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    [Fort Sumter]. Union Soldier's Letter by Ira Gensel, 4th U.S. Infantry, Along with Pieces of the Union Flag from Fort Sumter and a Captured Confederate Flag. Four pages on a 7.75" x 8.5" bifolium, on Carson's Congress stationary; Charlestown, Virginia; July 19, 1861. Addressed to Annie G. Robinson, Gensel writes a fascinating account of the anti-Union sentiment in Charlestown, which he refers to as "another contemptable Secessionist town," whose inhabitants talk openly "against the Union, and have treated us very insultingly, refusing to sell anything to eat in many instances." He describes the efforts of Union soldiers to find arms and ammunition hidden by the town's residents.

    "In the Court House cellar underneath where I am writing, was found Seventy loaded muskets, a considerable quantity of powder, lead & cannon balls in the top of the building under the rafters was found quite a number of tents. The soldiers are searching the houses and in almost all of them arms are found secreted. This evening a colored man give information of a large quantity of arms that were hid in a vault in a graveyard near the town. Arrests have been made throughout the day, quite a number of prisoners are now under guard."

    Earlier in the day that he wrote the letter, Gensel visited the cell in which abolitionist John Brown had been held and the location of his execution: "To-day I was in the prison. It is a small affair not more than one half as large as ours in Bucks Co. My object in going was to see the cell in which he was confined. I was also at the ground where he was executed."

    Gensel enclosed small pieces of two flags, one from a captured Confederate flag and one from the U.S. flag that flew over Fort Sumter before it was captured: "Since our stay here we have captured quite a number of secession flags, which the men have divided among themselves. I send you a piece of one I helped capture, it is the bright red. The other is a piece of the flag shot down at Fort Sumter. It was given me by a Lieutenant who was there. I send them to you please take care of both."

    Research suggests that Gensel received the small piece of the Fort Sumter flag from Lieutenant Norman J. Hall (1837-1867), of the 5th U.S. Artillery, who later served as Colonel of the 7th Michigan Infantry. Hall was stationed at Fort Sumter when it fell to Confederate forces on April 14, 1861. During the bombardment, the fort's flag was knocked down. Hall and two other soldiers risked their lives to replace the flag pole and to raise the flag.

    When Fort Sumter was captured by Confederate forces after an extensive bombardment, the United States flag was lowered and given to U.S. Army Major General Robert Anderson. Anderson later toured throughout the North with the torn 33-star flag, which instantly became a popular symbol representing the Union cause. The flag was flown in New York City on April 20, 1861, during a patriotic rally which attracted more than 100,000. The flag was subsequently taken from town to town, where it was auctioned to raise funds for the Union war effort. Citizens who won the flag at auction were expected to return the flag to the nation so that it could be used for future fundraising endeavors. On April 14, 1865, four years to the day after Anderson lowered the flag when surrendering Fort Sumter, he raised the flag again over the fort. The tattered flag is now on exhibit at Fort Sumter museum.

    Ira Fox Gensel (1831-1862) was a shoemaker and a court clerk in Doylestown, Pennsylvania when he enlisted as a private in the Doylestown Guards, which soon became Company 1, 25th Pennsylvania Infantry. Gensel went to Washington, DC, with Company 1 and received a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Infantry in August 1861. A year later, in August 1862, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, Company D, 4th U.S. Infantry. He also served as Provost Marshall of his company. Gensel was present at the battles of Yorktown, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Bull Run, and Antietam. Gensel was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg and died of his wounds in Washington, DC, in December 1862. He was buried in Doylestown Cemetery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

    Condition: The letter has two horizontal and two vertical folds, with slight tears along the bottom horizontal fold. Otherwise the letter is in good condition. The pieces of the two flags still retain their true colors.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2016
    12th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
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