When my sister Leslie and I visited our hometown of Binghamton, NY in October 2017, we went up to Spring Forest Cemetery and visited the graves of my grandma Gertrude Williams, her siblings Edward Jr. and Adenia, and their mother, Lillian (nee Archer) Yates Holland, who had been widowed and remarried. It is very near where they all grew up.
What we had never seen before, maybe a couple dozen meters away, was a headstone for Lillian’s parents, James Archer (1834-1912) and his wife Harriet (1839-1928). It was NOT the separate headstones I’d seen at FindAGrave.com – – James’ shown here from c 2009 – but something more ornamental.
In January 2017, during that cold snap, my second cousin Lisa, whose grandfather was Gertrude’s brother Ernie – though she never met him, as he died in 1954 – was doing some genealogical research.
She discovered James Archer in the 1890 civil war veterans’ census, showing that he volunteered and served from 29 December 1863 to the day he was mustered out on 29 August 1865.
“The 26th U.S. Colored Troops served under the Department of the South (Union Army) in South Carolina and was very active on Johns and James Island, Honey Hill, Beaufort, and a number of other locations.” On this page, you see a picture of the 1000-plus man strong 26th USCT on parade and their regimental banner.
Totally separately, my sister Marcia was going through some old, and unfortunately unmarked, photos that our mother had gotten from her mother. And one of them was this:
Is James Archer one of these men? We have no idea, but we’d like to think so. Cousin Anne, Lisa’s sister, notes: “One clue from the census is he had hazel eyes. Can you tell from the original photo the color of their eyes?” Which guy on has the lightest eyes?
Lisa noted: “74% of all free blacks of military age (18-45) fought for their country, and from all reported casualties, about one-third lost their lives. I’m happy to say, my great-great-grandfather was one of the survivors; he died in 1912, and I’m proud to be able to tell this piece of his story.”
One other detail worth noting: Lillian Yates Holland, James and Harriet’s daughter, wasn’t born until 1866. Had James died in battle, there would have been no Lillian, which meant she and Edward Yates Sr. wouldn’t have had Gertrude and Ernie, which would have meant no Trudy (my mom) and Fran (Lisa’s mom)…
Well, you get the picture.