Colonel Patrick O’Rorke
By Elizabeth Marsh
Colonel Patrick O’Rorke was never the likely candidate to become a colonel during the American Civil War. Born in 1837 in County Cavan, Ireland, O’Rorke’s family immigrated to Rochester, New York when he was one years old. The family immigrated in a time when tension was high between Nativists and immigrants. The Nativists were Americans that could often trace their lineage back to the Loyalists in the American Revolution; they were not fans of immigrants, especially the Irish.
If facing abuse from the Nativists was not enough, Patrick’s father died in a railroad accident shortly after they moved to Rochester. The family struggled, but managed to survive it all. After graduating high school, Patrick O’Rorke went on to learn the trade of marble-cutting. In 1857, O’Rorke left his work as a marble-cutter to accept a position at West Point Military Academy, despite Nativist upset. Patrick O’Rorke went on to graduate first in his class at West Point, and joined the war effort. After narrowly escaping death at the Battle of Bull Run (a bullet passed through his jacket, and his horse was killed), O’Rorke returned home to marry Clara Wadsworth Bishop. After his furlough, he served as an engineer in 1862.
Further confirming that he was an apt leader, “O’Rorke was the first West Point graduate of the class of ’62 to receive the command of a regiment. His first and only command was the 140th New York.” The 140th New York was a regiment of mostly Irish and German immigrants. The regiment’s first battles were at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in May of 1863. Not long after, O’Rorke and his regiment made their way to Gettysburg.
At the Battle of Little Round Top, O’Rorke led his men up the northern slope of the hill. O’Rorke was remembered for his courage during the battle, though he was mortally wounded while charging. After his death on July 26th, he was posthumously appointed as a brevet colonel.
Originally buried with his regiment in Gettysburg, his widow had his body moved soon after to Rochester. He is currently buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. There is a monument and bridge dedicated to the colonel.
Daene, Roger. Military History Online. “Colonel Patrick O’Rorke: Unsung hero of Little Round Top.” Last modified 21 December 2011. http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/civilwar/articles/colpatrickororke.aspx.
Fenian Graves: Ours to Honor & Remember. “Patrick Henry O’Rorke (1836-1863).” Last modified 29 December 2009. http://feniangraves.net/O’Rourke,%20Patrick/O’Rourke,%20Patrick.htm.
 Roger Daene, Colonel Patrick O’Rorke: Unsung hero of Little Round Top,” Military History Online, last modified 21 December 2011, http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/civilwar/articles/colpatrickororke.aspx.