Joseph K. Corson in uniform
Born in Maple Hill in Whitemarsh Township in 1836, Joseph K. Corson was the son of Dr. Hiram and Ann (Foulke) Corson. He followed his father (and many other members of his family) to the University of Pennsylvania Medical Department. He was studying there in 1861 when the Civil War broke out, and he enlisted as a 90 day volunteer in the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment in Norristown. He was discharged in July of the same year and returned to medical school.
Corson was appointed a medical cadet at an army hospital in Philadelphia while he finished his studies. He graduated in March of 1863 and re-entered the army as an assistant surgeon. He was at several battles including Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spottsylvania. At the Battle of Bristoe Station on October 14, 1963, Corson, with another man, went back under heavy artillery fire to rescue a wounded soldier and bring him to safety. For his heroism, he was awarded the National Medal of Honor.
After war, he practiced medicine with his father Hiram Corson for a short period, but in 1867 he went back into the army as an assistant surgeon. Over the next decades he was stationed all around the country from upstate New York, Alabama, and out west.
Mary Ada Corson, heartbreaker
While he was stationed in Wyoming, he married Mary Ada Carter, the daughter of Judge William Carter, originally of Virginia. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article from April 12, 1964, Joseph had competition for Ada’s hand in the form of Captain Arthur MacArthur (eventually father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and also a National Medal of Honor winner).
The Carter home in Wyoming, where Ada Carter broke Arthur MacArthur's heart
The Corsons had two children. Their daughter, Mary Carter Corson was born at Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama in 1876. Her parents sent her to school in Philadelphia. In 1890, she was returning to her parents after having been away for a year, when her train went over an embankment and she was killed. Their son, Edward F. Corson was born at Jefferson Barrack in Missouri in 1883. He, too, attended the University of Pennsylvania and became a doctor.
Joseph Corson and his two children. Mary died at the age of 14.
Joseph K. Corson died in 1913 and was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Joseph, Ada, and Edward on vacation in Atlantic City
Upon first glance, this green glass mug may not appear to be historically significant. However, according to our records, it was bought in 1864 at the Soldiers’ Fair in Logan Square, Philadelphia. The Soldiers’ Fair, also known as Sanitary Fairs, was a grassroots movement where U.S. citizens used their own unique skills to sell products to provide funding for Union soldiers during the American Civil War.
Glass Mug, HSMC, 1923.7452.001
When the Civil War began in 1861, women across the Northern U.S. organized local fundraising events to provide supplies for Union Soldiers. As this localized fundraising became popular, a law to create the U.S. Sanitary Commission was passed on June 18, 1861. This law allowed the civilian run Commission to organize the funding and distribution of medical and sanitary supplies for the Union Army. As the Commission became more organized, larger fundraising events, like the Sanitary Fairs, became more prevalent.
The Great Central Fair in Logan Square, 1864. Photo Credit: (Library of Congress)
The 1864 Great Sanitary Fair, sometimes referred to as the Great Central Fair, opened on June 7, 1864 in Logan Square, Philadelphia. This fair lasted for three weeks and had roughly 250,000 attendees. With different venues for attendees to shop and dine, the Great Sanitary Fair raised approximately $1,046,000. The success of the fair even set a precedent for future fundraising and celebratory fairs in Philadelphia. In 1876, Philadelphia city leaders used the 1864 Great Sanitary Fair as a template to plan for the Centennial celebration.
Ground plan of buildings of the Great Central Sanitary Fair, Logan Square, Philadelphia, June 1864.
(Philadelphia: Printed & Lithogrd. by P. S. Duval & Son, 1864). Photo Credit: Library Company of Philadelphia.
 Kerry L. Bryan, “Civil War Sanitary Fairs,” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, Rutgers University, 2012, http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/civil-war-sanitary-fairs/
 Henry W. Bellows, D.D., The United States Sanitary Commission, G. P. Putnam’s Son Sons Printers, N.Y., http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/gdc/scd0001/2013/20130904008un/20130904008un.pdf
 Harry Kyriakodis, “Logan Square, Lincoln & The Great Sanitary Fair of 1864”, Hidden City Philadelphia, June 20, 2014, https://hiddencityphila.org/2014/06/logan-square-president-lincoln-the-great-sanitary-fair-of-1864/
If you’re a local Civil War buff, you are probably aware of the Fifty-First Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. Led by future Pennsylvania governor, John F. Hartranft, the Fifty-first’s most famous moment in battle is probably its taking of the bridge at Antietam. However, just a few months later, the regiment found itself in another battle, this time in Fredericksburg.
The Fifty-First Regiment was organized by Hartranft in 1861, after the initial 90 day enlistments ended. Made of ten companies, five hailed from Montgomery County, while the other five were made up of men from central Pennsylvania. After the Battle of Antietam in September, 1862, the Fifty-first crossed the Potomac in to Virginia in October, eventually coming to Fredericksburg by mid-November.
John F. Hartranft
Men from the Fifty-first, including the eventual author of the regimental history, Thomas H. Parker, then a sergeant, were on picket the night before the attack. In the early morning hours, the brigade commander’s chief of staff appeared and said, “Pack up, boys, and get out of here as soon as you can, for we are going to open on the city as quick as you get away.” Parker writes that they withdrew “without the least noise imaginable.” At 4 AM on December 12, 1862, the Union cannons opened fire on the city.
From the book Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America, volume 2 by Benson J. Lossing
The regiment crossed the Rappahonnock River and entered the city later that day. Parker describes intense fighting:
“The air seemed so full of balls that one would supposed that a finger could not be pointed towards the rebel batteries without being hit on the end with a bullet, and it is a mystery to the writer how under the sun even one man reached alive the position assigned to the regiment, it being directly in face of more than a mile of earthworks, behind which lay thousands of rebels, who kept up their incessant volley after volley of musketry, and their batteries volleys of grape and canister, to say nothing of the rifle shells that passed through the rand and went screeching and whizzing through the air. It was here were Capt. Ferdinand Bell, of Co. B, was killed…”
The Union army withdrew from Fredericksburg on December 15. Parker writes that 90 men out of 270 were killed and wounded (though he notes that many men who were slightly wounded did not report it). This list, printed by the National Defender, shows 81 names, and some of the names are spelled differently than in the regimental history.