Private Augustus Azariah “Gus” Archer was born March 14, 1829 at Green Turtle Key, Bahamas. His family moved to Key West in 1839. In 1860, he and John Thomas Lowe owned and captained their own vessels, and left Key West and settled near Anona, Florida.
He was mustered into Confederate service on May 15th, 1862 as a Private in Captain Smith’s Company (Key West Avengers), 7th Regiment Florida Infantry by Major R. B. Thomas at Tampa, Florida for a period of 3 years or the war. He is reported present; due $50 bounty and clothing money.
He is reported present on all rolls until about September 1st, 1862 when he was documented as absent due to capture and parole at Boston, Kentucky on or about September 1st, 1862.
He was documented as absent without leave from September 1st, 1862 until October 31st, 1863, when he was dropped from the rolls.
He was labelled a deserter in one source; however, his available military service records and corroboration by Robert Watson’s diary indicate that he was actually a prisoner of war, taken while on parole near Tampa, Florida on December 2nd, 1862 and transported to the Union authorities at Key West.
<ref> According to Robert Watson’s diary, “Gus” Archer Arrived at Tampa on Monday, November 24th, 1862 having walked all the way from Knoxville, Tennessee. Watson spent 3 days with Archer at Archer’s home near Clearwater, and then attended to some business for his friend Peter Crusoe before returning to Archer’s home on November 30th. They departed Clearwater Harbor on December 1st for Tampa; at daylight on the morning of December 2nd, they discovered that their ship had strayed extremely close to the Union blocking vessels. Two of the blockader’s boats took up pursuit; the crew poled the boat as fast as was possible but were losing distance to their pursuers. Watson recorded that the boat was run aground several times; each time they went over the side to push the boat over the bars. The boat finally beached at Point Pinellas; Watson went overboard on last time and waded ashore, but reported that “Gus” remained in the boat under belief that his parole would save him and the boat. The Union sailors were of different conclusion; “Gus” was transported back to the blockade vessel and taken to Key West. There is no further record of his status as “deserter” or (much more likely, “prisoner of war”).</ref>
After the war, Archer sailed a schooner in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, carrying for cargo mostly lumber from Cedar Keys to Tampa and other Gulf coast towns. Sometimes he went as far as Tortugas, where the Yankees had a prison camp. On one of these cruises he slipped past the islands west of Tampa and dropped anchor in a lagoon near a little peninsula (Bay Pines, Florida). On the mainland grew tall long leaf pines. Wild turkey flew up from the underbrush, and deer eyed the vessel from the water’s edge. “Right here,” declared Archer, “is where I’m going to live."
Back in Key West he told great tales of the rich soil in the new country, where a man could live unhindered by the social conventions that were becoming so irksome in the older towns. He gathered his family together, loaded his schooner with provisions, and headed back north.<ref> St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Florida, Sunday, September 16th, 1934, page 8, Section Two</ref> “Gus” Archer died on December 18th, 1904 near Seminole, Florida.