Updated Second Edition of a Morningside Press
Sons of Old Monroe:
A Regimental History of
Patrick O'Rorke's 140th N.Y. Volunteer Infantry
By Brian A. Bennett
718 pages, 96 photographs, 13 maps, index
Softcover: $30 Hardcover (with dust jacket): $55
In his introduction to the 1984 Morningside reprint of William Powell's
history of the Fifth Corps, John J. Pullen wrote that "the lasting
fame of a military unit depends not so much upon what it does as upon
what is written and published about it." The 140th New York Volunteer
Infantry is a classic example of this adage. Without a widely-published
regimental history, its achievements and distinctiveness have been overlooked
in the realm of Army of the Potomac literature.
The 140th and its men were at the same time typical and atypical.
The regiment was formed in Rochester and the surrounding county
of Monroe in answer to Lincoln's call for more troops in mid-1862.
Its members mirrored the Northern army's diverse blend of background
and ethnicity- a combination of farmers and skilled craftsmen,
Irishmen and Germans, educated and unschooled. They were volunteers
who understood the magnitude of their commitment, but who also
pocketed a good sized bounty.
Col. Patrick Henry O'Rorke, who lived most of his life in Rochester,
helped place the 140th above the average Federal regiment. A
graduate of West Point, standing first in the second class of
1861, O'Rorke brought a Regular Army sense of strictness to the
140th. When the regiment joined the Army of the Potomac he arranged
to have it placed into the Second Division of the Fifth Corps,
home of all the Regular troops in the army. Training alongside
the Regulars, and the flashy but solid 5th New York Zouaves,
the men of the 140th learned their new trade in an environment
of skill, spirit, and discipline.
The 140th had the further advantage of being slowly introduced
to combat. Limited action at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville
tempered the regiment for what one soldier later termed "the
supreme event in its existence"-its defense of Little Round
Top at Gettysburg. An impromptu decision by O'Rorke and a likewise
reaction from his charges helped to narrowly avert the capture
of the critical hill by the Confederates. The dramatic rush and
repulse on the rocky slopes cost the 140th dearly-over 100 men
killed and wounded, including Colonel O'Rorke, shot dead at the
head of his regiment.
Proudly clad in the distinctive Zouave uniforms of proven warriors,
and with a reputation won at Gettysburg, the men of the 140th
felt themselves the equal of any unit in the Army of the Potomac.
As part of Romeyn Ayres' Zouave/Regular brigade, their spirit
was severely tested in the spring of 1864, as the battles of
the Wilderness and Spotsylvania nearly decimated their ranks.
The 140th continued on and rebuilt its strength, adding to its
battleflag such names as North Anna River, Bethesda Church, Petersburg,
Weldon Railroad, Hatcher's Run, Five Forks and Appomattox. Its
record in combat would earn it a place as one of William Fox's
"Fighting 300" Union regiments.
This regimental history bases its strength on a vast amount of
primary material-almost 300 letters written from the front lines
and camps, along with numerous diaries, postwar reminiscences,
and regimental records, most unpublished. Through the use of
this material, the reader is brought into daily life of the regiment;
revealing not just battlefield exploits, but the routines and
distractions of camp life, the ties to the community it left
behind, and members' view and opinions on the political and social
issues of the day.
Over 70 pages of new material have been added to this edition. It contains
more than 90 photos of regimental members, maps, and a listing of every
man who served in the regiment.
reviews for "Sons of Old Monroe:"
"Bennett's history of the 140th New York is regimental
chronicling at its best. The author mixes military activities
and personal anecdotes in a blend that makes for an absorbing
read. Formed of companies from upstate New York, the regiment
saw action from Fredericksburg to Appomattox. It now has a worthy
Professor James I. Robertson, Virginia Tech
in the Richmond Times Dispatch
"Many military histories and reminiscences are full
of valuable information, but rarely are they as well-written
or as detailed and painstakingly researched as this book."
- Wolfe Newspapers
"Bennett has done his research, and he narrates the story
of the 140th New York in a straightforward and readable fashion....
Sons of Old Monroe is an informative and worthy contribution
to the growing field of 'new' unit histories."
- Brian Pohanka, author/historian
Civil War News review
"I can't say enough about this book - it is detailed and fascinating.
It is history at its most gripping. Don't pass it by."
- Ben Maryniak, president, Buffalo Civil War Roundtable
Civil War Courier review
"...a phenomenal job of research and a great job of presenting
an immense amount of material. Few regimentals have, or will,
match [this] work."
John J. Hennessy, author of
Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas
"Author Brian A. Bennett uses many never before first
person accounts on the activities and personalities of Monroe County's
140th New York Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.... This is a very
well written regimental history in a VERY readable style. This is a must
for any Civil War buff, reenactor or anyone with a general interest in
history. Read all about the unit's first commander, Irish-born Patrick
H. O'Rorke -a graduate of West Point and a martyr on the crest of Little
Round Top. Find out how and why the 140th was awarded its' zouave uniforms.
Learn about the massacre of the unit on Saunders' Field during the Wilderness
Campaign. A great read for everyone."
- amazon.com reader review
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