Civil War Wiki

Monument to O'Rorke at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Patrick Henry "Paddy" O'Rorke or O'Rourke[1] (March 25, 1837 – July 2, 1863) was an Irish-American immigrant who became a colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War and was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Early life[]

O'Rorke was born in County Cavan, Ireland. He was a year old when his parents emigrated to the United States. His parent died in transit. O'Rorke was sent to an orphanage in Rochester, New York, where he attended the public schools, and in 1853 went to work as a marble cutter. Shortly after he was appointed a cadet in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating first in his class in June 1861.

Civil War[]

Commissioned a lieutenant in the regular army, O'Rorke first distinguished himself in the Civil War as a staff officer in the Corps of Engineers. He provided vital engineering support to the Union bombardment and siege of Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur Island near Savannah, Georgia, causing its surrender on April 11, 1862. He was appointed colonel of the 140th New York Infantry, which he led in the Battle of Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville, he commanded the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, V Corps.

At Gettysburg, O'Rorke was back in command of his regiment; Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed commanded the 3rd Brigade. Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren was desperately searching for units to defend Little Round Top, and he encountered O'Rorke's New Yorkers, the rearmost regiment in Weed's brigade, on their way to reinforce the III Corps. O'Rorke initially declined Warren's request for assistance because he was under orders to follow his brigade. Warren told him, "Never mind that, Paddy. Bring them up on the double-quick and don't stop for aligning. I'll take the responsibility."[2] O'Rorke rushed his men to the crest of the hill and plunged down its western face without pause, driving the attacking Confederates back down the slope. During the counterattack, O'Rorke caught up his regimental colors and, mounting a rock to urge on his men, was struck and fell dead. The Comte de Paris in his Histoire de la guerre civile en Amérique (VI, iv, 379) says this was one of the most striking and dramatic episodes of the battle. O'Rorke's widow became a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart and one of the most successful educators in their New York convents.

In memoriam[]

A funeral for Colonel O'Rorke was held on July 15 in Rochester drawing hundred of attendees, both Catholic and Protestant and across a range of ethnic groups. The event is credited with bringing unity to the community.[3]

After the war, Rochester area veterans founded O'Rorke Post 1 of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans society, the second post formed for the society.[4]

In 2004, a bascule bridge in Rochester, New York, was dedicated to the memory of Colonel O'Rorke.[5]

See also[]


  1. Although most Civil War sources spell his surname O'Rorke, O'Rourke is a common alternative spelling in Ireland.
  2. Clark, p. 84.
  3. Fisher, Donald M. (1991). "The Civil War Draft in Rochester Part Two". Rochester History LIII (2): 4. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  4. Fisher, Donald M. (1991). "The Civil War Draft in Rochester Part Two". Rochester History LIII (2): 22. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  5. YouTube. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 


  • Clark, Champ, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide, Time-Life Books, 1985, ISBN 0-8094-4758-4.
  • Template:Catholic

External links[]