Henry "Paddy" O'Rorke
1837 – July 2, 1863)
"Honor, Valor, Heroism"
Patrick O'Rorke was born in County Cavan, Ireland, and he was one years old when his parents emigrated to the United
States. They settled in Rochester, New
York, where he attended the public schools and, in 1853, he worked as a marble cutter. He attended
the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating first in his class in June 1861. He was
subsequently commissioned a lieutenant in the regular army, and initially distinguished himself during the Civil War
as a staff officer in the engineer corps. Through personal merit, achievement and ability, he was appointed commanding colonel
of the 140th New York Infantry, and while serving his Country with honor, valor and heroism, O'Rorke died at the Battle of
Gettysburg on July 2, 1863; he was 26 years young.
"Ideal of a soldier and gentleman"
By the age of 26, Irish-born Patrick O’Rorke had successfully overcome many obstacles in his life. Born in 1837
into a family including six brothers and sisters, O'Rorke came to America as an infant. The family settled in Rochester, New
York where the elder O'Rorke worked for the railroad until he was killed in an accident. O'Rorke's family was nearly destitute,
yet Patrick excelled in his studies and in 1857 received an appointment to attend the United States Military Academy at West
Point. Being Irish and Catholic in that era added to O'Rorke's obstacles, as both were looked down upon by most Americans.
Nevertheless, he excelled and graduated first in the class of 1861. Commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant, O'Rorke
participated in the First Battle of Bull Run
, Virginia, in July 1861. A bullet passed through his coat and a horse was killed beneath him, but O’Rorke otherwise
escaped unharmed. In July 1862, Lieutenant O’Rorke received a furlough (the army’s term for a vacation) and returned
home to Rochester, where he married his childhood sweetheart, Clara Wadsworth Bishop. Soon after his marriage, O’Rorke
offered his services to the state of New York, was promoted to colonel, and placed in command of the newly-raised 140th New
York Infantry Regiment. Although Colonel O’Rorke believed in strict discipline, one of his soldiers wrote that every
man in the regiment "knew that in his Colonel, as long as he did his duty, he had a kind friend." Another soldier in the 140th
described O’Rorke as the "ideal of a soldier and gentleman."
On the afternoon of July 2, O'Rorke was leading his regiment out the Wheatfield Road when an excited officer rode up to
him. It was General Gouverneur K. Warren, Meade's chief engineer, who had just come from the small hill that O'Rorke's regiment
had marched passed. Warren quickly explained that re-enforcements were needed on the hill, Little Round Top. Though his regiment was at the back of the column and his orders were to follow his brigade toward the Peach Orchard, Colonel O'Rorke realized that Warren was sincere and the situation critical. He sent a courier forward to find his brigade
commander, General Weed, and then turned his regiment around. The young colonel's New Yorkers trotted up the north slope of
Little Round Top, reaching the summit just as the Texans were turning the flank of the 16th Michigan. Drawing his sword, O'Rorke
led his column on foot down the slope. "Here they are men!", he shouted. "Commence firing!"
|Battle of Gettysburg Map
|Official Gettysburg Battlefield Map
(Right) Patrick O'Rorke Monument on Gettysburg Battlefield.
These were O'Rorke's last words. In an instant, a bullet cut through the colonel's
neck and he fell without a sound as his regiment continued their charge down the slope. The 140th New York managed to stop
the Confederate attack, but the cost was high. Besides O'Rorke, twenty five other men in the 140th were killed, 89 were wounded,
and 18 were missing in action, probably captured. Lieutenant Porter Farley, the acting adjutant of the regiment, had loved
his colonel like a brother and as the battle subsided, he gazed down upon his lifeless body. "Up to that time in my life I
had never felt a grief so sharply, nor realized the significance of death so well as then," he recalled later; "for him to
die was to me like losing a brother, and that brother almost the perfection of the manly graces."
O'Rorke had died within seconds of receiving his fatal wound. His body was
carried back to a Union field hospital several hours later where it was laid on the porch of a house beside those of two other
officers who fought at Little Round Top including General Stephen Weed, his brigade commander.
Clara O'Rorke, Patrick's childhood sweetheart and wife of just day's less
than one year, waited in tense anticipation after hearing of the fighting at Gettysburg. On July 6, the New York Herald
reported the death of Colonel O'Rorke at Gettysburg, though it was not until the next day that Mrs. O'Rorke received confirmation
of the sad news. A military escort transported O'Rorke's body to Rochester on July 14. After a service at St. Bridget's Church
in Rochester, he was buried in a Catholic cemetery on Pinnacle Hill. Clara never remarried. She entered a convent and lived
and worked in Providence, Rhode Island until her own death in 1893.
On September 17, 1889, the state of New York erected a monument to the 140th
New York Infantry on Little Round Top. On its western face it featured the bust of the regiment's beloved colonel, Patrick
O'Rorke. Many of O'Rorke's old comrades gathered once more on the slopes of that hill to dedicate their monument and remember
their colonel and other fallen comrades. Despite the passage of 26 years, the memory of July 2, 1863, remained vivid for them
all. Among the group of veterans was Porter Farley. Although time had tempered his grief, Farley was visibly moved as he spoke
to the gathering of his old commander: "we shall always cherish his memory with a loving
regard and admiration, which only a noble nature could inspire."
With valor, honor and heroism, Colonel Patrick O'Rorke had sacrificed his
life for his nation during America's bloodiest battle in history - at the place known as Gettysburg.
|Panorama of the Round Tops in 1909
|(Left) Little Round Top and (Right) Big Round Top, photographed from Plum Run Valley in 1909.
Sources: National Park Service: Gettysburg National Military Park; Catholic
Encyclopedia of 1913; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
Recommended Reading: Twilight at Little Round Top: July 2, 1863, The Tide Turns at Gettysburg (Hardcover). Description: "Few military episodes of the Civil
War have attracted as much attention as the struggle for Little Round Top on the second day of Gettysburg. This judicious and engaging book navigates confidently through a welter of contradictory
testimony to present a splendid account of the action. It also places events on Little Round Top, which often are exaggerated,
within the broader sweep of the battle. All readers interested in the battle of Gettysburg
will read this book with enjoyment and profit." —Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War. "Here is the
real story of the epic fight for Little Round Top, shorn of the mythology long obscuring this pivotal Gettysburg moment. A vivid and eloquent book." —Stephen W. Sears, author of Gettysburg. Continued below…
"In his beautifully
written narrative, Glenn LaFantasie tells the story of the battle for Little Round Top from the perspective of the soldiers
who fought and died in July 1863. Using well-chosen quotes from a wide variety of battle participants, TWILIGHT puts the reader
in the midst of the fight—firing from behind boulders with members of the 4th Alabama, running up the hillside into battle with the men of the 140th New York, and watching in horror as far too many men die. This book offers an elegy to the
courage of those men, a meditation on the meaning of war, and a cautionary tale about the sacrifices nations ask of their
soldiers and the causes for which those sacrifices are needed." --Amy Kinsel, Winner of the 1993 Allan Nevins Prize for From
These Honored Dead: Gettysburg in American Culture
Top has become iconic in Civil War literature and American memory. In the emotional recollection of our great war, if there
was one speck on the landscape that decided a battle and the future of a nation, then surely this was it. The story of the
July 2, 1863 struggle for that hill outside Gettysburg goes
deeper into our consciousness than that, however. The men who fought for it then and there believed it to be decisive, and
that is why they died for it. Glenn W. LaFantasie's TWILIGHT AT LITTLE ROUND TOP addresses that epic struggle, how those warriors
felt then and later, and their physical and emotional attachment to a piece of ground that linked them forever with their
nation's fate. This is military and social history at its finest." --William C. Davis, author of Lincoln's Men and An Honorable Defeat.
Reading: Courage on Little Round Top: A Historical Novel. Description: If you have read Michael
Shaara's "The Killer Angels" and Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" you have an excellent basis to read and enjoy
Thomas Eishen's novel that combines some of the aspects of both. This book features Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a prominent
character in Shaara's novel, and Lt. Robert Wicker, who is only alluded to by Shaara. Eishen's novel unfolds around the impending
confrontation between these two men on July 2, 1863, on Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. Continued below...
Wicker, whose unit is the 15th Alabama,
had fled the scene during a previous battle, and, like Private Henry Fleming in "The Red Badge of Courage," worries that he
in fact may be a coward. Since many of the soldiers in his company are friends and relatives from back home in Alabama, his fear is that a repeat performance in battle will make
him a laughingstock and he will become an embarrassment to his family and community. Chamberlain, on the other hand, has to
deal with his two well-intentioned but meddlesome brothers who are members of his staff. Eishen does a fine job of relating the evolution of these events through dialogue fashioned
for these characters. The run-up to the actual confrontation between Chamberlain and Wicker is an interesting perspective
on the daily lives of the common soldier in camp and while on the march. First time novelist Thomas Eishen has done a commendable
job of describing these fast-paced events, and readers will find that the situation only alluded to in "The Killer Angels"
takes on new meaning, and the characters involved come alive.
Recommended Reading: The Irish Volunteer: Songs
Of The Irish Union Soldier 1861-1865. Review: This is an unusual endeavor. Kincaid has collected lyrics written
by or about Irish soldiers in the Union army of the American Civil War, and either recreated the music from notes or written
new music in the tradition of the times. The words of the songs express love lost and missed, pride in the military prowess
of the Irish soldiers, and the despair of war. Kincaid has made a simple musical accompaniment for these songs, using familiar
Irish instruments such as uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), bodhran (Irish goatskin drum), mandolin, and whistle. Continued
He sets the songs to ballads and jigs--some traditional, others original tunes that hint at tradition, but
all timely and appropriate for the lyrics. He also pens one original tune of his own about a fictional Irish American captain
who dies in battle--stirring, but not as direct as the old songs. This is an ambitious project, well-conceived and capable
of making a lesser-known part of American history more immediate.
Recommended Reading: Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage. Description: America's Civil War raged for more than four years, but it is the three days of fighting in the
Pennsylvania countryside in July 1863 that continues to
fascinate, appall, and inspire new generations with its unparalleled saga of sacrifice and courage. From Chancellorsville,
where General Robert E. Lee launched his high-risk campaign into the North, to the Confederates' last daring and ultimately-doomed
act, forever known as Pickett's Charge, the battle of Gettysburg gave the Union army a victory that turned back the boldest
and perhaps greatest chance for a Southern nation. Continued below...
historian Noah Andre Trudeau brings the most up-to-date research available to a brilliant, sweeping, and comprehensive history
of the battle of Gettysburg that sheds fresh light on virtually every aspect of it. Deftly balancing his own
narrative style with revealing firsthand accounts, Trudeau brings this engrossing human tale to life as never before.
Recommended Reading: Gettysburg
Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground (Hardcover). Description: The Civil War generation saw its world in ways startlingly different from our own. In these essays,
Glenn W. LaFantasie examines the lives and experiences of several key personalities who gained fame during and after the war.
The battle of Gettysburg is the thread that ties these Civil
War lives together. Gettysburg was a personal turning point,
though each person was affected differently. Continued
in its approach, the book captures the human drama of the war and shows how this group of individuals--including Abraham Lincoln,
James Longstreet, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, William C. Oates, and others--endured or succumbed to the war and, willingly
or unwillingly, influenced its outcome. Concurrently, it shows how the war shaped the lives of these individuals, putting
them through ordeals they never dreamed they would face or survive.
Recommended Reading: ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July
4-14, 1863 (Hardcover) (June 2008). Description: The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg
left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy.
Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects
of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One
Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit
of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee's retreat and the Union
effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties,
Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union
commander George G. Meade's equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility
for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled
his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during
the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation. The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and
major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass,
Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown,
Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. Continued
Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and
crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the
Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study.
One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary
and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in
Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with
incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights
on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat. The retreat from Gettysburg
was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as "One Continuous Fight." Until now, few students
fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving
tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American
Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in
particular. About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory
Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final
Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.
J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry
sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys." A long time student of the Gettysburg
Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He
has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.
Recommended Reading: General Lee's
Army: From Victory to Collapse (Hardcover). Review: You cannot say that
University of North Carolina
professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives
of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source
material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost.
Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's
war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Continued below...
included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in
all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially
outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face
of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.