Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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O'HARA, Theodore, poet, born in Danville, Kentucky, 11 February, 1820; died near Guerryton, Bullock County, Alabama, 6 June, 1867. He was the son of Kane O'Hara, an Irish political exile, and was graduated at St. Joseph academy, Bardstown, Kentucky, where he entered the senior class and acted as professor of Greek while he was completing his studies. He then read law, was admitted to the bar, and in 1845 was appointed to a place in the treasury department at Washington. At the beginning of the Mexican war he entered the army, and was appointed captain and assistant quartermaster of volunteers, 26 June, 1846. He was brevetted major, 20 August, 1847, for gallant conduct in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, and was mustered out on 15 October, 1848. He was appointed captain in the 2d cavalry, 3 March, 1855, but resigned on 1 December, 1856. When the remains of the Kentucky soldiers that fell at Buena Vista in February, 1847, were removed to their native state, Major O'Hara wrote for the occasion the poem by which he is best known. "The Bivouac of the Dead," which begins with the stanza"
"The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier's last tattoo No more on life's parade shall meet That brave and fallen few on Fame's eternal camping-ground Their silent tents are spread"And Glory guards, with solemn round, The bivouac of the dead."
Lines from this poem are inscribed over the entrances of several of the national cemeteries. At the close of the war Colonel O'Hara returned to Washington, D. C., where he practised his profession. He afterward went with a filibustering expedition to Cuba, and commanded a regiment in the battle of Cardenas, where he was wounded. During the absence of John Forsythe from the United States as minister to Mexico, O'Hara edited the "Mobile Register." he was afterward editorially connected with the Louisville "Times" and the Frankfort, Kentucky, " Yeoman." He was several times intrusted by the government with diplomatic missions, and was especially active in the negotiations regarding the Tehuantepec grant. During the civil war he joined the Confederate army, and was made colonel of the 12th Alabama regiment. Subsequently he served on the staffs of General Albert Sidney Johnston and General John C. Breckinridge. After the war he engaged in the cotton business in Columbus, Georgia, but lost everything" by fire, and retired to a plantation, where he died. After his " Bivouac of the Dead" his best-known poem is "The Old Pioneer." In accordance with a resolution of the Kentucky legislature, his remains were conveyed to that state and buried by the side of those whom he had commemorated. See "O'Hara and His Elegies," by George W. Ranck (Baltimore, 1875).
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