Lawrence O'Bryan Branch

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Lawrence O'Bryan Branch
Lawrence branch.gif
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1855 – March 3, 1861
Preceded bySion Hart Rogers
Succeeded byJohn T. Deweese (1868)
Personal details
BornNovember 28, 1820 (1820-11-28)
Enfield, North Carolina
DiedSeptember 17, 1862 (1862-09-18) (age 41)
Sharpsburg, Maryland
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nancy Haywood Blount
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Princeton University
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–62
RankBrigadier General
Battles/warsSeminole Wars
American Civil War
Memorial cannon placed at site of Branch's death (pictured)

Lawrence O'Bryan Branch (November 28, 1820 – September 17, 1862) was a North Carolina representative in the U.S. Congress and a Confederate brigadier general in the American Civil War, killed at the Battle of Antietam.

Early life and career[edit]

Branch was born in Enfield, Halifax County, North Carolina to Major Joseph Branch and Susan Simpson O'Bryan Branch. His childhood home, The Cellar, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.[1][2] His family moved to Williamson County, Tennessee but his mother died when he was five and his father died in 1827. His uncle, Secretary of the Navy John Branch (then serving as Governor of North Carolina) assumed his guardianship and took him back to North Carolina. Branch moved to Washington City with his uncle when the latter took the position as Secretary of the Navy and he was tutored by Salmon P. Chase. He pursued a preparatory course under a private teacher in Washington, D.C., before going on to train at North Carolina's Bingham Military Academy. He also attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a short time and, in 1838, graduated first in his class from Princeton College before going to study law in Nashville, Tennessee, where he also owned and edited a newspaper.

In 1840, Branch moved to Tallahassee, Florida and was admitted to the bar to practice law by a special act of the legislature. Just one year later, he went to fight in the Seminole Wars. In 1844, he married Nancy Haywood Blount and they had four children. In 1852, he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he continued to practice law and became president of the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad Co. He also served as an elector on the Franklin Pierce ticket in 1852. Branch was elected as a Democrat to the 34th, 35th, and 36th Congresses (March 4, 1855 - March 3, 1861) but was not a candidate for renomination in 1860. On December 29, 1859, he challenged Galusha Grow to a duel after the two exchanged insults on the House Floor. Both men and their seconds were arrested by District of Columbia police before the duel could take place.[3] On December 2, 1860, he was appointed, (but declined), the position of Secretary of the Treasury by President James Buchanan.

Civil War[edit]

Branch entered the Confederate Army, in May 1861, as a private in the Raleigh Rifles. Later that month he accepted the office of state quartermaster general, but resigned it for service in the field. In September he was elected colonel of the 33rd North Carolina. He was appointed brigadier general in January 1862. After the Battle of New Bern, his brigade was attached to A.P. Hill's Division of Stonewall Jackson's Corps. He was the senior brigadier general in Hill's division. Branch's brigade fought at the Battle of Hanover Courthouse, the Seven Days Battles, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Chantilly, and Harper's Ferry


On September 17, 1862, he led his troops on a rapid march from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg, Maryland where the Battle of Antietam was raging. Branch arrived on the field around 2:30 PM, in time to help stop the Union advance, thus saving General Robert E. Lee's right flank from a crushing defeat. Soon after this victory, Branch stood talking with fellow brigadier generals Maxcy Gregg, Dorsey Pender, James J. Archer, along with Hill and General Lee when a Federal sharpshooter, seeing the group, fired a shot that hit him in the right cheek and exited behind his left ear, killing him instantly. He fell dead into the arms of a staff officer.

Dates of Rank[edit]

  • Private, May 1, 1861
  • Colonel, September 1, 1861
  • Brigadier General, January 16, 1862


A memorial cannon now stands at the location where Branch was killed. Five other memorial cannons are placed throughout the Antietam Battlefield marking the locations other commanders lost their lives. Branch is buried at the Old City Cemetery, Raleigh, North Carolina.[4]

Author Armistead Maupin is Branch's great-great-grandson.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ Catherine Bishir; Jerry L. Cross; Walter D. Best (June 1979). "The Cellar" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  3. ^ "The Near Duel Between Representatives Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania and Lawrence Branch of North Carolina | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  4. ^ Branch, Lawrence O'Bryan. "Branch, Lawrence O'Bryan". NCPedia. NCPedia. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  5. ^ Maupin, Armistead (2017). Logical Family: A Memoir. London, U.K.: Penguin. p. 17. ISBN 9780857523518. That's Grandpa Branch. He was a Confederate general who died at Antietam.


External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sion H. Rogers
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
John T. Deweese