Research Subjects: Biographies

Russian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars: General Joseph Kornilovich O’Rourke

By Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS

(1762 - 1849)

Joseph Kornilovich O’Rourke was born to Irish noble family; his father moved to Russia under Empress Elizabeth and served as a major general in the Russian army. O’Rourke was enlisted as a sergeant in the Life Guard Izmailovsk Regiment in 1776 and was transferred as a captain the Pskov Dragoon Regiment in 1790. He fought in the Russo-Swedish War in 1789-1790 and participated in the 1794 Campaign in Poland. He was transferred to the Pavlograd Hussar Regiment in 1797 and promoted to major in 1798. In 1799, O’Rourke served in Rimsky-Korsakov’s corps in Switzerland, was awarded Order of St. George (4th Class) for Zurich and promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1800. During the 1805 Campaign, he served in the rearguard and fought at Schongrabern and Austerlitz. In 1806-1807, he took part in battles at Golimyn, Eylau (awarded Order of St. Vladimir, 3rd Class). In March 1807, he was sent to Volhynia to form the Volhynia Uhlan Regiment and was appointed chef of this regiment on 19 May 1807. In 1808 - 1811, he served in the Danube Valley and distinguished himself at Giurgiu. He was promoted to major general on 3 August 1810. In 1810, he was dispatched to Serbia, where he defeated the Turks at Palanka and Banya, and was awarded the Order of St. George (3rd Class), 10 December 1810. He also fought at Jasika, Varvarino, and on the Morava River. He later joined the main forces and fought the Turks at Kalafat. For his actions, O’Rourke was awarded the Order of St. Anna (1st Class) with diamonds and the Order of St. Vladimir (2nd Class) . In early 1812, he commanded Russian troops on the border of Bosnia, but was recalled to Volhynia. He commanded a cavalry detachment and fought on the Bug and Berezina Rivers and pursued the French from Molodechno to Kovno. In 1813, O’Rourke took part in rearguard actions on the Oder River and at Dresden, Magdeburg, Leipzig, and Kulm (where he received the Iron Cross). He was promoted to lieutenant general on 10 October 1813 with seniority since 16 August 1813. In October 1813, he fought at Dennewitz, Leipzig, and Kassel. During the 1814 Campaign in France, O’Rourke commanded a cavalry corps in the Army of North and fought at Craonne, St. Dizier, Bar sur Aube, and Laon (awarded the Order of St. Alexander of Neva), and Paris. For his actions in 1813-1814, he was awarded the Prussian Order of Red Eagle, the Swedish Order of the Sword, and the Hessen-Kassel Order of Military Merit. In August 1814, he was appointed to command 2nd Uhlan Division. The next year, O’Rourke accompanied Alexander I to Vienna and participated in the Congress of Vienna. In 1816-1818, he commanded Lithuanian Uhlan Division and became commander of the 1st Hussar Division on 4 May 1819. He was relieved of duty on 25 July 1819 and retired to his countryside estate near Minsk. During the Polish Rebellion of 1830, he mobilized the reserves in Minsk gubernia and was awarded the Order of St. Alexander of Neva with diamonds. He was promoted to general of cavalry on 22 April 1841. He died at his estate at Vselube in Grodno gubernia in April 1849. During his career, O’Rourke received two golden swords (one with diamonds) for courage.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2003; updated December 2003.


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