north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Born on November 8, 1810 in Warrenton, Thomas Bragg was one of six sons of Thomas Bragg, a carpenter, and his wife Margaret. Thomas Bragg read law with John Hall of Warrenton and set up practice in Northampton County in 1833. Appointed county attorney, he soon became interested in politics. As a Democrat in a Whig stronghold, however, his early political career was less successful than his law practice.
Following one term in the North Carolina House in 1842-1843, Bragg gradually raised his political profile through his work at the national Democratic conventions of 1844, 1848, and 1852. As a result, he rose to a leadership position in the state party apparatus. Pitted against Whig Alfred Dockery in the 1854 gubernatorial election, he squeaked out a victory by just over 1,400 votes out of more than 94,700 cast. Two years later, with the Whig party in rapid decline, Bragg easily defeated John A. Gilmer in the first state election to see more than 100,000 votes cast.
Bragg’s two-term administration reflected a blending of Whig and Democratic programs. Bragg supported the stalled amendment to eliminate the freehold requirement to vote for state senators; it finally passed and became law following a vote by popular referendum. He supported internal improvements, particularly the North Carolina Railroad, and he pushed for an improved banking system to help stabilize the economy. In common with other governors of the era, however, Bragg’s tenure was overshadowed by the sectional crisis that dominated national politics. Bragg was a strong supporter of states’ rights in defense of slavery, but at the same time did not favor secession as he believed it could not succeed and would lead to eventual disaster. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1859 and served until March 1861, when he withdrew and returned home to Raleigh but did not formally resign, even after North Carolina had seceded. By summer he had become an open supporter of the Confederacy, which coupled with his continuing absence led to his expulsion from the Senate.
Bragg was soon asked by Confederate president Jefferson Davis to replace Judah P. Benjamin as attorney general of the Confederacy. Bragg began his duties in November 1861. He soon became discouraged with the political bickering in Richmond and resigned on March 18, 1862. He spent the last years of the war in Raleigh.
The war virtually bankrupted Thomas Bragg. He soon reestablished his law practice and his involvement in state Democratic politics. An opponent of Reconstruction, Bragg was critical of the efforts Governor William W. Holden to suppress the violent activities of the Ku Klux Klan, and became a member

Thomas Bragg married Isabell Cathbert in 1837. The couple had seven children. Among his brothers was Confederate general Braxton Bragg. Thomas Bragg died at his Raleigh home on January 21, 1872, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the Nineteenth Century, II (1892)
Lizzie Wilson Montgomery, Sketches of Old Warrenton, North Carolina (1924)
W. J. Peele, comp., Lives of Distinguished North Carolinians (1898)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 209—sketch by C. E. Pitts
Thomas Bragg Papers, North Carolina State Archives
Thomas Bragg Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Gov. Thomas Bragg

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources