On this date in history in 1817, the future Confederate General James Archer was born in Maryland. Archer came from a wealthy and influential family and he attended Princeton University. He had joined the Maryland Militia while still a young man and he later served in the Mexican War. Archer distinguished himself on the battlefield on several occasions and he was given an honorary promotion (a brevet promotion) as a reward for his heroism. Archer had studied law at Princeton and after his service in Mexico, he practiced law in his native Maryland. He was not suited to this career and he joined the US army. He was stationed in the Pacific North West. When the southern states ceded form the Union in 1860, Archer joined the Texas Brigade of the Confederate Army and served under General John Hood.
Archer was later to join the Army of Northern Virginia. He was once again to prove himself a brave soldier but he was also an inspiring leader who was a good tactician. Archer was to distinguish himself in the Battle of the Seven Days and the Battle of Seven Pines in 1862. During the Confederate invasion of Maryland, Archer was given a key role but he fell sick and was forced to hand over his command. Archer was not present at the Battle of Antietam. By the middle of 1863 Archer was deemed to be fit enough for active service and he returned to active duty. Archer was part of Lee’s army that moved north to Gettysburg in 1863. He was to be at the heart of perhaps the greatest battle of the Civil War. Archer led an attack on the center of the Union line and he managed to break through the Yankee defenses. However, Archer and his men found themselves cut off as the Confederates were unable to move reinforcements in time. He was captured with many of his men and he was the first Confederate general since Lee took over command. An old friend of Archer was commanding the unit that eventually captured him. The Confederate general was held in prison for over a year in Ohio and also Delaware. During his imprisonment, his health began to deteriorate and he became increasingly frail. Archer was exchanged for a Union general who had been captured by the Confederates. He was sent to Hood’s Army at Atlanta but was later transferred to Petersburg. Virginia. Here Grant was trying to surround the army of Lee in the area. Archer was sent to command a unit in the trenches around Petersburg. The conditions were terrible and this exacerbated Archer’s health problems. The General was taken ill and he died at the age of 46, not long before the end of the war.