La Branche, Alcée Louis (1806–1861)

By: Priscilla Myers Benham

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 7, 2020

Alcée Louis La Branche, United States chargé d'affaires to the Republic of Texas, son of Alexandre La Branche, was born on his father's plantation on the Mississippi River near New Orleans in 1806. The family, earlier named Zweig (the German equivalent of French branche), had come from Bamberg, Bavaria, to Louisiana in 1721. Alexandre La Branche fought as a regimental commander in the Revolutionary War and the battle of New Orleans. He married Marie Jeanne Piseros, daughter of a prominent Louisiana trader, on November 10, 1778, and Alcée was the fourth of their five children. The Piseros family was French, but of Spanish ancestry.

Alcée developed an interest in politics early, since his father was a delegate to the first constitutional convention of the state of Louisiana in 1812. After he attended the University of Sorreze in France, he became a sugar planter in St. Charles Parish. He served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1831 to 1833, and that body elected him speaker of the House on January 7, 1833. Finding him a man of exceptional ability, President Andrew Jackson appointed him on March 3, 1837, to be the first diplomat from the United States to the Republic of Texas. Texas received him enthusiastically, eager to hear about the question of the annexation of Texas to the United States. The capital city, Houston, named a street in La Branche's honor.

As United States chargé d'affaires, La Branche negotiated the settlement of the cases concerning the brigs Pocket and Durango and a temporary commerce agreement. He aggressively defended the United States claim to disputed territory in Red River County (the present Bowie, Red River, Franklin, Titus, Morris, and Cass counties), although Texas maintained a land office there and Red River County had sent representatives to the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Eventually, on April 25, 1838, the two countries signed the Convention of Limits, which recognized Texas claims to the contested county and the Sabine River as the eastern boundary of Texas. However, tension continued between the Republic of Texas and the United States regarding Indian depredations along the northern border. La Branche protested Texas army crossings of the border in pursuit of Indians. He believed that the majority of Indian attacks were caused by Texans' trespassing and surveying Indian lands. To determine which Indians belonged to which country and to install a United States military post at Shreveport would have solved the problem, he thought. La Branche's reports on real or rumored Mexican attacks expressed optimism about the Texans' ability to retain their independence. On April 2, 1840, La Branche resigned his post to attend to personal affairs. His clear, calm reports enabled his government to be sensitive to the Texas position on various issues.

In the 1842 election for United States representative from the Second District of Louisiana, La Branche ran on the Democratic ticket. John Hueston, the Whig editor of the Baton Rouge Gazette, wrote a slanderous attack on him. After publicly quarreling, they fought a duel, using double-barreled shotguns, and Hueston died of his wounds. La Branche took his seat in the Twenty-eighth Congress on December 4, 1843, but served only one term. On February 28, 1845, he voted for the joint resolution annexing Texas to the United States. Mexico immediately protested the annexation, particularly the claim of the Rio Grande as the southern border. On April 26, 1846, Gen. Zachary Taylor called for 5000 volunteers from Louisiana and Texas to defend the new state. La Branche recruited men and helped to organize a mass meeting held in New Orleans on May 5, 1846.

Very little is known of La Branche's life after he became a naval officer in New Orleans in 1847. He continued to operate his sugar plantation, and Aimée Sarpy, daughter of Jean Pierre and Félicité Portier Sarpy, became his bride. They had three children. La Branche died in Hot Springs, Virginia, on August 17, 1861. He was buried in Red Church Cemetery of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, and reinterred in Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans.

Joseph William Schmitz, Texan Statecraft, 1836–1845 (San Antonio: Naylor, 1941).

Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Priscilla Myers Benham, “La Branche, Alcée Louis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 7, 2020