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Thread: Count Joseph Cornelius O’Rourke in Russia

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    Count Joseph Cornelius O’Rourke in Russia

    A Russian Irish man
    By Ben Hurst (extracted from the review "America" of October 29th 1910)

    There is scarcely a country in the world where some Irish name of distinction does not call to mind the exiles who formerly sought freedom of worship far from their own sad isle. France, Spain, Italy, Austria welcomed the O’Briens, O’Connors, O Keefes, Taaffes, MacMahons or Fitzgeralds.

    But the Irish pushed still further afield, and we find many citizens of Irish descent in Russia. The name O’Rourke has been recently much in evidence in the Slav press on the occasion of the centenary of the battle of Varvarin.

    In this and many other engagements an O’Rourke led the Russian and Serb battalions to victory and a monument to him has just been erected on the plain where the Turks were routed in 1810. Of the many unequal combats in which the numerically inferior Christian forces defeated the Muslims, none has been more glorious than that of Varvarin. Therefore there is none in which the younger Serb generations take more pride; and the commemorations were carried out with great pomp.

    Russia was officially represented and the family of the heroic Count Joseph Cornelius O’Rourke were specially invited by the Serb government to attend. Count Nicholas O’Rourke grandson of the lainers general, although over 76 years of age, responded to the invitation and travelled from his estate in the centre of Russia to witness the unveiling of the monument dedicated to his brave ancestor.

    In the presence of church and state dignitaries a solemn requiem mass was said for the souls of those who had fallen in battle, and an immense concourse then defiled before the stone on which the names of the most distinguished combatants are engraved. That of O’Rourke is first on the list of honour. The family of O’Rourke had left Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne and settled in France.

    In the reign of the Russian Empress Elisabeth a branch emigrated to the Baltic provinces and became definitely acclimatised. The future of the oppressed Christian masses, was born in Dorpat in 1772, and received in baptism the characteristically Irish name Joseph Cornelius. He was early destined to the career of arms, for in accordance to the prevailing custom for sons of nobility he was while yet an infant inscribed in the ranks of the Imperial Guard.

    That he took kindly to his calling is evident from his participation in all Russia’s wars of that time. As a young Lieutenant he was appointed to the French Emigrant Corps and fought with them at Zurich against the Republican Government. He returned to Russia as colonel and took a command under the famous General Kutussoff. In this campaign of 1805 he was decorated for signal bravery with the order of Saint George.

    In the terrible battle of Eylau O’Rourke again distinguished himself and at the proclamation of peace was entrusted with the formation of the Uhlan regiment, "Vo lin sky". This was the regiment he led against the Turks at Varvarin. He had equipped it at his own expense and marched with it to the Balkan Peninsula as part of the Moldavian contingent told to assist the Christian races struggling for freedom. O’Rourke assisted in the deliverance of Prahavo, and took part in the stiff combat of Bela Palanka. He next drove the enemy from Soko Gania and defeated them in the pitched battle of Jassika. An Imperial Rescript was forwarded to him on this occasion to express appreciation of his valour.

    But it was at Varvarin that Count Joseph won his brightest laurels together with the prized Decoration of Saint Anne. In the face of great odds he decided to hold his ground, and threw up trenches to shelter his men and cannon. Under his inspiriting command, Serbs and Russians, repulsed during four days repeated furious onslaughts of the Turks, treble their number.

    In a final desperate encounter O’Rourke not only beat the attacking forces, but chased them over the Morava River into the wilds of Albania. He now took the offensive and started to storm Gurgusovats (the present thriving town of Knajevats) which he conquered and kept. By obliging the Muslims to evacuate this stronghold he secured the freedom of eighty Serb villages hitherto under tribute.

    At the close of the war a gold sabre with jewel encrusted hilt was presented to O’Rourke by the Christian populations he had delivered. The career of a soldier- and more especially of a Russian soldier sinecure in those days. O’Rourke withdrew from one battle-field only to enter another. He was an active combatant in the repulse of the French invasion, assisted at the siege of Magdeburg, and in the Cavalry charge of the First Leipzig.

    Here it was that he won the rank of Lieutenant General. With the Northern Army, he fought at Gross Beern, Dunewits, Wittemberg and the second Leipzig. At Witzengerode he performed feats of valour that were awarded with the Order of St.Alexander Nevsky. General Count Joseph O’Rourke died in 1849 at his country estate of Wsielub in the province of Minsk, leaving six sons to perpetuate his name.

    Count Nicholas, his grandson, chose the Navy as his profession. On the frigate Aurore he sailed round the world and served with the squadron that so gloriously defeated the Anglo French fleet in the Crimean War. He married a princess of the royal native line of Romania. Two of his sons are in the army so that the taste for soldiering is not extinct in the chivalrous line of the Russian O’Rourke.

    (*Count Nicholas who was present at the unveiling of the monument was not the grandson of General Count Joseph O’Rourke, but the son of his nephew Count Moritz O’Rourke)

    The Memorial on the Title of Count in the O’Rourke Family
    25th July 1847
    Affirmation by the Senate
    (reprinted from the official Senate publication)

    List of papers, out of which is compliled
    1.The Reference attitude of the Inspectorate Department of the Defense Ministry of 30 June 1846, No 6144
    2.Report of the General of Cavalry Count Osip O’Rourke to the Defense Ministry of 27 May 1846
    3.The original Genealogy of the Counts O’Rourke in the English language and translation.
    4.Translation of a copy of the decree for admission to Russian service of the Irsih Counts John and Cornelius O’Rourke, the first as Major and the second as Captain.
    5.Such as about the retirement of first Major Count John O’Rourke.
    6.Translation of a copy(*reverse),given in the national war collegium by First Major Count Ivan O’Rourke. Copies of formal rolls of service.
    7.Major-General Count Cornelius O’Rourke.
    8.Lieutenant-General Count Joseph Cornelecich O’Rourke.
    9.Major-General Vladimir Yegorovich O’Rourke.
    10.Lieutenant Colonel Moritz Yegorovich O’Rourke.
    11.Staff-company("Mistr")Alexander Josephich O’Rourke
    (Names ending in-ich or -evich are patronymics, eg, Vladimir Yegorovich (=son of Yegor(Igor) O’Rourke)

    Lieutenant Count Michael O’Rourke
    By decree of his sovereign majesty the emperor
    Nikolai Pavlovich
    Autocrat of all Russia etc etc etc.

    The bearer of this, serving in the 15th naval complement,Lieutenant Michael, son of Joseph, Count O’Rourke;aged 25;a nobleman;of the Catholic faith;unmarried;his father in Minsk region of Nowogrodek has 1000 serfs; he was educated in the marine cadet corps in which he became a cadet on 16 August 1838; was commissioned junior officer on 10 January 1840; as feldwebel 9 January 1842; as midshipman the same year on 10 January; as Warrant Officer on 9 August 1844; as Lieutenant on 6 December 1849.

    In the campaigns he was in the Baltic and Black seas, serving in accordance to the highest ordinance of 1836. After he graduated from the corps as Michman(Mid-shipman)his name was put into a special "Book of the firsts" in 1845.

    On 13 September 1845, in accordance with the highest ordinance, he received a half-yearly salary as wages for the distinguished zeal and dedicated service. He was never penalised or before a court. His service record was good. He was on leave from the 23 August 1844 for 3 months and from 17 October 1848 for 4 months and he reported back for duty on time. On 14 December 1849, by the highest order given to the fleet, he was discharged from service for domestic reasons according to his position.

    In testimony of which is given this decree to Lieutenant Count O’Rourke from the Inspectorate Department of the Admiralty under the signature and stamp affixed. In the decree 7 erasures, amendments and corrections between paragraphs are not included.

    St Petersburg, 21 February 1850 Duty General Count Gayden Vice-Director Lutovski Chief of Department (signed) a) 1ceL) Baaa

    Lt General Count Ioseph (Joseph) Kornilovich O’Rourke
    1770 – 1849 (1845?)

    The following information was obtained from a Russian friend of a neighbour of Frank O’Rourke in Canberra who visited The Hermitage in St Petersburg during a holiday in 1996. (The General’s portrait hangs in The Hermitage).

    The Russian friend translated as best he could to English a document that he obtained in The Hermitage or from another source, as follows:

    Source: Frank O’Rourke, Canberra, Australia, 16 June 1998

    “…Count I K O’Rourke 1770-1849 (1845?)
    During the reign of Elisabeth (1740-1761?) his father arrived in
    Russia and became a general-major. His mother was born in Stuart

    1790 IKO’R (as Rotmistz) took part in a Finnish (Army) Company
    1794 in a Polish (Army) Company – he was in Pskov Dragoon Regiment
    1797 he was transferred in famous Pavlograd Houssar Regiment
    1798 a Major of same
    Became a Colonel during Italian (Army) Company of Souvorov
    1805 Decorated with St George Order (the 1st level)
    Was very brave by Austerlitz and Preisisik-Eilay
    1809-1812 Member or Russia-Turkish war – decorated with 3 Orders
    That is why he took part in the war with Napoleon only
    after Napoleon’s occupation of Moscow at the end of Russian
    period of this war in Germany. For his part in the battle
    near Leipzig he was made general –lieutenant. Decorated
    with Order of Alexandz Nevsky. During the Congress in
    Vienna was among the Russian generals 1819 decided to
    leave the Army – lived in Belorussia (not far from Minsk)…”



    Other references to the O’Rourke surname indicate European military involvement of a number of O’Rourke’s – some extracts below:

    “…Because of his princely origin, John O’Rourke, formerly of Leitrim, was given a commission in the Royal Scotch Regiment by Louis XV. His French Colleagues did not like this so he transferred to Russia where, a major in the Czar’s regiment of bodyguards, he fought against Prussia and was presented by Frederick the Great with a diamond-studded sword. He later returned to France where he served with the cavalry and was created a Count. He died in Vienna in 1786, aged 76. Interesting papers relating to Count O’Rourke and his family were not long ago discovered in the Record Office at Vienna…” (Could this be I K O’Rourke’s father???)

    “…Russian army lists of Czarist days record many O’Rourke names. They were also in Poland…”

    “…Joseph O’Rourke, Prince O’Rourke in the Russian aristocracy, was General-in-Chief of the Russian Empire in 1700 and Patrick Count O’Rourke was a distinguished member of the same service in the middle of the last century…”

    “…Of those who went to France the most noteworthy was Colonel Count John O’Rourke (c.1705-1786)…” (presumably the same as the above mentioned??)

    Source: Frank O’Rourke, Canberra, Australia, 16 June 1998


    O'ROURKE - Ireland
    Descended from the sovereign princes of Brien and the kings of Connaught, subsequently reigning counts of County Leitrim. Russia (Irish counts): (IU) 15 Feb. 1760 for John and Cornelius O'Rourke; confirmations: 24 Nov. 1848, 17 Dec. 1851, 15 July 1857, 3 Oct. 1873, 5 Sept. 1883, and 7 Oct. 1885.
    Sources: NAB, NdR, STRL, TN, TRRI I

  2. #2
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    Post Re: A Russian Irish man

    Wow! I didn't know about that.
    Seems to me that Europe and christianity will once again have it's fate decided in Varvarin. The latest events point to that. It'd be glorious if we had such Irish and Russian heroes by our side.

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    Post Re: A Russian Irish man

    Interestingly enough, General Mikhail Barclay and General Lacy were of Scottish heritage, I believe.

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