Theodore O'Hara

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::
Theodore O'Hara's portrait in The Century magazine (1890)
Theodore O'Hara's portrait in The Century magazine (1890)

Theodore O'Hara (February 11, 1820 - June 6, 1867) was a poet and Confederate colonel, best known for the poems "The Bivouac of the Dead" and "The Old Pioneer".

The Early Years: Professor, Lawyer, Colonel

O'Hara was born to Mr. and Mrs. Kane O'Hara in Danville, Kentucky before the family moved to Frankfort. He continued his education at St. Joseph Academy in Bardstown, Kentucky, where he also served as a Greek professor during his senior year. He later studied law with student John C. Breckinridge before being appointed for a position in the United States Treasury department in 1845. As the Mexican-American War was just beginning, O'Hara signed up for the U.S. Army and held the positions of captain and quartermaster of volunteers as of June 26, 1846. For excellent conduct in the Battle of Contreras and Churubusco, O'Hara was honored with the rank of brevet-major on August 20, 1847. O'Hara wrote his first poem, "The Bivouac of the Dead" in honor of the Second Kentucky Regiment officers who died in the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847. Long before the officers were buried at the state cemetery in Frankfort on June 20, 1847, there was a dedication ceremony for a monument in honor of these men. Lines from the poem would eventually grace the gates of numerous national cemeteries. After the war ended in 1848, O'Hara returned to Washington, D.C. to continue his law practices until 1851.

The Later Years: Editor, Diplomat, Confederate

O'Hara joined others from Kentucky in an expedition to Cuba in 1850. He commanded a regiment in the battle of Cárdenas before a severe injury. He was appointed captain of the Second Cavalry on March 3, 1855 before resigning on December 1, 1856. When John Forsyth Jr., editor-in-chief of the Mobile Register became minister to Mexico in 1856, O'Hara took his place in the newspaper. He also edited for the Louisville Times and the Yeoman. He continued to follow government orders, such as his diplomatic mission into the Tehuantepec grant debate. At the beginning of the War Between the States, O'Hara joined the Confederate army and became colonel of the Twelfth Alabama Regiment. He later served with General Albert Sidney Johnston and General John C. Breckinridge, his fellow law student. After the war ended, O'Hara went to Columbus, Georgia to be in the cotton business, but eventually lost his business to a fire. He later resided on a plantation near Guerrytown, Alabama where he died and was returned to Columbus for burial. On September 15, 1874, his remains, along with those of other Mexican War officers were buried in the state cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky. O'Hara's friend Sergeant Henry T. Stanton read "The Bivouac of the Dead" at the reinterment and said, "O’Hara, in giving utterance to this song, became at once the builder of his own monument and the author of his own epitaph."

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
Free Documentation License".