Collyer wearing his Medal of Honor
|Born||May 14, 1842
|Died||December 7, 1904
Brooklyn, New York
|Allegiance||United States of America
|Years of service||1862 - 1865|
|Unit||139th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
|Awards||Medal of Honor|
Sam Collyer (May 14, 1842 Boulogne, France - December 7, 1904, Brooklyn, New York) was a lightweight bare-knuckle boxer. He was the son of James Jamieson and Jane Taylor of Angus, Scotland. He weighed between 115 and 125 pounds, and stood 5 feet 5 ½ inches.
Collyer was born in France as Walter Jamieson. He came to the United States as a boy. He joined the Army from Brooklyn in September 1862.  He received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Siege of Petersburg. He left the army with the rank of captain in June 1865.
The earliest contests of Sam Collyer differ from source to source. Some list different dates, locations and people for these bouts. It is certain however, that Collyer did battle, and defeat a man named Mike Carr in early 1866 . The first significant contest of Collyer’s career was his bout with Horatio “Race” Bolster. The two met in Alexandria, VA on May 8, 1866. During the contest, Bolster broke his hand, and was given a tremendous beating. The fight ended after 49 rounds and 55 minutes. Collyer ended the contest when he knocked his opponent off his feet, and Bolster’s seconds threw in the towel.
Later that year, Collyer battled former champion Barney Aaron for the vacant Lightweight Championship of America. The Title had been vacated since the retirement of Owney Geoghegan back in 1863. The Aaron/Collyer contest was held on June 20, 1866 at Pohick Landing, VA. 47 rounds and 2 hours and 14 minutes were contested before Collyer was declared the winner. Below is an account of the last few rounds of the Collyer/Aaron fight as written in the New York Herald on June 21, 1866:
Rounds 41 to 44—These rounds were merely repetitions of each other, Barney constantly going down on his knees, apparently for the purpose of receiving a foul blow and thereby winning the stakes. At the close of
Round 47—He was entirely blind, and his seconds seeing that there was no possible chance of success and unwilling to subject a game man to further punishment threw up the sponge in token of defeat.
On September 7, 1866 Collyer defended his title against Johnny Lafferty in a contest that lasted 39 rounds and 62 minutes (some sources report 60 minutes). His second defense came against Johnny McGlade at Goldsboro, PA on January 15, 1867. McGlade had suffered a severe fever while training, and was completely dominated during the contest. The two battle for 47 rounds and 55 minutes in the sleet covered ring before McGlade’s corner threw in the towel.
Collyer lost his title in a rematch with Barney Aaron on June 13, 1867. The two contested in a hard fought battle for 67 rounds and 1 hour and 55 minutes at Aqua Creek, WV. Immediately after winning the title, Barney Aaron retired from the ring, leaving the crown open for Collyer to reclaim.
The first man to challenge his right to the title was Billy Kelly. Kelly was a gifted pugilist, and word of the battle quickly spread. The Collyer/Kelly contest was held on November 27, 1867 in Strickland, PA. Collyer pressed the fight from start to finish, and his opponent was forced into the defensive mode for nearly the entire bout. A total of 111 short rounds and 1 hour and fifty minutes were fought before the champion knocked his opponent down for the final time.
Below is an account of the last three rounds (and conclusion) of the contest. They were documented in the New York Herald the day after the contest:
Round 109—Collyer, determined to close fight before dark, rushed in [? ?] Kelly and struck him a right-hander over the left [?], then gave him the left on the nose, and again the right on the mouth, when Kelly went down.
Round 110—Collyer led off with his left, which brought upon Kelly’s nose, and then, putting in two heavy right-handers clinched, Kelly and threw him, falling heavily on him.
Round 111 and Last—Collyer rushed at Kelly and hitting a heavy right-hander in the mouth knocked him down.
The sponge was thrown up in token of defeat and Sam Collyer hailed the victor. Kelly, the game fellow, was much mortified at the result and shed tears. Collyer went over to him and putting his arms around him, also burst into tears. He then went around among the crowd and collected money for the man he had beaten in a fair fight for the championship of the lightweights of America.
On August 24, 1868 Collyer lost his championship to Billy Edwards in 47 rounds. Collyer attempted to regain the title in a return match with Edwards on March 7, 1870. This time the former champion was forced to give in after 40 rounds. Following this contest, Collyer’s status as a prize-fighter began to diminish. He lost a third contest with Edwards in 1874, and a bout with Jack McAuliffe in 1888. His last recorded contest was in 1892.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: 1st Sergeant, Company B, 139th New York Infantry. Place and date: At Petersburg, Va., 30 July 1864; At Fort Harrison, Va., 29 September 1864. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth: France. Date of issue: 5 April 1898.
Voluntarily went between the lines under a heavy fire at Petersburg, Va., to the assistance of a wounded and helpless officer, whom he carried within the Union lines. At Fort Harrison, Va., seized the regimental color, the color bearer and guard having been shot down, and, rushing forward, planted it upon the fort in full view of the entire brigade.
After retirement Collyer began working as a machinist in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and remained there until his death on December 7, 1904. During his life he raised the teenage sons of his late brother, Henry Jamieson, and performed with the boys in Barnum and Bailey show.
Sam Collyer was elected into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1964.
- Regimental roster
- The Ring Magazine, January 1964
- American Fistiana, 1866
- New York Herald, May 9, 1866
- New York Herald, June 12, 1866
- New York Herald, June 21, 1866
- American Fistiana, 1867
- Grand Rapids Herald, December 13, 1904
- New York Herald, November 28, 1867
- The Ring, January 1964