Paddy O'Rorke

Paddy O'Rorke

From: (Brian Bennett)
Subject: The many burials of O'Rorke

Dennis wrote:

It is my understanding that O'Rorke's widow exhumed his body fromthe Burg and buried it in Rochester, New York. After the funeral services she entered the Convent of the Order of The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

O'Rorke's body did a lot of traveling. It was originally carried by four members of Company A to the regiment's surgical station on the reverse slope of Little Round Top and subsequently taken to the division hospital behind the hill, on the farm of Jacob Weikert. After the day's fighting ended Lt. Porter Farley traveled to the hospital to view the body. The path of the bullet that had ended O'Rorke's life was traced by a "bloody froth on each side of his neck." Farley, who later in life became a practicing physician, would then judge that the ball "probably pierced the spine at the base of the neck, and he sank to the ground with every muscle relaxed - dead on the instant."

The bodies of O'Rorke, Weed and Hazlett were placed side-by-side on the porch of Weikert's farmhouse and covered with sheets. Artillery Lieutenant Malbone F. Watson was later brought in wounded and carried onto the porch. A gust of wind pulled the sheets away, revealing the three corpses. Weed was Watson's former commander, Hazlett his classmate at West Point and O'Rorke a year his junior. The shock of seeing the bodies "almost killed him," he would later tell a fellow artillerymen.

A grave for Hazlett was dug in Weikert's garden, but the bodies of O'Rorke and Weed were moved to another hospital on the farm of Lewis Bushman. There they were buried by Sgt. Major James Campbell of the 140th and Lt. William Crennell, quartermaster of the 140th, who served as an aide to Weed during the battle. (It was to Crennell that Weed made his famous "I'm as dead a man as Julius Caesar" quote.) Crennell noted that the interrment was a "very perplexing job" on account of the lack of material for suitable coffins. The pair were placed in the ground in rear of the Bushman house "on the west side of the first apple tree," with Weed's body closest to the tree. The two men marked the spot in case the families wished to recover the bodies.

Escorted by a Mr. Putnam, O'Rorke's wife Clara arrived in Washington on July 7 and received a military pass to travel to Gettysburg through Baltimore to recover the body. It is unclear as to whether or not the pair made it to Gettysburg, or if they or someone else exhumed the body from the Bushman farm. At some point Capt. Thomas Bishop (Clara's brother; an officer in the 25th N.Y.) arrived, as a member of the 140th reported that officer as having charge of O'Rorke's body in Baltimore on the 10th of July.

O'Rorke's body, along with the corpse of Company K's 1st. Lt. Hugh McGraw arrived in Rochester via train on July 14. O'Rorke's funeral took place the next day, with his body buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery on Rochester's Pinnacle Hill.

The original plot was near the summit of the hill and as his widowed mother made daily trips, it became more difficult for her to make the walk, so at some point the body was moved to a point lower on the hill. By 1871 the cemetery was starting to fill up, so the Catholic Diocese purchased a new tract of land for burials. By 1879 St. Patrick's had the look of abandonment, but it was another eight years before a new plot for the O'Rorke family could be purchased in the new cemetery (Holy Sepulchre) and the bodies moved.

The graves of O'Rorke, his mother (who died in 1881) and Col. George Ryan, who succeeded O'Rorke in command of the 140th, all have matching stylized Maltese Cross headstones. Ryan, who was not from Rochester or even New York, was also buried and move four different times. He was killed at Laurel Hill on May 8, 1864 (the first collision in the fight for Spotsylvania) and buried on the field. Almost a year to the day later, as the 140th was marching north to Washington after the surrender at Appomattox, the regiment was the vicinity and exhumed the bodies of Ryan and Major Milo Starks, who had also been killed at Laurel Hill. Starks' body was sent home to Brockport (same county as Rochester) and Ryan to his parents' home in Decatur, Illinois.

In 1870 a group of 140th veterans sought to have the remains of their two colonels reunited. After receiving permission from Ryan's family to move the body, 49 veterans traveled by private railcar to nearby Chicago. The remains were brought back to Rochester, and after elaborate and widely-attended ceremonies and processions, buried next to O'Rorke's grave in St. Patrick's Cemetery. Ryan then made the move with O'Rorke to Holy Sepulchre.

O'Rorke's young widow Clara entered the novitiate of the Society of the Sacred Heart and in 1871 took her final vows. She subsequently became Mother Superior of her order in Detroit for two different periods, during which she oversaw the building of the convent at Grosse Point, Michigan. She subsequently returned to New York when she moved to Kenwood Convent in Albany, one of the largest novitiate houses of the order in the country. Her final assignment was at Elmhurst, in Providence, Rhode Island, where under her leadership the academy was enlarged and "what is said to be one of the most beaituful church in this country" was built. She died in February 1893 at the age of 56. Along with her many accomplishments she was acknowledged as being an excellent musician and a "particularly strong" teacher of math and chemistry."

From: (Brian Bennett)

As far as the O'Rorke Memorial Society (of which I am a member), its goals were very similar - trying to get some public acclamation here in Rochester of O'Rorke's service and sacrifice. Our end product was more modest, but we were equally successful. The final form of the O'Rorke memorial is larger than life bronze bust of O'Rorke. The bust is mounted on a pedestal and accompanied by two museum-type 4' x 5' information panels (with illustrations) outlining the part played in the war by Rochester and Monroe County. The first panel details the happenings on the homefront (including info on well-known Rochesterians Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony); the second panel includes info on O'Rorke, along with info on the Rochester/Monroe County regiments that found in the war.

The memorial was unveiled in the Visitors Center at High Falls, an urban museum located in the downtown Rochester Browns Race Historical District, a restored area above the Genesee River's Middle Falls, which played a large role in Rochester's milling past. During the summer, a nightly laser show is projected on the walls of the gorge below the falls. The memorial was originally intended to be a temporary exhibit (in space intended for such materials) but the center liked it so much it expressed an interest in keeping it. At the time the committee had no alternative site, so it allowed the exhibit to remain, although the new exhibit area is well out of the way of the visitors, and in our opinion, not very acceptable.

However the city of Rochester has been planning, over the past 5-6 years, to expand its downtown library and groundbreaking was just done, with the expansion to be completed (hopefully) by March 1997. We have contacted the library about moving the exhibit to the new part of the library, possibly the local history area, and they are interested.

Some two years ago a founding member of the commitee commissioned a local artist to do a painting of O'Rorke and the 140th on Little Round Top. That may also go to the library for permanent display. The painting turned out extremely well (I think) - it's not a Troiani (but what is, other than a Troiani). It is also historically accurate (I was asked to provide the specifics) and include portraits from photographs of O'Rorke, Capt. Milo Starks, Sgt. Major James Campbell and Lt. Porter Farley. The artist received permission to produce prints and is selling for $100. E-mail me privately if anyone is interested in information on the prints - I could send a full-color flyer.

I would be happy to answer any further questions as to the Col. Patrick O'Rorke Memorial Society.

Brian Bennett