A Civil War Biography

Lawrence O'Bryan Branch

Branch was born 28 November 1828 in Enfield, North Carolina. He studied in Washington D.C. under the tutelage of Salmon P. Chase then at the Bingham Military Academy in North Carolina. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Branch moved on to the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton) from which he graduated in 1838. He studied the law in Nashville, Tennessee and owned and edited a newspaper there.

In 1840 he moved to Tallahassee, Florida where he was admitted to the bar by a special act of the state legislature and established a law practice. He fought in the Seminole War in 1841. In 1852 he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where he continued the practice of law. He was also president of the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad Company. In 1854 he was elected to represent North Carolina's 4th district in the US House of Representatives. He served three terms from 4 March 1855 until 3 March 1861. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1860. He was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by James Buchanan on 2 December 1860, but declined.

When North Carolina seceded Branch offered his services to his state and was appointed quartermaster and paymaster of the state troops. He resigned from that position when the 33rd North Carolina Infantry regiment was formed in May 1861 and became the regiment's colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general on 16 November 1861 and given command of all the troops around New Berne, North Carolina. After New Berne fell to Union troops commanded by Ambrose E. Burnside on 14 March 1862, Branch was ordered to Virginia where he was assigned to command the 4th brigade in Ambrose P. Hill's light division. Branch commanded this brigade during the Seven Days, at Cedar Mountain, and at Second Manassas. His brigade arrived at Sharpsburg, Maryland on 17 September 1862 after taking part in the capture of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His brigade joined two others in stemming a Union assault immediately after they arrived at what would be the bloodiest single day of the war. One of the casualties was Branch. He was shot in the face by a Yankee sharpshooter and fell instantly dead.

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