pleased to see his friend as he offered to shake his hand. Reportedly, Archer’s reply was, “Well, I’m not glad to see you by a damned sight!”
Before Archer was freed during an exchange in August of 1864, he was for over a year imprisoned in Delaware and Ohio. Now released, he was ordered back to his original brigade which became a part of Hood’s Army of Tennessee now in Atlanta. His orders were changed when his health had been compromised due to his life in prison; his new assignment would be around Petersburg, Virginia in the trenches. Sadly, his condition continued to decline until at age 46, passed away there on October 24th, 1864.