The Texas Color Bearer at Devil’s Den

Sgt. George Branard, circa 1904, was permanently blinded in his left eye from a wound he received at Devil’s Den during the battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863

ECW’s friend, Joe Owen, passed along this great primary source recently. Joe is the editor of a number of works about Texans in the Civil War focused on sharing primary documents. This one comes from Color Sergeant George Branard of the 1st Texas Infantry.

“Branard was the Color Bearer flying the Lone Star Flag of Texas, with battle honors, in many battles that Hood’s Texas Brigade fought in,” Joe explains. “Sgt. Branard was admired and noted on for his brave conduct in battle. He is most known for his brave actions during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, when he led the 1st Texas Infantry on the assault of Devil’s Den and flew the flag on top of a large boulder at the Federal troops stationed along Little Round Top.”

Branard never talked about his actions at Gettysburg—with one exception. He told his story to the Galveston (TX) Daily News on May 2, 1899. Here is his account:

Galveston Daily News May 2, 1899
The Story of Gettysburg

Houston, Tex., May. 1 – At the last annual meeting of Hoods’ Texas Brigade, there were earnest requests from officers and members to Secretary George A. Branard for a statement of facts concerning his part as color bearer leading the advance of the First Texas regiment in the farthest point reached in the battle of Gettysburg. After the meeting he was asked for a statement for publication in the interest of correct history of that terrible battle, the one that marked the greatest distance made by southern troops into the enemy’s country. In response he kindly prepared the following brief statements of facts:

“What I have to say about that incident where myself, the flag I carried and the rock, as I supposed, would be my protection on Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pa., the old saying is ‘self praise is no praise.’ As long as I can remember orders came for our brigade to move off the road, Emmetsburg pike, through fields and woods up the rocky side of the mountain. It was between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon of July 2, 1863. To gain the mountain top we had a very hard run through shot, shell, canister and minie balls. As we marched up Little Round Top I saw in the distance a line of large rocks. I at once thought that would be a good place to get behind and out of the range of the enemy’s fire. As luck so happened my regiment moved to the left and then straight to the front, which put me into direct line with a large rock. As the enemy was giving it to us fast and hot, I thought the best thing I could do was to run ahead and get behind my rock. Turning around and saying to my color guard, ‘Come on boys, let’s make a run for yonder rock; the regiment will follow us and get out of this rain of canister and shell.’ We made our distance without any loss. After reaching the rock I thought I was all right. But no such luck was to be for me. I hardly had time to blow out and get wind on the account of the long run when I noticed I had company to share my rock with me. It made me somewhat mad to think that others should try to crowd me out when there were other rocks to be had, and, to make matters worse, the other party consisted of four color bearers, without their flag of a Georgia regiment of Benning’s brigade. I told them that instead of having shelter they would soon find out it would be the other way and that we would get one of the hardest shelling’s ever known as these five stands of colors were an attraction, and I would get on top, as it would be safe there as anywhere else and just as good as any other place. Before I go through talking my words came true, and I did not have time to change my position when a shell hit the top of my rock and falling on my back. My flag was shot from the staff, it being broken in three places. The flag went one way, a piece of staff another, and myself and the remainder of the staff in my hand the other. We were pretty well scattered.

“How long I was on my back I do not know. When I came I heard someone in my company say: ‘See, there, Branard is not dead; see, he is trying to get up.’ Willing hands then ran to me and helped me to my feet. Well, to explain my feelings, my heart felt like a barrel, and I did not know one way from another. When asked if I was hurt, all I would say was, ‘I don’t know.’ Someone told me to go to the rear, and I had hardly gone ten feet before one of my company caught me and turned me around, as I was going straight into Yankee lines. I was told afterward that all I would say was, ‘I don’t know.’

“After getting some distance in the rear I met a staff officer. He stopped me and wanted to know what command I belonged. I told him I wanted to know where the hospital was, as I wanted to find out where I was hurt, ‘as I feel as though half of my head was off.’ He then guided me out of the field to the pike road, turning me to the right, and said, ‘Keep on down the road until you come to some tents, and that is the Texas hospital.’

“How and when I got there I do not know. Someone, I think it was Tom Sloan, the hospital steward said,’ Branard, drink this; it will do you good, as you are in a very bad fix, and it will help to cure your pains and give you rest, and in the morning you will feel much better.’ What he gave me in that cup I do not know. It made me go to sleep in about fifteen minutes, and I did not wake up until the middle of the next day. After waking up, my head felt like it was as big as a camp kettle and so sore I could not touch it. After two days at the hospital my head commenced to feel like itself again. It was on the march back to Virginia.

“After taking my place in line and receiving my flag from one of the men who had picked it up when I fell, I commenced to ask questions to how I came to be out in the open space and lying on my back with only a piece of the flagstaff in my hand. I was told that ‘I got mad with the Georgia color bearer for getting the rock we was behind and I was just in the act of getting on top of the rock when a shell hit me and burst throwing you back on the ground, and, as we supposed you were killed, but it turned out you were only stunned.’ Changing my position was what saved my life, as the shell came from the direction I had moved from. I was told that after I fell the rock became a very hot place, as the flags had drawn the Yankees fire, and it was coming from both sides, kind of a cross fire, I think. The fire from our left came from the two guns Barry and Will George captured along with the Dutchman that was wedged between the rocks. He was like the ostrich; he had hid his head and let his feet stick out, and his feet gave him away.

“It was hot times, and we did not have time for second thought, and, besides, when well filled haversacks were in sight Hood’s brigade was known to get their allowance of them. Nothing will make a man fight harder than the prospects of getting two haversacks, and as a rule the Yanks always carried them. But in this fight I did not yet get an extra ration, as my quota came to soon after getting my rock.

“Geo. A. Branard,
Color Bearer, First Texas Regiment.”

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Joe Owen is the author, most recently, of A Fine Introduction to Battle: Hood’s Texas Brigade at the Battle of Eltham’s Landing, May 7, 1862 (Fox Run, 2021)

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3 Responses to The Texas Color Bearer at Devil’s Den

  1. There it is, the story with no fuss and no bother.
    Tom Crane

  2. Pingback: Week In Review: October 10-17, 2021 | Emerging Civil War

  3. darylmcdonald0208 says:

    What a brave and humble man. “Self praise is no praise,” indeed.

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