LITHOGRAPH OF GENERAL LAWRENCE O’BRYAN BRANCH – KILLED AT ANTIETAM

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Item Code: 1138-61

Lithograph shows Branch in a dark double-breasted coat with two stars and a shield on his collar.

Clarity and contrast are good. Mount and paper have light surface dirt.

Reverse has a photographer’s imprint for E. & H. T. ANTHONY… NEW YORK. Top of reverse has a mistaken ID in old pencil of “GEN. SIMMONS” with the correct ID in modern pencil. Bottom also has collector information in pencil.

Image is from the collection of the late William A. Turner.

Lawrence O'Brian Branch was born in Halifax County, N. C., November 28, 1820.  Five years later his mother died, and his father, who had removed to Tennessee, died in 1827.

He was then brought back to North Carolina by his guardian, Gov. John Branch, and was taken to Washington when the governor was appointed secretary of the navy in 1829.  At the national capital the boy studied under various teachers, one of them being Salmon P. Chase, afterward secretary of the treasury.

He was graduated with first honors at Princeton in 1838, after which he resided eight years in Florida, practicing law and in the early part of 1841 participating in the Seminole war.  In 1844 he married the daughter of Gen. W. A. Blount, of Washington, N. C., and soon afterward made his home at Raleigh.

In 1852 he was an elector on the Pierce ticket; in the same year became president of the Raleigh & Gaston railroad, and in 1855 was elected to Congress, where he served until the war began.

Upon the resignation of Howell Cobb he was tendered, but declined, the position of secretary of the treasury. Returning from Congress March 4, 1861, he advocated immediate secession, and in April enlisted as a private in the Raleigh rifles.

On May 20th he accepted the office of State quartermaster-general, but resigned it for service in the field, and in September following was elected colonel of the Thirty-third regiment North Carolina troops.  On January 17, 1862, he was promoted to brigadier-general in the provisional army of the Confederate States, his command including the Seventh, Eighteenth, Twenty-eighth, Thirty-third and Thirty-seventh regiments.

At New Bern, March 14, 1862, he was in his first battle, commanding the forces which disputed the advance of Burnside.  Retiring to Kinston, he was ordered to Virginia and his brigade was attached to A. P. Hill's famous light division.

It was the first in the fight at Slash church (Hanover Court House), also the first to cross the Chickahominy and attack the Federals, beginning the Seven Days' battles, in which the brigade fought at Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, Frayser's Farm, and Malvern Hill, winning imperishable fame, at a cost of five colonels and 1,250 men killed and wounded, out of a total strength of 3,000.  General Branch bore himself throughout this bloody campaign with undaunted courage and the coolness of a veteran commander.

Soon followed the battles of Cedar Run, Second Manassas, Fairfax Court House and Harper's Ferry.  Hurrying from the latter victory on the morning of September 17th, he reached the field of Sharpsburg with his brigade about 2:30 in the afternoon, just in time to meet an advance of the enemy which had broken the line of Jones' division and captured a battery.

"With a yell of defiance," A. P. Hill reported, "Archer charged them, retook McIntosh's guns, and drove them back pell-mell.  Branch and Gregg, with their old veterans, sternly held their ground, and pouring in destructive volleys, the tide of the enemy surged back, and breaking in confusion, passed out of sight.  The three brigades of my division actively engaged did not number over 2,000 men, and these, with the help of my splendid batteries, drove back Burnside's corps of 15,000 men."

Soon after, as Hill and the three brigadiers were consulting, some sharpshooter sent a bullet into the group, which crashed through the brain of General Branch, and he fell, dying, into the arms of his staff officer, Major Engelhard.

In noticing this sad event, General Hill wrote: "The Confederacy has to mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman.  He was my senior brigadier, and one to whom I could have entrusted the command of the division, with all confidence. "

General Branch is buried in City Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina. [ad] [ph:L]

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