March 19, 2019

Pages 1757-1761
Whole Number 91


The following is an abstract of the papers from the pension file for the Civil War service of John W. Sparks. The originals of these records are preserved in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. For a fee of $2.00, a clerk will search a pension file and reproduce those documents that appear to have genealogical value. Unless one pays to have the entire file copied, which may cost $25.00 or more, one can never be sure that the most significant materials have been copied.

JOHN W. SPARKS (,  son of Richard and Mildred Ann (Satterwhite) Sparks, was born ca. 1841 and died on September 2, 1862. He served in Battery A, 1st Regiment Kentucky Artillery Volunteers. File Designation at the National Archives: Mother's Application No. 21,346.

On August 21, 1863, Mildred A. Sparks, age 39, a resident of Louisville, Kentucky, appeared before Jack Conn, Jefferson County (KY) Court Clerk, to make application for a Mother's Army Pension. She stated that she was the widow of Richard Sparks and the mother of John W. Sparks. John W. Sparks had been a private in Battery A, Kentucky Artillery Volunteers, and had been killed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on September 2, 1862, by being crushed between two railroad cars. She appointed Charles C. Tucker, Washington, D.C., as her attorney. She signed her statement by making her mark.

Robert T. Satterwhite, age 47, and John M. Vaughan, age 31, both of Louisville, witnessed her mark and testified that they were personally acquainted with her. Satterwhite said he had known her since childhood, being her cousin, and he also was well acquainted with her son, John W. Sparks. Vaughan said that he did not know John W. Sparks, but that he did know that Mildred Sparks had grown-up sons and that he often read her letters from said son. He said that he often wrote letters for her to her son, being of marriage connection with the family. Jack Conn, Jefferson County Clerk, certified the declaration of both men and also the statement of Mildred A. Sparks.

Other documents in the pension file of John W. Sparks make it quite clear that his mother had made another earlier application for a pension, probably as early as the fall of 1862. As one sorts these documents into their prcper chronological arrangement, one is inclined to become a trifle impatient at the apparent red tape in handling the claim, and slightly incensed at its ultimate disposition. For these reasons, we shall publish some of the documents in their entirety.

John W. Sparks wrote to his mother on April 23, 1862, from Camp Shiloh, Tenn. He told her that he had received her letter dated April 13th and that he was well and hoped she was in good health. He said, "I have been paid at last. I send you here enclosed $25.00. I stand in need of some things & will keep a part of it. We are still at the same camp & I don't know when we will move from it. I have had my Likeness taken & will also send it. I have nothing of importance to write at present."

The last sentence in the paragraph above is a masterful understatement, for Sparks continued: "I had almost forgot to tell you about the big battle we had here. Buregard attacked Genl. Grant at Pittsburg Landing on Sunday and drove our troops back to the river. Genl. Buell arrived Monday morning and took command and the battle was resumed. The rebels were defeated with great loss. The Louisville Legion was in the fight and done well. We got our battery across the river just as the battle was over. Then we went out on Tuesday and was in the cavalry fight that day but none of us got hurt. The battlefield was a terrible sight. Sam Shook who was in the Sixth Kentucky was among the missing. We don't know whether he was killed or not. Balard Bellis was in it but was not hurt." Sparks then told his mother that he was sending the money by Adams Express for safety. He sent love to her and to "Siss."

John W. Sparks was killed on September 2, 1862, and his commanding officer, Capt. D.C. Stone, filled out the standard certificate which was used when a soldier was discharged prior to the discharge of the entire company, and which reads as follows: "I certify, on honor, that John W. Sparks, a private in Battery A, 1st Regt. Artillery Volunteers, State of Kentucky, born in Henry County, KY, aged 20 years, 5 ft. 10 in. high, fair complexion, grey eyes, light hair, and by occupation a farmer, having joined the company on its original organization at Camp Joe Holt, and mustere" into service of the United States on the 15th day of September 1861 to serve for a term of three years, and having served honestly and faithfully with his company to the present date, he was killed accidentally at Murfresboro, Tenn., September 2, 1862. The said Private John W. Sparks was last paid by Paymaster Martin to include the 30th day of April 1862 and has pay due him from that time to the present date. He has received $55.02 advanced by the United States on account of clothing. He is indebted to Geo. Bickel, Sutler of the Battery, $16.45. Given at Murfresboro, Tenn., this - - - day of September 1862."

On September 12, 1862, Capt. Stone wrote the following letter from a camp near Bowling Green to John Gay in Louisville: "Being told that you are personally acquainted with Mrs. Sparks living in your neighborhood, it becomes my painful duty to announce through you to Mrs. Sparks the death of her son, John W. Sparks, a member of my Battery - - he joined at Camp Joe Holt." The letter continues: "The circumstances are as follows. A large lot of captured flour was being loaded on the cars at Murfresboro, Tenn., a number of barrels being broken, a quantity of flour was spilled. He and another comrade was gathering up some of the flour about the cars when the freight cars were struck by a locomotive, he being in the act of jumping out of the way, was caught between the cars and crushed. He lived but a few minutes. The deceased was a good soldier and a brave young man. He was buried with military honors by the Battery in the City Grave Yard at Murfresboro, side by side with Kentuckians. His effects and pay will be made out and sent on in due form. Any kindest regards to Mrs. Sparks and anything I can do to aid in the settlement of the affairs of her son, I will cheerfully do. In the death of John W. Sparks, I have lost a noble soldier and always ready t o do his duty. A brave and noble young soldier has fallen to sleep doing service for his country."

On December 17, 1862, the mother of John W. Sparks, who had married George Crittenden, made the following statement: "I, Mildred A. Sparks, alias Crittenden, mother and heir at law of John W. Sparks, late private, deceased, of Capt. Stone's Battery of Kentucky Volunteers, and as such an applicant benefit of Act of July 14, 1862, state that the annexed is an envelope in which my said son sent money to me per Express. This 17th day of December 1862." Mrs. Sparks made her mark which was witnessed by Joseph Youll (?) and Jack Conn.

The envelope referred to by Mrs. Sparks was a standard envelope used by the Adams Express Company for the transmittal of money. It was used on April 28, 1862, by her son to send her $25.00. Matthias Rabbeth, Money Messenger for the company, testified that he had delivered the envelope to Mrs. Sparks, now Crittenden, on May 8, 1862, at her home on Ballard Street in Louisville.

On December 17, 1862, John Omer, age 33, a resident of Louisville and a grocer, made an affidavit in support of Mrs. Sparks's claim. He said that John W. Sparks had worked for him in his grocery prior to going into the service, and that on many occasions, Mrs. Sparks had drawn money or groceries against her son's wages, but with his full knowledge and consent.

As to other support of Mrs. Sparks, Omer testified as follows: "I further state that George Crittenden who married said Mrs. Mildred A. Sparks in 1861 also worked for me in my grocery but that he did not, as far as I know or ever heard of, contribute any thing to support of his said wife, said Mrs. Sparks or her family, but on the contrary, positively refused to do so even when I was in his debt and suggested to him to let me pay his said wife either in money or groceries he positively refused to do so - - and did not. Report came that said Crittenden had a wife living and he went away and I have not since either seen or heard of him as living with said Mrs. Mildred A. Sparks, alias Crittenden."

The Clerk of Henry County, KY, M.B. Pearce, was unable to find the marriage record of the parents of John W. Sparks. On February 13, 1863 Pearce certified that he had made a diligent search of the records from 1835 to 1845, but was unable to find any record of the marriage of Richard Sparks and Mildred Ann Satterwhite. His statement is quite puzzling for a record of the marriage of Richard Sparks and Milly Ann Satterwhite on January 7, 1840, is on file in the Henry County Courthouse. (See page 763, of the Quarterly of September 1963, Vol. XI, No. 3, Whole No. 43)

The Adjutant General's Office confirmed the military service of John W. Sparks on June 13, 1863; however, the Bureau of Pensions apparently requested further details about his death, for on July 7, 1863, his former commanding officer, Capt. D.C. Stone, swore to the following: "It is hereby certified that John W. Sparks, a private in Battery A, comanded by Capt. D.C. Stone in the lst Regt. KY. Artillery Volunteers, in the war of 1861 -1862, died whilst in the service in Murfresboro, Tenn., on the 2nd day of September 1862, from wounds received in the line of duty, viz: being crushed between two cars which came into collision."

Capt. Stone's statement was refuted by another military officer, which caused Mrs. Sparks's attorney, C.C. Tucker, to write to C.H. Barkley in Louisville, on August 19, 1863, as follows: "I have just received a certificate from Capt. Thomasson concerning the death of John W. Sparks. He says the soldier was not killed while in the line of duty, but on the contrary, was on a car contrary to orders and attempting to steal flour when a train struck the cars knocking Sparks off and injuring him so much that he died. This seems to shut the door against the claim of the mother for a pension unless you can show a different state of facts by some of the other officers."

Upon receipt of Tucker's letter, Barkley wrote on the margin: "This report is certainly an erroneous one - - see enclosures. C.H.B." He then apparently got Capt. Stone to enlarge upon the circumstances surrounding Sparks's death. Capt. Stone made the following affidavit: "Being informed that it has been reported that said Sparks was killed while stealing flour, I answer that the report is erroneous. That some barrels of captured flour had busted in the cars and that the soldiers had gathered up some and taken it to cook instead of their bread, it being government flour and in such condition that it was worthless to the government in transportation, but to the soldiers as a change from army crackers. Besides this the men had been on short rations from Battle Creek up. Besides this moreover the soldiers that went to get flour there and then did not that I ever heard of go for it for the purpose of plundering or stealing in any sense in which that word can be used properly, but only to get government flour for their own eating, and flour that would otherwise go to waste and there was no aspect of the case in which the transaction could be called 'Stealing' in any ordinary or proper use of words." The affidavit was signed on August 24, 1863, by Capt. Stone as late Capt. Battery A, 1st KY. Arty., and was attested to by Jack Conn, Jefferson County (KY) Court Clerk.

Capt. Stone's supplemental statement was sent to Attorney Tucker by Mr. Barkley on September 3, 1863, with this accompanying letter: "I enclose Capt. Stone's supplemental statement which you will use if needed. Capt. S. is much incensed that Capt. T. should write as he has done in regard to one of the best soldiers and best boys that were in the Company. The young man was not a thief from what I can learn of him, but those who did know him speak of him as having been a good boy, quiet and inoffensive, sober and honest and dutiful to his mother who has struggled hard for some years in honest poverty to raise her children in good credit."

Attorney Tucker wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions on September 20, 1864, and asked what action had been taken in the case of Mildred A. Sparks, alias Crittenden, mother of John W. Sparks, of Kentucky, No. 21,346. Tucker said that a new application had been filed on August 25., 1863. There is nothing among the papers supplied by the National Archives from this file to denote whether Tucker received an answer.

The final status of this claim can probably best be summed up by a memorandum from the file. It is not dated; there is no addressee; and the sender's initials are the only identification. It reads as follows: "I have been shown a Captain's certificate stating in the strongest terms that the soldier for whose services this claim is made was at the time of his death absent without leave on a car stealing flour. There is enclosed a letter from C.C. Tucker referring to the said certificate. Mr. Barkley has furnished a certificate equally strong that the said soldier was in the line of duty. Is it best to call for additional evidence in this case? The first declaration and proofs were so voluminous that you directed the return of the papers with the information that this office refused to receive it as a declaration. O.D.B."

(Editor's Note: No pension was approved for Mrs. Mildred A. Sparks, alias Crittenden. Her estate was settled in the Jefferson County (KY) Court on October 4, 1876, by Robert Satterwhite, administrator. We believe that Richard Sparks, father of John W. Sparks, was a son of Walter Sparks who married Susan Prewitt in Henry County, KY, in 1814.)

Page 1792
Whole Number 92


In the Quarterly of September 1975 (Vol. XXIII, No. 3, Whole No. 91, pp. 1757-61) we published the pension application of the mother of John W. Sparks who died while a soldier in the Union Army on September 2, 1862. He was a son of Richard and Mildred Ann (Satterwhite) Sparks. His mother was a resident of Louisville, KY, in 1863 when she applied for a Mother's Army Pension. We have noted since the publication of this record that this family was living in Nineveh Township, Johnson County, Indiana, when the 1850 census was taken. The family was listed as follows:

  Age Born Occupation
Sparks, Richard   35 Kentucky Farmer
     "      Mildred 28     "  
     "      James J.  10     "  
     "      John W.   8 Indiana  
     "      William B.   2     "