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On the surface, O'Rorke's life reads like a typical rags-to-riches, poor-boy-makes-good story. The assumption is made that because he was an immigrant, he was born into a typically coarse and crude Irish family. He and his fellow foreign-born newcomers were targets of the nativist American-born majority, so goes the script, but in a twist from the ordinary, he managed to rise above the stereotype due to pure intellect. The latter part of that scenario is the only part that rings true.
O'Rorke was obviously a very gifted man and he definitely earned his rewards while making his own way in the world. But there were several other factors that played key roles in his success.
Family. O'Rorke's family was clearly not the stereotypical Irish household. It is readily apparent that his parents saw the move from Ireland as a way to improve their lot. This was not unusual, but the O'Rorkes made the crossing to North America without family or friends already waiting on the continent. It was a weighty decision for Patrick Senior, a laborer with a wife and five children.
Like their son, the O'Rorkes did not fit the symbolic traits of a "Paddy." Not much is known about the father, other than that he was remembered as studious and temperate, in an age when most Irish were seen as uneducated drunks. An unskilled worker, he saw that his sons took up careers in skilled professions. The mother was illiterate, but after the death of her husband, saw that her two younger children completed school, with one ultimately becoming a teacher. The love, respect, and strong bonds of the family are illustrated by the fact that the older sons remained in the household into their mid- and late 20s. Their financial support no doubt helped Patrick to attain as much educational training as possible.
Perhaps the only decision on which Patrick's mother can be second-guessed involves her opposition to his attending the Baptist-run University of Rochester. Yet history does not record how adamant she was in her disagreement. If she was in truth only mildly opposed, this incident could serve as another example of O'Rorke's love and respect for his mother - any doubts from her would cause him to sacrifice his own good. And obviously, in retrospect, the rejection of the University of Rochester scholarship later opened the door for his West Point career.
O'Rorke's family supported him, gave him a strong sense of values that respected hard work, and were centered around faith in God and a belief in education. The members of his family certainly shared in and helped to cause his success.
Environment. Rochester, where O'Rorke lived during his childhood, also played a critical function in his development. In a different city, with residents most likely less tolerant of foreigners, O'Rorke would not have fared quite so well. His talents carried him when he received an opportunity; in a larger, less-friendly area it is doubtful he would have even received those chances. Rochester's political environment had a fling with the anti-immigrant Nativist movement, but it was short-lived. The sheer numbers of foreign-born citizens made them a strong political and social force. In the case of the Irish, their early presence in the area, pre-dating Rochester's incorporation, helped them assimilate into the fabric of the city.
The citizens of the upstate New York city also made the conscious choice to better their schools. In those days being trained in a public institution almost carried a stigma, for private institutions were seen as the best environments for learning. Yet the inhabitants of Rochester wanted a free, quality education available for their children and took the necessary steps, bringing their city to a leadership position in the state. O'Rorke did not have the opportunity for a private education, but the training he received in Rochester's public schools was of decent caliber.
Supporters. At critical junctures in his life, O'Rorke enjoyed the support of men who, in some cases, probably didn't even know him personally. The most important backing he received was in his nomination to West Point. Two politically well-connected men, Congressman John Williams and the soon-to-be Mayor Samuel G. Andrews, were involved in the process and both selected O'Rorke. The choice was somewhat odd - neither official seemingly had a personal relationship with O'Rorke and the young Irishman certainly had no political favors due him. And despite his intellectual prowess, the selection of O'Rorke may have carried some risk, as he was years removed from the classroom. Obviously O'Rorke was a most worthy choice, but how often in potentially partisan selections do the most deserving actually receive their due?
In terms of proponents in other segments of his career, there were no doubt key relationships with classmates and professors at West Point, but any indication of the nature, and with whom, have been lost across time. There is also the anonymous officer that may have tipped the scales with the suggestion that O'Rorke be included in the Port Royal Expeditionary Corps, thus rescuing O'Rorke from the doldrums of duty at Fort Monroe.
The next influential person (and his endorsement was indirect) to back O'Rorke was Louis Ernst. Regardless of whether or not O'Rorke was approached as to his interest in command of the 140th, the German-born Ernst was the first official choice. He was wise and unselfish enough not only to realize that the regiment would be best served by having a professional soldier at its head; but also to understand that if he turned down the post, it would most likely be tendered to another untrained civic personage. Thus Ernst's deal: he would agree to be the second-in-command if and only if a trained officer currently in the service be chosen to be the regiment's colonel. It can only be wondered if Ernst realized that, if a man with hometown connections was a necessity, O'Rorke was really the only person who could fit all of those conditions.
The most notable personality whose support helped advance O'Rorke's cause was Gouverneur Kemble Warren. Yet the depth of his influence and backing are the most unclear. Some have gone so far as to suggest protege status, pointing to the many common connections - Warren had been on the faculty at West Point during O'Rorke's schooling there and both had backgrounds in the Engineer Corps. Yet the level of intimacy, at least in terms of their personal relationship, is probably overstated. As noted before, it is likely that O'Rorke didn't take a class from Warren at the Academy. The two could not have had interaction during the war's first year, as the period after First Bull Run found them widely separated. And when the 140th did join Warren's Brigade, the regiment - and O'Rorke - were under his command for only about two months.
Warren may have had a admiration for the military skills of O'Rorke, but it is clear that in their non-professional relationship, not much was shared between the two. In Warren's exchange of letters with Porter Farley in the 1870s, his lack of knowledge in terms of O'Rorke's personal life is evident. "I think his classmates always called him Paddy," he wrote in one letter; in another he expressed his uncertainty as to the source of the pocket watch O'Rorke wore. The most convincing evidence is in his Dec. 2, 1877 missive to Farley, in which he writes: "What has ever been done about his memory? Where is he buried? What kind of stone marks the spot? Where are his family? How many children did he leave? What circumstances are they in?" Certainly an intimate of O'Rorke would at least know his state of parenthood.
If Warren was indeed O'Rorke's ally, he was not especially effective in advancing O'Rorke's career in terms of rank. The 140th's colonel replaced Warren on a temporary basis as brigade commander, but never received the coveted brigadier-general's commission that would have given him the position on a permanent basis. Warren had ascended to a position on the staff of Army of the Potomac commander Joseph Hooker, whose political connections and willingness to use them are legendary. It would seem that if Warren wanted O'Rorke to have that star and the fixed command that would accompany it, a word with Hooker may have accomplished it.
Yet it may not have been due to a lack of effort on Warren's part. There is a shadowy sense that there were those in the Fifth Corps that did not support the advancement of O'Rorke. There is no actual evidence, but some signs suggest that O'Rorke had his detractors. The system of promotions and assignments that overlooked O'Rorke and the lack of official recognition and commendation for his actions at Gettysburg hint at some superiors that did not hold him in the same light as did Warren and others.
For the most part, people and circumstances aided O'Rorke in his career, but make no doubt, the accomplishments were genuine and based primarily on an impressive combination of ability and character.
Talent. First and foremost, O'Rorke was highly intelligent. During his tenure in Rochester's public schools he gained the reputation as the city's pre-eminent scholar. This is reinforced by his selection to the United States Military Academy, which came when authorities decided, as a matter of civic pride, that the area needed to supply the best possible candidate to West Point. The choice of O'Rorke came in spite of the fact that it had been several years since he had been in a classroom. He had not even been trained at the highest level of public education - the city lacked a high school during the time O'Rorke was of the proper age. For someone with this background to succeed at one of the nation's most demanding institutions of higher learning, much less graduate at the head of his class, is extraordinary.
O'Rorke's scholastic record at West Point shows a well-rounded individual who fared well in all course work (with perhaps, the exception of French). He excelled in math and was also ranked as the class leader in other subjects like Philosophy, Ethics and Chemistry. He was among the top three in classes on tactics in each of the three branches (infantry, cavalry and artillery) of the army.
Those academic strengths helped make O'Rorke an excellent engineer. Training soldiers in that branch of the service was one of West Point's main goals and O'Rorke learned his lessons well. He contributed greatly to Federal successes along the South Carolina coast. Other than his short duties as staff officer at First Bull Run and as an engineer in the defenses around Washington, the Port Royal Expeditionary Corps and its subsequent offshoots were real challenges for a soldier fresh out of West Point, regardless of his academic standing.
In those situations he responded competently. O'Rorke worked well when given independent duties, both in construction and reconnaissance. His written reports were clear and detailed, and well-received by his superiors. His favorable status with higher-ups is confirmed by Quincy Gillmore's acceptance of his offer to serve as a volunteer aide during the short siege of Fort Pulaski, as well as O'Rorke's participation in the surrender proceedings. And although engineer duty is not often thought of as dangerous, O'Rorke accepted assignments that were not entirely free of risk.
His ability to adapt to different situations is apparent in his successful shift to command of a volunteer infantry regiment. As an engineer he did not have the responsibility of troops under his command, but suddenly, as colonel of the 140th, he had the welfare of 1,000 men to consider. A different branch, a different set of responsibilities, greater accountability - all were new challenges in a new command.
His personal leadership style had to change as well. His initial adherence to strict discipline comes close to the characteristics of a martinet, but he quickly realized that a different tact had to be taken with the Federal citizen-soldier. Within a couple of months of taking command he had developed his command style: hold the army's elite Regular Army troops up as an example of skill and attitude that could be surpassed, not as an unattainable goal. Yet he would surrender days of drill to recreation, realizing that these non-professional warriors needed a break from their martial existence.
O'Rorke had the entire package. He was not only book smart, but had common sense and a leadership style that allowed him to best use his abilities and convey his knowledge to others. He was also flexible enough to change his style and approach depending on the circumstances. In short, the full use of his talents was, in a great part, due to his personality.
Character. Someone as talented as O'Rorke might have been a ripe target for jealousy, especially in an army in which promotion and advancement was in many cases a hotly-pursued goal. Yet no dislike or envy of O'Rorke has been uncovered (that is not to deny that some may have existed), most likely because of his gracious nature. Praise for him is equally balanced between his soldierly abilities and his personality traits.
Modesty and selflessness are the attributes of O'Rorke that helped to deflect any resentment of his position. Yet the base characteristic of his personality seems to be his desire for privacy. All indications are that he was extremely guarded about revealing any personal opinions or details of his private life. Not to say that he was aloof; he just didn't like to speak of his background or beliefs.
An overwhelmingly universal characteristic of the recollections of others is the lack of accurate information on O'Rorke's personal information. His West Point classmates were unsure as to his family background, the Rochester press unaware as to the specifics of his educational background. O'Rorke's two closest intimates in the 140th, Porter Farley and Ira Clark, wrote a great deal about him, but a careful study reveals little about O'Rorke's innermost thoughts. Instead the writings of the 140th's adjutants center on their feelings and assessments of O'Rorke.
Even O'Rorke's diary and letters reveal little of personal positions on the great issues of the war. No particular political beliefs can be ascribed to O'Rorke, nor a stand on either side of the problem of slavery. Perhaps it was his professionalism - his job was to be a soldier and war was a necessary part of his occupation. For whatever the reason, his lack of public or private discussion of the burning questions of the day served him well, first at West Point and later in the army. Both the Regular and volunteer army were politically influenced and it was not uncommon for careers to be altered one way or another due to one's political beliefs.
Perhaps O'Rorke was shrewd enough to realize this, as it is clear that he was interested in advancing in the army. This characteristic is shown in his sentiments to his sister about being named to the Port Royal Expeditionary Corps: "There are only two Engineer officers..., so it will probably be an excellent chance for me." Later, while serving as acting brigade commander, he kept track of the length of his tenure in his diary. Yet when passed over for permanent brigade command, if he had disparaging feelings, they were not revealed to others.
Equally apparent in his personal papers is his desire to be in on the action. He ruminated about being left at Fort Monroe and would take on any duty, regardless of its risk. His early-war staff and engineer posts do not seem the type of assignments in which one could see much adventure, but O'Rorke managed to do so. On his first day of staff duty he volunteered to accompany a force of pickets in enemy territory. As an aide at First Bull Run, he had a bullet pass through his coat and his horse killed underneath him. His shifts within the army's structure seem to have come when he was inactive, influencing him to take whatever opportunity came along - first from Fort Monroe to the Port Royal Expeditionary Corps and later from engineer lieutenant to infantry colonel.
Yet this was a young man who developed a respect and dismay for the inherent costs of war. The soldier who bragged of being "the first of his class [to be] within striking distance of the enemy," would later describe in his diary the "terrors of the scene" on the battlefield. So by Gettysburg, this was a man not driven by what he saw as a glorious conflict, or one unaware of the mortality of himself and his men.
Porter Farley would call the action at Gettysburg the "supreme event" in the existence of the 140th. A similar platitude would have to be given O'Rorke for his performance that day. Yet obviously, there was much more to the man. It was not a case of a man performing above his abilities - those who knew O'Rorke would have expected nothing less.
An examination of O'Rorke's actions that day yield some interesting findings. The most important - and most difficult - decision he made was in acceding to Warren's request to move the 140th to Little Round Top. As a West Point-trained officer, O'Rorke no doubt had some qualms about disregarding his standing order to move with his regiment to the Wheatfield area. Yet he was secure enough in his standing within the corps, and confident enough in his ability to make quick judgements, to take the chance of military censure. His acquaintance and trust in Warren no doubt played a large role in the decision; it is unnerving to consider that the fate of Little Round Top and with it, perhaps the battle of Gettysburg, may have been decided by the chance occurrence of Warren coming upon a familiar face in his quest for reinforcements.
The similar incident at Chancellorsville just two months previous provides an interesting case study for O'Rorke's motives at Gettysburg. In both situations O'Rorke was advised by superior officers outside his command to take a certain course. O'Rorke was not legally bound in either case to follow their instructions, as he had standing orders or a lack thereof, to guide him. At Chancellorsville he stuck to his orders, while at Gettysburg he did the opposite. The common thread - both brought him into combat. At Gettysburg his decision was noticed because the stakes were so much higher.
There are several aspects of O'Rorke's actions and tactics on Little Round Top that are interesting and worth discussion. It needs to be noted that O'Rorke never commanded infantry below the regimental level; that is, he was never a line officer. In his experiences as a regimental or brigade commander, his proper place was in the rear of the line, where he could see and control his entire command, and that is where he was used to operating. Yet in the drastic situation on the summit of Little Round Top he again made a decision that went contrary to his character and experience. He exposed himself at the head of his regiment, in the most literal sense, leading his men that day. His order: a very unmilitary "Down this way, boys!" There was nothing in his previous experience that would have predicted his action. It was obviously not a maneuver learned on the drill field, but the situation in which it was used was far from typical.
That response is intriguing in comparison with Joshua Chamberlain. It has been pointed out that Chamberlain - a volunteer soldier - saved his position on Little Round Top by deploying his troops with tactical maneuvers one would expect from a professional. O'Rorke was the opposite. He was the schooled professional, yet he relied on the inspirational component of leadership that worked best with his volunteer troops: conspicuous bravery and leadership. Well aware that he had little time, O'Rorke shunned any deployment and simply hurled himself and his regiment into the breech, filling the gap in the line with flesh and blood instead of lead and steel. O'Rorke and Chamberlain faced vastly different situations and made vastly different judgements. Both were successful from a military standpoint. Unfortunately O'Rorke did not survive his decision.
O'Rorke's actions on Little Round Top can also be held up as ultimate proof of his confidence in the officers and men of the 140th. By placing himself at the head of the column, he, for all intents and purposes, removed himself from overall command of the entire regiment. Yet, due to the drastic nature of the situation, O'Rorke was willing to put himself outside the sphere of control, no doubt confident that his subordinates would rise to the challenge. O'Rorke's death came early in the action and other than making the initial judgement to charge down the hill, he made no other decision that day. Lt. Col. Ernst, who had displayed his competence in handling the regiment during O'Rorke's stint as brigade commander, Adjutant Farley, and Company A's Capt. Milo Starks all had to make tactical choices after O'Rorke's death. Other field and staff officers probably had to as well. The fact that the regiment succeeded in holding the position speaks extremely well of the entire regiment, as well as the quality training O'Rorke had given it.
The defense of Little Round Top is rightly seen as a crucial component to the Federal victory at Gettysburg. But how substantial were O'Rorke's actions? The rote response to any "what if" regarding a Confederate capture of Little Round Top is that the entire Federal line would have been untenable. Oft-quoted is the writing of Col. William Oates, of the 15th Alabama, whose unit faced off against the 20th Maine. In regards to Big Round Top, the summit of which his regiment scaled and found vacant, Oates would state, "within half an hour I could convert it into a Gibraltar that I could hold against ten times the number of men that I had...." The assumption is that the Confederates would have done the same to Little Round Top, had they taken it.
Little Round Top did command the rest of the Union line, but the belief that Confederate artillery placed on the crest could simply sweep the Federals from Cemetery Ridge was not a guaranteed outcome. The hill's strategic value was as an anchor for the Federal line; for the Confederates it was a position that needed to be taken in order to get at a soft spot on the Federal flank. Little Round Top's narrow summit faced west, not north, and not many guns could have brought to bear on the main Federal line along the ridge. Perhaps the Confederates would have left a force on the hill, but the true value lay beyond. If the Confederates took the hill and pressed on, the Federals would have been in an enormous amount of trouble. The Third Corps would have been completely cut off; Union reinforcements in motion would have been attacked before having a chance to even deploy. Moving on from Little Round Top and sweeping up Cemetery Ridge to take the Federals in their flank and rear would have been the most effective ploy, and certainly an extension of Robert E. Lee's original intentions in formulating his attack plans for that day. The Federal failure to hold Little Round Top would have given the Confederates a very real opportunity to inflict a great deal of damage on the Army of the Potomac.
In determining what were the most critical aspects of the defense of Little Round Top, it must be asked when the hill was most vulnerable. Certainly when it was unoccupied, and in seeing that Federal troops were rushed to hill, credit goes to Gouverneur Warren and Strong Vincent. In the fighting that ensued, there were two other times when the situation seemed most precarious: the climax of the 20th Maine's fight and the 140th's reinforcement of a crumbling 16th Michigan.
It has always been extremely difficult to estimate time during battles, and such is the case with the struggle for Little Round Top. One well-regarded itinerary for the events on the hill places the 20th Maine's bayonet repulse a full hour after the 140th's defense. In that extra hour, the remainder of Weed's Brigade - three fresh regiments - were brought to the hill. Those additional 60 minutes expended more of the energy and the ammunition of the Confederates attacking the hill and there were no reserve troops to relieve or reinforce the exhausted Southerners. The sun sunk even lower below the mountain range to the west and darkness was not long in coming. In short, even if the 20th Maine had been driven from its position, such an event did not guarantee that the Confederates could have likewise scattered the rest of the Union troops that now occupied the hill.
In comparison, the Confederate troops were in much better shape to consolidate any gains if they succeeded in driving off the 16th Michigan. It was earlier in the battle and the soldiers were fresher and in better shape in terms of ammunition supply. The Southerners attacking that part of the line were also within shorter distance of their compatriots attacking the area of Devil's Den, and reinforcements could have quickly been sent. There were less Federal troops on the hill and no supports were immediately at hand.
In conclusion, it is clear that Confederate possession of Little Round Top would have severely compromised the entire Federal position. The defense of it was a significant component of victory. The position was obviously most vulnerable when it was unoccupied, but in the subsequent fight, a case can be made that the greatest chance for Confederate success came when the two Texas regiments cracked the 16th Michigan. The timely arrival of O'Rorke and the 140th sealed this breach and prevented the potential capture of the hill. It was an extremely important turning point in the battle and O'Rorke's quick thinking and the performance of the men turned the tide in favor of the Federals.
Even if O'Rorke survived Gettysburg, it may have been his last battle at the head of the 140th. The death of Brig.-Gen. Stephen Weed would have brought command of the brigade, at least temporarily, back to O'Rorke. The scenario in which O'Rorke lives, invites the question of what heights he might have reached. O'Rorke most likely would have needed to receive his commission as brigadier general in order to have kept command of the brigade, as the army reorganization of March 1864 brought in units and officers from the First Corps. At least one Fifth Corps officer (William Tilton) lost his brigade command, as he had not yet made general.
Kenner Garrard of the 146th N.Y., who did succeed Weed, received his brigadier's commission, but was shifted to the cavalry before the Army of the Potomac's reorganization. The shake-up brought Romeyn Ayres down from division command to brigade command, with the 140th part of his organization. So it is quite possible that had he lived, O'Rorke would still not have gained permanent command of a brigade after Gettysburg. Any initial opportunity may have come only if he was willing to break his ties with the 140th. For example James C. Rice, who took over Vincent's Brigade, was given a star and command of an ex-First Corps brigade.
Yet that same reorganization also would have brought opportunity. Gouverneur Warren was given command of the Fifth Corps. He was obviously, at the very least, an admirer of O'Rorke's soldierly talents and most likely would have seen to O'Rorke gaining a higher post. Certainly once the Overland Campaign of 1864 commenced, opportunities became more numerous as casualties mounted in the officer ranks.
Division command was not likely, as there wasn't much turnover at that level through the end of the war. Moreover O'Rorke would have had to jump over those already ahead of him in the command chain. Permanent charge of a brigade was certainly with his reach, although a brigadier-general's commission not guaranteed. A perfect example of this uncertainty is Elwell Otis, who succeeded Ryan in command of the 140th. (Ryan had been killed at Laurel Hill, the opening phase of the battles for Spotsylvania Court House on May 8.) Otis remained at the rank of lieutenant-colonel as regimental commander and even assumed command of the brigade at that rank until being wounded in October of 1864.
Otis also serves as a possible blueprint for O'Rorke's post-war career, had he lived. Otis returned to the Regular Army after the war, adequately recovered from the wound that ended his volunteer career in 1864, although the injury would trouble him for the rest of his life. Despite the military's post-war downsizing, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 22nd Infantry. Otis remained with that regiment until 1880, serving with it in various Indian campaigns. In 1880 he was promoted colonel of the 20th Infantry and subsequently sent to Fort Leavenworth to establish a school of application for young officers. He served there until 1885.
In 1893 he was promoted brigadier-general and in that rank subsequently served as commander of the Departments of the Columbia, and Colorado. In 1898, with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he was made major-general of volunteers. Upon his arrival in the Philippines, he was given command of the 8th Army Corps. One week later he was given charge of the entire Department of the Pacific and named military governor of the islands. Otis continued in that post until May 5, 1900, when he was relieved and returned to the United States. In reward of his services, he was first given the brevet (honorary) rank of major-general, Regular Army, and was later permanently promoted to that rank.
He visited Rochester in 1901 and received perhaps the greatest reception of anyone in the city's history. Renowned Rochester architect Claude Bragdon designed a gigantic arch, which was erected by the city in Otis' honor. Otis retired from active service in 1902 and permanently returned to the city, where he passed away in 1909. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Obviously there is no way to predict what might have occurred in the rest of O'Rorke's career, had he survived Gettysburg, much less the remainder of the war. But the career of Otis shows the opportunities that did exist in the post-war army.
In supposing that O'Rorke would have left the 140th, the effect on the regiment can at least be examined with some accuracy, as his death did sever the earthly connection between he and the 140th. His influence would remain on the regiment until the end of the war. The choice of George Ryan, a young West Pointer of Irish heritage, as his replacement made for the continuation of O'Rorke's command values. The 140th remained a highly-disciplined, well-drilled regiment until the end of the war. And after Ryan's death in May of 1864, subsequent commanders of the 140th came from the ranks of the original officers, all of whom had been trained and/or influenced by O'Rorke. Remarkable as well was the lack of political in-fighting for rank and promotion in the 140th, a characteristic of many volunteer units, one that could undermine effectiveness and order.
Perhaps the desire to see O'Rorke receive some credit for his service is presumptuous. After all, there was nothing in his constitution that suggests any appetite for recognition or fame. Nor did those who survived him complain of any injustices done to his memory. Just the same, it was and is disappointing to see the rewards and recognition go to others that performed brave and valuable service on Little Round Top, and realize that O'Rorke has not received those things in anywhere near equal levels. Strong Vincent received a deathbed promotion to brigadier-general. Stephen Weed, despite a lack of any real impact on the defense of Little Round Top, is forever linked with the hill because he was the highest ranking officer killed there. (Gettysburg historian John Bachelder, not long after the battle, began an unsuccessful movement to designate Little Round Top as "Weed's Hill.") Joshua Chamberlain received the Congressional Medal of Honor and has, in modern times, reached legendary status that is beginning to border on cult status.
The most vocal O'Rorke benefactor and one that felt that indeed, due credit was not being given to O'Rorke, was Gouverneur Warren. Yet he spent the rest of his life fighting for a court of inquiry to contest his removal from command of the Fifth Corps at Five Forks by Phil Sheridan. Warren was a prominent player in the war who never wrote his account of the conflict; his letters to Farley in the 1870s make it clear that seeing O'Rorke receive his just recognition would have been on his agenda.
It is not a case in which the reputations of others need to be torn down in order to tout O'Rorke. Perhaps a disservice is done him by continuing to point to his Gettysburg accomplishments as proof of his worth; as previously maintained, his entire life and career are worthy of notice.
Regardless of whether or not O'Rorke receives recognition for his service and sacrifice, his story is worth revealing. In a day when genuine role models are few and far between, the personal beliefs which formed foundation of O'Rorke's existence are worth noting: family, education and nation, enhanced by the personal characteristics of loyalty, modesty and self-sacrifice. The words chosen to crown the 140th's monument at Gettysburg - Patriotism, Fraternity, Duty, and Valor - describe not only the regiment, but the man who led and molded it.
Porter Farley called Patrick Henry O'Rorke "the beau ideal of a soldier and a gentleman." Nothing has since come to light that changes that assessment. The death of all young men in the defense of our country brings sorrow; in O'Rorke's case it was not only what he might have been, but what he had already become.