Friday, December 19, 2008

The First General Prisoner

James Jay Archer the first general captured from the Army of Northern Virginia was born on December 19th 1817.

James Jay Archer was the son of John and Ann [Stump] Archer and was born December 19th 1917 in Bel Air, MD. In 1835 he graduated from Princeton, and than studied law at the University of Maryland. When the Mexican-American War began he volunteered for service in the United States Army. He was cited for bravery brevetted to the rank of Major. After the war he return to his law practice, but decided in 1855 to re-join the army as a Captain in the 9th United States Infantry.

At the beginning of the Civil War Archer was stationed at Fort Walla Walla, Washington. He resigned his commission on May 14th 1861 and joined the Confederate Army. Although he was a native of Maryland, he became the Colonel of the 5th Texas Infantry. Archer was promoted on June 3rd 1862 to Brigadier General and given command of regiments from Tennessee. These units would be joined by others to form the “Light Division” under General AP Hill.

At Gettysburg Archer’s health was deteriorating. His brigade was now part of Major General Henry Heth’s division. On the first day of fighting, after attacking Union Major General John F Reynolds first Corps, and than being pushed back across Willoughby Run, the sick and exhausted Archer took cover in a thicket, where Union Private Patrick Maloney of the 2nd Wisconsin took Archer prisoner. This made him the first General to be captured from the Army of Northern Virginia since Robert E Lee took over command. He was sent to Fort Delaware along with his younger brother and aide-de-camp Robert Harris Archer. James Archer was eventually sent to Johnson’s Island in Ohio on the coast of Lake Erie, where he was held for about a year. He was exchanged in the late summer of 1864, reporting on August 9th to the Army of Tennessee. It was during the Siege of Petersburg that his health caused a collapse after the Battle of Peebles’ Farm. He died October 24th 1864 in Richmond, VA and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

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