|(Nice map by NPS)|
|(the wandering 8th CT monument)|
|(16th CT monument facing Confederate line and cornfield)|
|Lawrence O'Bryan Branch|
It is believed Branch was removed from the battlefield by his slave, Wiley. His remains were then transported to Raleigh and on September 27 were laid in state in the rotunda of the capitol until the next morning when Branch was interred at the City Cemetery. It is also believed that not such a large gathering of people had been in Raleigh since 1844 when Henry Clay visited. (5)
This outpouring was due to his popularity as a North Carolinian and as a US Representative. Branch was born in Enfield, North Carolina in 1828. He attended several colleges, graduated from Princeton, and studied under Salmon Chase in Washington DC. In 1840 Branch moved to Florida where he practiced law and fought in the Seminole War. Twelve years later, he returned to North Carolina and continued on as a lawyer until 1854 when he was elected as a Representative to the US Congress from North Carolina’s 4th district and served three terms. Once North Carolina seceded, Branch offered his services and was appointed quartermaster and paymaster of the Tar Heel’s soldiers. He became colonel of the 33rd in May 1861 and was promoted to brigadier in November 1861. He was in command of New Berne environs until the city fell to Burnside in March 1862. Branch was then assigned a brigade in AP Hill’s Light Division until his death at Antietam. Of Branch, Hill wrote “the Confederacy has to mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman, who fell in battle at the head of his brigade”, and Lee further stated “the brave and lamented Brig. Gen. L.O’.B Branch was killed, gallantly leading his brigade”, while one of his beloved soldiers of the 33rd said his brigade “idolized him. He died as a soldier would wish to die, facing the enemy, in the discharge of his duty”. (6)
Something I found very interesting as I read all the Official Reports and some diaries from the men who fought in this section of the battlefield was the continuous mention of corn. Today, we know this corn as the 40-Acre Cornfield but to the guys running around the field in 1862 it was known as a severe pain in the ass as it truly hampered operations. Some quotes about corn---
LCol Joseph Curtis- “from here the regiment was ordered...to form in line in a corn-field, and to move to support the 16th CT, which lay in a deep valley between two hills planted with corn...it [was] almost impossible to dress the line, which an advance in line of battle across two fields of full-grown corn had slightly deranged”.
And even worse situation for Curtis----the 4th RI was “subjected to sharp musketry fire from the front...the enemy showed the national flag (the corn concealing their uniforms)...the order to cease firing was given...to ascertain who was in our front”.
And again more corn issues---“the regiment commenced the movement (retreat) in an orderly manner, but, under the difficulty of keeping closed up in a corn-field...the regiment broke”. (7)
Col Edward Harland---“the right of the enemy’s lines, which was concealed in the edge of the corn-field, opened fire. Our men (16th CT) returned the fire and advanced, but were forced to fall back. Colonel Beach rallied them and returned them to the attack, but they were driven back, this time out of the corn-field...they were again rallied, but as it was impossible to see the enemy...they could not be held”. (8)
Col Daniel Hamilton---The 1st SC “was thrown forward, and, pressing on over fences and every obstacle, reached a high ridge in a corn-field to find a large force (for my regiment to contend with) moving down upon me and endeavoring to seek such concealment in the corn-field would enable them to surprise me, but my gallant regiment were too fully alive to the importance of the position which they held, and commenced a deadly fire upon the enemy in the corn-field”. (9)
Lt JFJ Caldwell---“the 14th [SC] regiment was posted behind a low stone fence...below us stretched a wide field of luxuriant corn...into the cornfield, the 1st, 12th, and 13th regiments were advanced in a line of battle...and soon engaged the Federal line moving through the corn”.
A short while later---“the firing during this period, which was about an hour, was as rapid as possible, and on our side unusually accurate. So dense was the corn that the lines sometimes approached within thirty or forty yards of each other before opening”. (10)
Capt Wolcott Pascal Marsh---The 8th CT “now returned fire & the men went to their work as coolly as if on drill. But we were trapped on our left flank was a large corn field & it was full of rebels on our right was a high hill where they were pouring in a gauling upon us & all this beside those in our front. Where was our support. Where was the the first brigade none of them to be seen on the right where they had gone. Where was the 16th & 4th who were on left & were to engage the rebels in the corn field. Alas! They had been repulsed. It was death to remain in this advanced position longer”. (11)
Corp George Allen---“on our [4th RI] advance into that bloody cornfield no one seemed to know the position of the rebel forces, whether in our front, flank, or rear. The 16th CT, as we were advancing to support them, broke, and came crowding in a confused mob upon our right, and confusion reigned preeminent for awhile. The enemy now poured in a steady fire of musketry, and breasting this storm of lead as best we could, we returned their fire, when suddenly the order was given, ‘cease firing, you are firing upon your own men’. We looked, and there above us on the hill were the Stars and Stripes, the top of which we could just see over the top of the corn. The firing upon our part ceased, and, as stated, it was but a ruse of the enemy to draw us into a trap”. (12)
Who knew corn was so dangerous???
1. Cape Fear Confederates: the 18th North Carolina regiment in the Civil War. James Gillispie, 2012. Pgs 108-109.
2. The Maps of Antietam. Bradley Gottfried, 2012. Pgs 224-229.
3. 37th North Carolina troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia. Michael Hardy, 2003. Pg 100.
4. Smoothbore Volley that Doomed the Confederacy. Robert Krick, 2002. Pgs 164-165.
5. 37th North Carolina troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia. Michael Hardy, 2003. Pg 100.
6. 37th North Carolina troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Northern Virginia. Michael Hardy, 2003. Pg 109.
10. History of a Brigade of South Carolinians, first known as “Gregg’s” and subsequently as “McGowan’s Brigade. JFJ Caldwell (Edited by Lee A Wallace Jr), 1992. Pgs 76-77.
11. Letters to a Civil War Bride: the Civil War Letters of Captain Wolcott Pascal Marsh. Compiled by Sandra Marsh Mercer & Jerry Mercer, 2006. Pgs 470-471 without corrections.
12. Forty-Six Months with the Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers. Corp. George H. Allen, 1887. Pg 146.