Author: Theodore O’Hara

Born in Danville, Kentucky (1820–67), Theodore O’Hara excelled in school as a young man and attended Centre College and later St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky. While he initially considered a career in law, studying under John C. Breckenridge, the future US Vice President, O’Hara eventually decided to become a journalist. At the age of 25, he moved to Washington, DC to work at the Department of the Treasury. Shortly thereafter he served in the Mexican-American War, the 1850 conflict with Cuba, and the Civil War as a colonel in the Twelfth Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army. His service in the Mexican-American War inspired one of his most famous works, “Bivouac of the Dead,” which commemorates the men who perished at the Battle of Buena Vista. After the Civil War he settled in Alabama and worked as the editor of the Mobile Register until his death at the age of 47 from a fever.    

Bivouac of the Dead

Theodore O’Hara

Although Theodore O’Hara fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, his poem became deeply connected with the mourning of Union dead. During the Civil War, as Arlington National Cemetery was being established (1864), Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs ordered lines from the poem inscribed on the cemetery’s gate, although without attributing them to the Southerner O’Hara.