Displaying items by tag: Civil War

Thursday, 08 October 2020 18:25

Col. William Allebaugh

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Members of the Historical Society of Montgomery County may already be familiar with our county’s record in the Civil War: Generals Hancock and Hartranft, Col. Bolton who famously coughed up a bullet years after the war, and nurse Anna Morris Holstein. But, you might not be familiar with Col. William Allebaugh.

Allebaugh was born in Bucks County and came to Norristown as a young man where he worked as a tailor. He was involved in one of the “National Artillery” companies in Norristown that was commanded by Col. John F. Hartraft. When war broke out the unit signed up for three months. For this initial enlistment, Allebaugh was captain of Company A.

He did not see action during those first three months, being stationed in Havre de Grace, MD, but upon re-enlistment for 3 years he was made captain of Company C of the 51st Pennsylvania Volunteers. He fought at Roanoke Island, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. After a brief furlough at the end of his three years, Allebaugh re-enlisted, and the regiment was sent to Virginia for Grant’s push on Richmond.

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Photo of the monument to the 51st PA at Antietam, from the National Park Service

At the Battle of Spottsylvania in May of 1864, company C had the honor of carrying the regimental colors. They stationed in open ground and overwhelmed by the Confederates who captured the colors. In an attempt to recapture them, Allebaugh was surrounded and forced to surrender.

Here, the story gets a little murky. In the obituary that appeared in the Herald and Free Press, it claims he was held in Richmond, then transferred to the notorious Andersonville prisoner of war camp in Georgia. He escaped with three others and reached Sherman’s lines on the march from Atlanta to the Sea. That took place from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864, meaning that Allebaugh was held prisoner for about 6 months.

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Andersonville prison camp, HSMC 1952.10201

However, the very same issue of the newspaper has a somewhat different story. Under the headline “The Story of his Adventures while a Prisoner in the Hands of the Rebels as Told by Himself,” this article says Allebaugh and two others escaped while marching through Augusta, Georgia, an area settled by Pennsylvania Germans before the war. However, there was no way to get them out of the area, and the men re-surrendered to the Rebels. They were taken to Andersonville. Again, Allebaugh escaped with two men from the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry, but they were recaptured two weeks later.

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As the Confederacy collapsed, the prisoners were transferred for Charleston and then Columbia, South Carolina. Just before Columbia fell, the prisoners were loaded onto a train that moved so slowly Allebaugh and some other prisoners cut a hole in the floor and dropped through. He arrived back at Columbia just as the rebels were fleeing the city and Sherman’s men were entering. That puts Allebaugh reaching Union lines in February, 1865 (the city surrendered on February 17).

Upon rejoining the 51st at Alexandria, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and later breveted a colonel. He returned to Norristown after the war, and served two terms as burgess. He died at the age of 55 of erysipelas, a skin infection now curable with antibiotics. The battle flag of the 51st was carried at his funeral which was attended by many surviving members of the regiment. He left a wife and several children, but his wife Mary passed away about one week after him. They are both buried in Montgomery Cemetery.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 21 May 2020 16:38

A New Leg for a Bootmaker

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Although this prosthesis looks ‘steampunk,’ it dates to around the Civil War.  Its owner, Joseph Detweiler Hagey, enlisted as a private in July of 1862 with Company I of the 138th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, under the command of Captain Augustus G. Feather of Norristown.  He fought in a long list of battles and skirmishes, such as the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.  At the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864, Hagey was wounded in the leg.  The injury required his leg to be amputated below the knee.

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After he was discharged in June of 1865, he returned to Hatfield and worked as a bootmaker.  He became dissatisfied with his government-issued prosthesis, so he decided to make something new and different.  His hand-crafted prosthesis is made of wood covered in leather, with metal springs.  The foot is made of two separate pieces of wood shaped like a human foot and held together with leather, so that the toe can bend.  The bottom of the foot is covered in leather to make for more cushioned walking.  The ankle is movable due to the metal springs which attach it to the metal calf.  Leather straps act like a garter to hold the prosthetic leg in place around the knee.  This fascinating piece of technology is in the collection of the Historical Society.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 14 November 2019 18:38

Civil War Lithographs

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My mission of processing and describing our archives has finally brought me to our oversized materials. Stacked on long flat shelves at the back of the lower stacks, these items are often in old and sometimes broken frames. There are all sorts of items – certificates, diplomas, maps, and posters. Today, I wanted to take a look at three similar items I’ve found.

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This lithograph for Company I of the 93rd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers was done after the war. Enlisted men are named along with a remark on their discharge or if they died or were transferred. In the bottom corners, the poster shows the battles that the unit took part in. Spaces for small photographs are on the poster, but our example doesn’t include any.

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Lithography is a form of printing invented in 1796. An image is first drawn with oil on stone (metal plates are used now). Then lithographers use acid to etch the sections of the stone not covered by the oil. The oil is wiped clean, but enough remains to repel the water that’s applied in the next step. The water sticks to the etched sections of the stone and repels the oil based paint used to create the final image that is printed on to paper.

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This next lithograph was in honor of the 175th Regiment, PA Vols. Made in 1863 by Schroeder and Sanders, it has less information since the war was still ongoing. There are open spaces at the bottom corners for information to be filled in.  It features the battle between the Monitor and Merrimack on the lower right.

Originally lithographs were black and white, and chromolithography was developed in the 1830’s. Each color was on a separate stone so the paper had to be printed on several times. This allowed printers to mass produce these posters while changing the details of each regiment and company.

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Our best preserved lithograph is also the oldest. Produced in 1862, the same year the regiment mustered, this poster honors the 138th Regiment, PA Vols. This lithograph, which features images of Fort Sumter and the Battle of Bull Run, was created by Currier and Ives in New York. It has three photographs of Company C’s captain and lieutenants. There’s an oval at the bottom for another photograph. Since this was produced at the beginning of the war, it was presumably owned by a soldier’s family. The empty oval might be for the family to put a photograph of their loved one in.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 11 July 2019 20:00

Major Joseph K. Corson

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

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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.

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Joseph, Ada, and Edward on vacation in Atlantic City

Published in Found in Collection
Wednesday, 08 August 2018 20:09

The Great Sanitary Fair

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.[1]

 

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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.[2] 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.[3] As the Commission became more organized, larger fundraising events, like the Sanitary Fairs, became more prevalent.

 

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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.[4] With different venues for attendees to shop and dine, the Great Sanitary Fair raised approximately $1,046,000.[5] 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.[6] 

 

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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.
                                                                                                                                                                  

 


[1] Kerry L. Bryan, “Civil War Sanitary Fairs,” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, Rutgers University, 2012, http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/civil-war-sanitary-fairs/

[2] 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

[3] “United States Sanitary Commission Records 1861-1879 [bulk 1861-1872]”, The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts, December 2013, http://archives.nypl.org/mss/3101

[4] 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/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 27 April 2017 20:01

The 51st at Fredericksburg

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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.

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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.

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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…”

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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.  

Published in Found in Collection