b. 04/03/1837 York County, Pennsylvania. d. 31/03/1920 York, Pennsylvania.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02/04/1865 Fort Sedgwick, Virginia.
Charles H. Ilgenfritz was born in 1837 in York County. He enlisted on August 27, 1864, in York as the first sergeant of Company E of the 207th Pennsylvania Infantry (later known as “Cox’s Tioga Tigers”) and was mustered in on September 3. He and his regiment served in Northern Virginia and saw action in the Siege of Petersburg. On April 2, 1865, as Ulysses S. Grant’s forces made their final push to break through Robert E. Lee’s entrenched Confederates, the 207th took part in the savage fighting at Fort Sedgwick.
This would be Charles Ilgenfritz’s shining moment as a soldier.
When the color bearer fell with seven wounds, Ilgenfritz “immediately sprang forward and grasped the colors, planting them upon the enemy’s fort amid a murderous fire of grape, canister, and musketry from the enemy.”
It was a brave act, one noticed by his comrades and later reported to Gen. John F. Hartranft, who made note of the incident in his official report. According to York Dispatch interview, “The charge [of the 207th] had been made over dangerous and treacherous ground offering many obstructions, among them pits covered with brush, and in which sharp-pointed stakes has been placed for the impalement of the soldiers falling into the pits. Sergeant Ilgenfritz fell into one of these pits but fortunately it did not have the murderous stakes in it. He climbed out and ran to overtake his company, which was charging upon the enemy’s fort.”
“He came along side the color bearer just as the latter fell riddled by grape shot, and seizing the flag from the dying soldier’s hands he mounted the enemy’s works and placed the flag there. A young soldier named J.R. Hutchinson, who was by Sergeant Ilgenfritz’s side at the time of the deed of bravery received a ball in the thigh after it had passed through Sergeant Ilgenfritz’s clothing. This same soldier [Hutchinson] is now a minister of the United Brethren denomination in New Cumberland and has served charges in York County.”
“The brave act of Sergeant Ilgenfritz is depicted in bronze statuary of the field of heroic size on a monument erected on the field of Petersburg. This memorial was unveiled in May 1906, with President Taft as a participant in the ceremonies. Charles H. Ilgenfritz and his wife attended the ceremonies and the Yorker was greatly honored on the occasion.”
On March 24, 1917, almost 52 years after the guns fell silent at Fort Sedgwick, Ilgenfritz received the Army Medal of Honor. In addition to the impressive medal, he received a special pension addition of $10 / month.
Charles Ilgenfritz is one of two Medal of Honor recipients from the Civil War to be buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery in York, the other being J. Henry Denig of the Marines.
The color bearer falling, pierced by seven balls, he immediately sprang forward and grasped the colors, planting them upon the enemy’s forts amid a murderous fire of grape, canister, and musketry from the enemy.
BURIAL LOCATION: PROSPECT HILL CEMETERY, YORK, PENNSYLVANIA.
SECTION E, LOT 115, GRAVE 4-7.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.