Brigadier General James J. Archer was a brave and tough commander, with the appropriate nickname “The Little Gamecock”. Archer was a graduate of Princeton University, who had received a commission to the rank of Captain during the Mexican American War. He left the army for a short time, but returned in 1855. At the outbreak of war he threw his hat in the ring the Confederacy. Although he was a native of Baltimore, Maryland, he commanded a mixed brigade of Tennessee and Alabama forces in Major General Henry Heth’s Division, at Gettysburg. Archer’s men had performed well at Second Manssas, Antietam and Chancellorsville. Though a frail and sickly man (Archer was normally sick before every battle he entered), Archer never stayed in his sickbed when battle was eminent.
On the morning of July 1st, Archer’s brigade was the vanguard unit leading Lee’s army to battle at Gettysburg. The 13th Alabama and the 5th Alabama Battalion were initially deployed as the skirmish line that engaged Buford’s cavalry west of town near Wisler’s Ridge, with the rest of Archer’s brigade following in tow.
Archer’s men were having a slow time with the cavalry, who mounted and dismounted at will, forcing the foot soldiers to engage and disengage time and again. Near 10:30 AM, with his entire brigade now inline of battle, Archer pressed for Willoughby’s Run, a small stream at the base of McPherson Ridge. Some of his men utilized the steam bed for cover. Archer, with Brigadier General Joseph Davis’ mixed Mississippi and North Carolina brigade on his left looked to finish the job that they had started near 7:30 AM.
Archer’s men pushed from the banks of the creek only to be met by Union infantry. The Union 1st Corps had arrived on the field, and pouring through the fields from the Lutheran Theological Seminary were the men of the famed “Iron Brigade”. Troops from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan smashed forward through the Herbst woodlot, just south of the Edward McPherson Farm (McPherson was not living at the farm at the time of battle. The house was being rented to John Slentz and his family). The Iron Brigade engulfed the flanks of Archer, due to a gap between his and Davis’ Brigade. Archer, who was on foot, was captured near a stone quarry on the left end of his brigade line. Archer was taken into custody by Private Patrick Maloney of the 2nd Wisconsin. Maloney was apparently a madman when he captured the general, for when Archer was presented to Lieutenant Dennis Dailey, Archer asked Dailey to protect him from the private.
Dailey took the generals sword and both he and Maloney went onto fight that afternoon against Pettigrew’s North Carolina Brigade. Dailey was wounded in the battle and taken to the home of Mary McAllister, with whom he entrusted the sword. After the battle ended Dailey came to find out that Colonel Henry Morrow of the 24th Michigan had taken the sword from the McAllister home as a prize. Morrow later returned the sword to Dailey, who did not keep it, but gave it to his brigade commander Brigadier General Solomon Meredith as a gift. Upon Meredith’s death in 1881 the sword was returned to the lieutenant.
Patrick Maloney, who captured Archer did not fare as well as Dailey. That same afternoon of July 1st Maloney was killed in action. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg, one of only sixty-three men to be awarded the medal for actions at the battle.
After his captured Archer was taken to 1st Corps commander Major General Abner Doubleday. Doubleday smiled and said “I am glad to see you!” The angry little gamecock responded “Well, I am not glad to see you by a damned sight.” Archer was the first general officer to be captured, in battle, since Lee took over the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862.
To get to the quarry from the square, travel west on Chambersburg Street. At the Y bear left onto the Chambersburg Pike. Follow the pike to the guide station along the pike and turn left onto Stone Avenue. This road will turn into Meredith Avenue. Before you enter the Herbst Woods park your car. To your right you will see a fence, follow this fence (where it meets the woods) 75 yards down to Willoughby Run, just before the run you will see the large pit to your right. (As a side note, where you have parked your car is the general area in which Henry Heth was wounded in the head on the afternoon of July 1.)