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Rochester ís Civil War Hero Saved The Union

Colonel Patrick Henry OíRorke was born in Ireland and immigrated to America with his parents, arriving in Rochester in 1842. They lived at 19 Emmett Street located in an Irish section known as Dublin , just east of the Genesee River 's lower falls. He was awarded a scholarship to the University of Rochester , however his Roman Catholic mother had some misgivings about the Baptist administration of the college. Patrick declined the scholarship and entered an apprenticeship to become a marble cutter. In 1856 O'Rorke was recommended for the United States Military Academy . He was the only person in his class not born in America . He graduated from West Point in 1861, first in his class of 34. Another more famous person graduated from that same class with Patrick but graduated last in the class. That person was George Armstrong Custer. After graduation in 1861, Patrick fought in the First Battle of Bull Run and the following year married his childhood sweetheart, Clara Bishop, who was the organist at St. Bridgetís Church where he was a tenor in the choir. O'Rorke became colonel of Rochester ís newly formed 140th New York Volunteer Infantry and fought in the Battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg .

On July 2, 1863, the second day of combat at Gettysburg, his regiment took a key position, Little Round Top, which most historians agree was a pivotal battle in the Union victory at Gettysburg, ultimately leading to Union victory in the Civil War. O'Rorke led his men up the rocky slope of Little Round Top after General Warren noticed that the strategic position was in danger of being captured by the Confederates. In a charge over the top of the hill O'Rorke was struck by a bullet in the neck, killing him almost instantly at the age of 27. The United States Military War College has rated that day's action on Little Round Top as the single most significant small unit action of the entire Civil War calling it "the five minutes that saved the Union ." Colonel O'Rorke was posthumously promoted to brevet colonel, and cited by the U.S. Army for gallant and meritorious service in all of his battles. His body was originally buried and reinterred in Gettysburg before its return to Rochester ís St. Patrickís Catholic Cemetery which used to be on Pinnacle Hill off Monroe Avenue . In 1881 he was reinterred for the fourth and hopefully last time at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

His wife Clara never remarried, instead choosing to enter a religious order of nuns, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, where she was an outstanding teacher and administrator. She died in Rhode Island in 1893, thirty years after her husbandís death. In 1889 surviving members of the regiment dedicated the New York 140th's monument at Gettysburg , placed on the spot where O'Rorke fell.

As we approach the anniversary of Patrick OíRorkeís valiant sacrifice for our country this July 2 and celebrate our nationís independence on the 4th, let us pause to remember Rochester ís great Civil War hero for whom the new OíRorke Bridge replacing the old Stutson Street Bridge is named.