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Federal (USA)

Lieutenant

Ira Fox Gensel

(c. 1831 - 1862)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 4th United States Infantry

Before Antietam

A former shoemaker, and lately deputy Prothonotary in Doylestown, PA, he enlisted as Private in the Doylestown Guards in April 1861; they became Company I, 25th Pennsylvania Infantry (3 months') and he went to Washington with them, where his Captain helped him obtain a commission as 2nd Lieutenant, 4th US Infantry in August 1861. Promoted to First Lieutenant, Company D to date to August 1862. Present at Yorktown, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, and 2nd Manassas.

On the Campaign

He was in action with his Company at Antietam.

The rest of the War

After the battle he wrote to Annie Robinson:

Camp on the Potomac opposite Shepherdstown, Va.,
Sept. 22, 1862.

...the same old stenotypes order 'to be ready to move at a moments notice' has just been received ... some intelligent contrabands have just come into our lines and report the enemy in large force about three miles distant on the opposite side of the river ... [I] am ready for anything.

I spent most of the day yesterday in Sharpsburg and took dinner with a very pretty young lady - one that gave me something to eat when I marched through here over a year ago. She remained in the cellar of their house during the battle with her mother. The house was struck four times during the battle. One of the shot a 32 pounder passing quite through it. She showed me a large piece of it which she says she intends keeping as long as she lives. Her name is Annie. She is very smart and it was quite a treat to sit and converse with her. As I was about leaving she gave me an invitation to come in and take tea with them ... but the order just received will keep me in camp.

Sharpsburg, when I passed through it a year ago, was a quiet beautiful little country village ... in favor of the Union ... that same sentiments still exist, perhaps stronger now owing to the rebel raid, but how changed the town. In the streets every thing is military and almost every other house is a hospital. Some of the finest dwellings are completely riddled with cannon balls and quite a number were burned. Mrs. Dr. Biggs took me to her parlor where a shell had burst. It seemed like a complete breaking up of housekeeping and parlor furniture.

The town presents a sad sight...many families had left before the battle and now return to their houses only to find them in ruins or broken open and pillaged.

The fight appears to have been a harder one than I expected...the loss of life was terrible. Among those that fell was poor [Col] Sam Croasdale [128th Penn. Vols.] of Doylestown. I met him with his regiment at Frederic City the Sunday before the battle...a few words were exchanged and I bid him good by ... how I pity his poor sisters. I know them well they are accomplished ladies ...

this war I think is much nearer an end now than it ever has been. A few weeks more and the rebel army will be broken up. The men are destitute of almost everything necessary to sustain life hungry, ragged and barefoot ...

Ira
He was mortally wounded in action at Fredericksburg, VA in 13 December 1862, and died of wounds at Washington, DC on 28 December 1862, at age 31.

References & notes

Basic information from Powell1, with some details from William Watts Hart Davis' History of Doylestown, Old and New (1904). The letter excerpted above from one in a set offered by Cowan's Auctions in October 2018. Age at death from his gravestone on Findagrave. A photograph of him standing, in uniform, is among the Portrait Photographs (SC-29-07), in Folder 365, at the Mercer Museum, Doylestown, PA.

More on the Web

Apparently an artist of sorts, some of his wartime work has survived to be auctioned in this century.

Birth

c. 1831; Catawissa, PA

Death

12/28/1862 Washington, DC; burial in Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

Notes

1   Powell, William Henry, A History of the Organization and Movements of the Fourth Regiment of Infantry, United States Army, Washington, DC: McGill and Witherow, Printers and Stereotypers, 1871, pp. 88 - 202  [AotW citation 13660]