An American Hero

While the nation discusses matters of monumental importance, in Missouri, Archer Alexander is really a ‘local’ and also a hero. He was born in Rockbridge County Virginia near Lexington. In 1829, he moved to St. Charles County, albeit unwillingly as he was enslaved. His owner at that time, James Alexander was joining many of his relatives that had helped create the young state in 1821, like the Bates. As in Lincoln’s Attorney General Edward Bates. By 1844, Archer would find himself the property of Richard Pitman, who lived on the Boone’s Lick Road near where it crosses Dardenne Creek. Missouri was a slave state, but the demographics would change by the time of the Civil War, and its many German emigrants would help to keep it for the Union Army.

Krekel’s Home Guards were Union Troops stationed to guard the Peruque Creek Bridge

One cold February night in 1863, Archer would hear his owner and several other area men, discussing their plot. They had been sawing the wooden timbers of the nearby railroad bridge, where it crossed the Peruque Creek, and it would only be a matter of time now. Perhaps it would be “the next train” that would collapse the bridge and the vital link for the Union Army between St. Louis and the west. Knowing what a risk he was taking, Archer Alexander, took off at a run five miles to the north where Lt. Col. Krekel’s Home Guards were posted in the blockhouse. His warning would save hundreds of lives, while making him the target for a lynch mob. Fleeing for his life, leaving his wife and family behind, he made his way to St. Louis, and the home of William Greenleaf Eliot.

Eliot was a Unitarian minister and had founded Washington University, but even more importantly, he was a member of the Western Sanitary Commission. Charged by Lincoln, to assist troops west of the Appalachian mountains setting up hospitals and providing necessary supplies. It was not government run but relied totally on donations, which came from as far as the great city of Boston. When the war ended, tensions in America was high, and the best friend of the colored people, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

A formerly enslaved woman in Ohio, named Charlotte Scott, took the first money she ever made as a free person, and gave it to her former owner. She dreamed of a great monument to Lincoln. That money was deposited with the Western Sanitary Commission, which had worked with the fugitive slaves, contraband camps, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the U.S. Colored Troops. Thousands of formerly enslaved people would give their hard earned money to see Charlotte Scott’s dream become a reality in 1876.

Through Eliot and the Western Sanitary Commission, the formerly enslaved would see Archer Alexander as a man who by his own deeds, like thousands of others of the formerly enslaved, had broken his own chains.  Archer can still be seen today, rising from his knees, his shackles broken, looking up towards Lincoln. Archer Alexander is no longer just a local, as he rises next to Lincoln on the Emancipation Memorial today, in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.. Please sign the Petition to save the monument

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