150 years ago today on July 2, 1863, a soldier named Patrick Farrington was engaged in the defense of the fragile Union center along Cemetery Ridge against ferocious Confederate assaults. Patrick was the great great great uncle of Friends member Daniel Orr, who submitted his ancestor for the Great Task project.
Born in Mocollagan, Ireland, Patrick Farrington came to the United States with his parents and brother in 1850 to escape the famine that had ravaged their home country. His sister, Mary, remained in Ireland and joined the family at a later date.
Life in the New York Irish slums was hard and the family had little money. After he apprenticed to a brass molder upon completing his schooling, Patrick took home about $4.00 a week, which was turned over to help his family. The long days working at the hot foundry were difficult, but they prepared him for the even more difficult life of a soldier.
At the age of 19, Patrick Farrington left New York for Washington D.C. and was mustered into the Second New York State Militia, 82nd New York Infantry on May 28, 1861 as a Private. He was promoted to Corporal a year later after the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg). In February of 1863, after participating in the Battle of Fredericksburg, he was promoted to Sergeant and then in March of the same year he rose to the rank of First Sergeant.
Above: Roll call book that belonged to Patrick Farrington. As a First Sergeant, a rank sometimes referred to as an Orderly Sergeant, he would have been the chief administrator of his company. This roll call book was likely how he kept track of his soldiers.
First Sergeant Farrington was very conscious of his family’s financial condition in New York and sent what little he could home. The financial assistance was in the form of, what he refers to in his letters to his family, relief tickets. At the time, city agencies would take the tickets in exchange for either food or money and even though it was not much, it did help his struggling family.
Patrick was well liked among his fellow soldiers and sought out others from home from within his regiment and among the other units. An excerpt from a letter he wrote home Christmas 1862 illustrates how many of the soldiers may have felt being so far from loved ones and familiar traditions and comfort.
“Camp near Falmouth December 25th 1862
Good Morning Father, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Dear Father, last night was Christmas Eve but it did not appear so to me. I never put in so lonely a Christmas in my life. I was on guard and I often thought of home during the night. There was hardly a stir in the Regiment if I am to except a few who, wiser than the rest, spared their money and put it to use last night, but they were but a few. Last Christmas I did not feel it much for I had plenty of everything, but that I missed your faces. But it was far different this time, everybody felt lonesome. And I tell you it was often during the night that I thought of ye. Sometimes I would picture to myself that I walked in among you and that all of you was there, but all of a sudden I would be aroused by the call of the Sentry to halt and give the countersign. It is then that I would feel bad, and look about me for all the faces that I saw in my imagination a few moments before, but they were all gone – no one to be seen. If was in this way that I spent the night and this morning when I was relieved I thought I would lay down and have a sleep, but no sleep would come to my eyes so I had to get up. I began to think what would I do, for I have no person to go to see except John Brown and I saw him the day before yesterday, and he promised to come over to see me today. So I thought that a few lines that I am writing would be welcomed by all of you, when I cannot go and see ye.”
Patricks’ descendants have donated his letters to the National Park Service at Gettysburg. They are also in a 235 page book, The Civil War Letters of Patrick Farrington, written by Elsie Reynolds, the great granddaughter of Mary Farrington, Patrick’s sister.
The 82nd New York was thrown into the war early on. The first engagement was at Bull Run (Manassas) in 1861 where the regiment suffered the loss of 60 killed, wounded, and missing. Later that year, it was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac and eventually was moved to the Peninsula under McClellan in 1862.
Prior to Gettysburg, the 82nd New York was involved in the siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Fair Oaks, the Seven Days Battles, and Antietam, where there was extensive losses. They were also involved in the fighting at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before marching north to Gettysburg.
Camped three miles outside of Gettysburg on July 1, the 82nd was moved to the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge on July 2. As the day progressed, the 82nd New York and the 15th Massachusetts were sent to close the gap between the Second and Third Corps located by the Cordori farm. At approximately 7 pm that evening, Patrick Farrington was shot in the leg, removed from the field of battle and taken to the temporary Second Corps field hospital set up on Granite Station Road. With medical teams struggling due to a lack of training, supplies, and manpower, most wounds of Patrick’s type were treated by amputating the limb, which was the course taken for him. His descendants report that “family tradition, repeated for a hundred years, said that Patrick had no anesthesia.”
Patrick’s father travelled to Gettysburg to visit with his son who, he was told, was going to recover from his wounds. This, however, was not the case. After returning to New York, Patrick’s family was informed that infection, the cause of so many deaths, took hold and his body was not strong enough to fight it. According to his family “he died at 20 minutes to 2 o’clock on Thursday, July 16, 1863 at the Second Corps Hospital near Gettysburg.”
Patrick Farrington is buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. His grave is in Section 17 (New York), Row D (4th row from the outside), Position 24. His headstone reads: Sergt. P. Farrington, Co. G. Regt. 2.
Prior to the young soldier’s passing, he learned that not only was Gettysburg a Union victory but that Grant had taken Vicksburg, another significant Union victory. It must have seemed to him that the conflict was coming to an end he and the other soldiers would soon be able to return home and begin to build their lives again. Neither was true for Patrick Farrington and for so many other soldiers. The war dragged on and many more were lost in the struggle.
While Patrick tragically never left Gettysburg, his sister Mary continued on and had a family. Thanks to her great great grandson Daniel Orr we were able to share Patrick’s story here on Great Task, and make his story available for the 150th commemoration.
And, lastly, we wanted to share this:
Patrick Farrington's luminary candle at the 150th Commemorative Illumination at the Soliders' National Cemetery.