February 14, 2021

Pages 1835-1840
Whole Number 95 BATEMAN R. SPARKS, 1841-1918

[Editor's Note: The complete pension file for Bateman R. Sparks has been obtained from the National Archives. Following is an abstract of these papers. The file number for these papers in the National Archives is Certificate 418,573.]

On January 15, 1883, Bateman R. Sparks signed a form that had been printed with appropriate blanks to be filled in, entitled "Declaration for Original Invalid Pension." He appeared before the clerk of the County Court of Cumberland County, Illinois, and stated that he was a resident of the town of Sumpter in Cumberland County and that he was the same Bateman R. Sparks who had enrolled on June 1, 1862, in Company A of the 54th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry commanded by Russell W. Williams and that he had been discharged at Little Rock, or Duvals Bluff, Arkansas, on May 30, 1865. He stated that he was then (1883) 41 years old, that he was 5 feet 7½ inches tall, of light complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. He stated that while in line of duty on a march from Clarion, Tennessee, "on or about the middle of August 1862, he was prostrated with sun stroke which caused him to become insane." He stated that he had been a resident of the town of Sumpter and that he had been a farmer since leaving the service and that he "is now partially disabled." He appointed C. B. Castels of Toledo, Illinois, to be his attorney to prosecute his claim. He signed this document as "B. R. Sparks," and his witnesses signed as Wm. C. Prather and Western R. Humphrey.

The next document in this file, which is dated June 2, 1883, is in obvious response to the office of the Commissioner of Pensions' request to the Adjutant General's office for information regarding Sparks's service and illness while in service. Besides giving his enlistment date, this report states that Sparks had been "sent home insane to Mattoon, Illinois," on August 8, 1862, but that he was back on duty on February 15, 1864. The report concluded: "No hospital records of organization, company morning reports prior to 1865 or medical certificate for furlough 1862 on file."

On September 8, 1883, Bateman R. Sparks signed a disability affidavit in which he gave additional information about himself. He stated that for ten years prior to his enlistment he had resided in the Toledo, Illinois, area and that since 1865 he had continued to live there "excepting 42 years I resided in Indiana" - - that he had returned to Illinois "nearly seven years ago." He claimed disability because of a sunstroke that he had suffered in August 1862 "on the march between Union City, Tenn., and Dyersburg" and that since then he had suffered from "Bilious Cholick and an attack of Lung Fever" for which he had been treated by Dr. J. W. Eskridge of Chicago, Illinois. As a result of the sunstroke, he stated: "I was generally able to perform manual labor in cool weather, but was unable to labor in very warm weather and in the Summer season." He signed this document as Bateman R. Sparks; it was witnessed by Western W. Humphrey and John W. Goodwin.

In another statement made on October 31, 1883, Bateman R. Sparks added: "I was first treated for the disease of Sun Stroke for which I claim Pension at Union City, Tenn. as I now remember sometime in the month of August A.D. 1862, then sent to my home in Cumberland County, Illinois, and treated at home in Illinois about seven months, then returned to the Regt. and was treated in Post Hospital in Duvalls Bluff for Typhoid fever about the Summer months of 1864."

There are no further documents in the file until 1887, at which time a number of sworn statements were made by men who had known Bateman Sparks while he had been in service. Because the Army records proving his illness were lacking, these statements were prepared to prove that illness. The first is dated February 3, 1887, and was signed by Jesse W. Dunlap, a resident of Effingham, Illinois. Dunlap stated that he was 43 years old and had served in the same company as Bateman Sparks. He continued: "... on or about the 15th of August A.D. 1862 on the march from a place called Union City, Tennessee, to a place called Dias or Diasburg, the day was an extremely hot one and the water we had to drink was warm and bad. About noon of said day we noticed that Comrad Bateman R. Sparks was failing by being overcome with heat and about 3 o'clock P.M. of said day he entirely failed and seemed to loose his mind and we had to take his arms from him and put a guard over him and I was one of the guard and we put him in an open room to watch him and as I now remember it was an empty corn crib." He added that this took place about half-way between Union City and Diasburg and he was taken back to Union City where, after several days, it was determined he was insane and that he should be sent home by Sergeant William A. Gambill. Dunlap stated that he did not see Sparks again until January 1864 when he came home on furlough to Mattoon, Coles County, Illinois, "and when we returned to the Regiment at or near Little Rock, Comrad Sparks went back to his company and served his time out and was discharged about the first of June A.D. 1865." He stated that he saw Sparks regularly after his return but that he had not recovered from his sunstroke - - "he was pale and much reduced in flesh and always had a peculiar look." He added that Sparks was still "at least more than half disabled physically." Henry W. Tippett, clerk of the County Court, witnessed Dunlap's signature.

On February 16, 1887, William A. Gammill signed a statement in support of Sparks's application. A resident of Coles County, Gammill stated that he was 44 years old and had been a sergeant in the same company with Sparks. He remembered that when Sparks joined the company, he had been a "stout, healthy man always ready for duty." He added: "... he was a new Recruit just sent from Illinois where it was comparatively cool to the State of Tennessee to the front where it was many degrees hotter than Illinois and the day that the company was ordered to march was a very hot one, the water poor for a Northern Man to drink, the dust was deep, and the sun shown down clear making the march almost unbearable." It was Gammill who brought Sparks back to Illinois. While not living in the immediate neighborhood with Sparks after the war, he stated that he had understood that Sparks had never fully recovered from the sunstroke.

On April 29, 1887, Andrew A. Kilbough, age 43, of Coles County, Illinois, attested that he had been a private in Sparks's company and had been one of those who guarded him after his sunstroke. His statement gave the same basic information as did the others.

On January 2, 1888, Bateman R. Sparks signed another lengthy statement regarding his service and his sunstroke. He stated that ever since then, "in the summer or warm season of the,year, the sun seems to affect my head and whole nervous sistem (sic) so that I am wholly disabled from performing manual labor." He added that with "each returning Spring I am more disabled as I grow older.

On December 5, 1888, Bateman R. Sparks met in Robinson, Illinois, with a special examiner from the Bureau of Pensions, G. J. Townsend, to determine the accuracy of his claim. In his report, Townsend stated that Sparks "is of good standing in the community, he is considered a man of good strong common sense, and for one of his limited education, he has been rather successful financially." He stated that, while there was no doubt that he had been sent home insane from the Army in 1862, "there is nothing I can learn from claimant or from anyone else to indicate that he has been insane since his discharge." In fact, Townsend added, "he is considered by many citizens who know him well as a shrewd and sharp trader in matters relating to money."

Townsend interviewed a number of Sparks's neighbors during the next several days and obtained sworn statements from them. These individuals were:

Beverly L. Rush, 66 years old, a farmer whose post office address was Toledo, Illinois. Charles S. Oakley, 27 years old, a farmer also from Toledo, IL.
Philip R. Hodge, 29 years old, a farmer whose address was also Toledo, IL.
Charles W. Tolson, 26 years old, a farmer also from Toledo.
William A. Smith, 36 years old, a farmer also from Toledo.
William W. Balinger, 57 years old, a farmer also from Toledo.
Harvey Zike, 37 years old, a farmer also from Toledo.
Robert E. Sampson, 34 years old, a laborer on a farm near Toledo.
William A. Gammill, 47 years old, a farmer from Lerna, Coles County, IL.
Andrew A. Kellough, 45 years old, a farmer also from Lerna, Coles County.
Martin Jones, 46 years old, a farmer from Mattoon, Illinois.
Benjamin F. Starkweather, 46 years old, a carpenter and builder from Mattoon.
Jesse W. Dunlap, 44 years old, a lamplighter from Effingham, Illinois.
Dr. William E. Miles, 37 years old, a physician from Quincy, Hickory County, Missouri.

In his report, Mr. Townsend stated that these witnesses all had good reputations for credibility with two exceptions, these being Starkweather and Jones. "Upon inquiring, regarding these men, I found that Starkweather is not considered very reliable by men who know him and while Jones was not so well known, one person told me he was about on a par with Starkweather." The statements of these witnesses add little to the information already given about Sparks's sunstroke and later health.
Dr. Miles stated that he had been the family's physician until four years earlier when he had moved to Missouri. He stated he had practiced medicine since 1873 and was a graduate of the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio. He testified regarding how Sparks could not stand the heat and was disabled daring the summer. He also stated that: "I am a nephew of the claimant but have no interest in his claim."

Another person interviewed by Townsend was Bateman Sparks's brother, Isaac Sparks. Isaac Sparks stated that he was 44 years old (in 1888) and a farmer; that his post office address was Toledo, Illinois. His information about Bateman's condition was essentially the same as that already quoted from others. He did note: "In the last two or three years I have observed him carrying an umbrella with him in the field while at work to pages him from the sun." Isaac Sparks also stated: "The only member of our family who had been insane so far as I know besides claimant was another brother, but that was caused by his being thrown out of a wagon and run over by the wagon, which injured his back."

Bateman Sparks signed another lengthy statement on December 5, 1888, repeating his account of his illness in which he answered a number of questions posed by Townsend. He noted that during the time he lived in Indiana (1873 -1877), he had lived "about five or six miles south-east of Terre Haute; one year of the above time I lived and worked at the Reservoir about fourteen miles south east of Terre Haute - - I worked for Abner Daly, a Christian preacher at the latter place..." He also stated that he could remember nothing after the sunstroke in Tennessee until "when I came to myself again I found myself at my father's house and was informed that I had been there for about six months."

Special Examiner Townsend, after interviewing the people mentioned above, recommended that Bateman Sparks receive a pension. This recommendation was approved and Sparks received a pension of $4.00 per month, effective as of January 19, 1883. His lawyer, A. B. Webb, of Washington, D.C., charged him a fee of $10.00.

On August 4, 1890, April 4, 1891, and May 26, 1892, Sparks applied for an increase in his pension, but was refused. On July 5, 1898, Bateman Sparks responded to a questionnaire sent to all pensioners regarding their families. Bateman stated that his wife's maiden name was Mary J. Shup and that they had been married on February 22, 1876, in Cumberland County, Illinois, by Rev. Coffman. He stated that his first wife had been Catherine E. Habermeir and that she had obtained a divorce in Terre Haute, Indiana, in January 1874. He listed his living children as: John E. Sparks, born May 19, 1867 G. A. Sparks, born March 17, 1870 Earnest Sparks, born September 3, 1872 Henry D. Sparks, born August 4, 1879 Mary C. Sparks, born December 14, 1882

Many years later, however, on April 17, 1915, in answer to a similar questionnaire, Bateman Sparks stated that his first wife, Catharine E. Habermeir, whom he had married on July 1, 1866, had been granted a divorce on "Wed., November 22, 1876." He stated that he had married his second wife, Mary Jane Sparks (nee Shup) on February 22, 1877, at Toledo, Illinois, the marriage being performed by the Rev. Josephus Coffman. He listed his children as: John E. Sparks, born May 19, 1867 Isaac W. Sparks born March 17, 1870 (Isaac died July 26, 1870) George A. Sparks, born March 17, 1870 Ernest M. Sparks, born September 3, 1872

Children by Mary Jane Schup: Henry D. Sparks, born August 4, 1878 Mary C. Sparks, born December 14, 1881

On July 14, 1900, Bateman R. Sparks, now 59 years old, again submitted an application for an increase in his pension, but now on a different medical basis. His new claim reads in part: "... on or about 20th of June A.D. 1862, He and five or six of his comrads were detailed to carry a Hogshead of Meat from the Car on the Railroad track to an army Wagon at or near Union City, Tenn. and when thus engaged one of his comrads fel (sic) to the ground throwing the heavy Burthen on the Remaining Men and they were compelled to Hold or carry the Heavy Meat or endanger the life of the follen comrad and the great Burthen with Heavy weight Sprained this affiants Back or Spine so that he was sent to the Regiment Hospital..." Sparks stated that he remained in the hospital for about six weeks, by which time his regiment was ordered to Dias (?) Tennessee. "... although not fully recovered, affiant did not want to be left behind and although the Regimental Surgeon protested and said I was not stout enough to stand the trip on March as the Sequal will Show." Sparks then repeated the story of the sunstroke, adding, however, that because of not remembering what had really happened, he had forgotten about his early spinal injury - - he thought his headaches and and back ache had been caused by the sunstroke, and had applied for a pension on that basis. However, subsequently, "He attended a Soldiers Reunion and met with a Dr. Johnson who was his old Regimental Surgeon at the time He was Hurt Carrying the Meat and he then advised this affiant and Said it was the Injury he Received to his Spine that affected his Brain as soon as he became Heated by Marching and that was the cause of his Insanity. W. T. Deppen and Wilson D. Mumford witnessed his signature on this document. This new application, however, was rejected.

On April 28, 1904, Bateman Sparks, now 63 years old and suffering not only from his old problems, but "Kidney and Bladder Trouble and general disability for which he has to take Medicines all the time, have Piles and severe attacks of Rheumatism" again applied for an increase in his pension. He was successful, and the amount was increased to $6.00 per month.

On February 23, 1907, Bateman R. Sparks again applied for an increase in his pension. He was now 65 years old; he stated that he had been born April 10, 1841. His pension was now increased to $12.00 per month. When he became 70 in 1911, his pension was increased to $15.00 per month. A new law increased his pension to $25.00 per month in 1912.

On May 22, 1916, Henry D. Sparks, son of Bateman, wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions to advise that his father had now reached the age of 75, which, he believed, would entitle him to a pension of $30.00 per month. Henry D. Sparks wrote on stationary with the letterhead "Sparks Business College, Shelbyville, Illinois." He was identified as President of the College while Lillian B. Sparks was listed as Vice President. The increase was granted.

A document dated February 22, 1917, indicates that Henry D. Sparks was appointed "conservator" of his father's estate by the Cumberland County Court. Bateman R. Sparks was characterized as insane in this document. On May 4, 1918, Henry D. Sparks wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions to advise that his father, Bateman R. Sparks, had died on April 29, 1918, at the Kankakee State Hospital.

[Editor's Note: Bateman R. Sparks was a son of 32.4.8 Ezra and Catherine (Griffy) Sparks. Ezra Sparks was born ca. 1795-97; he married Catherine Griffy, daughter of Samuel and Hannah Griffy, in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on April 18, 1819. Children of Ezra and Catherine were: George William Griffey [or Griffy] Sparks, Emily Sparks, Samuel G. Sparks, DNU Sparks, DNU Sparks, Hannah Griffey Sparks
, Ephraim Sparks, Bateman R. Sparks and Isaac H. Sparks.

About 1835, Ezra Sparks moved his family to Vigo County, Indiana. It was in Vigo County that Bateman was born in 1841. Ezra Sparks (father of Bateman) was a son of 32.4 Walter and Phoebe Sparks. Walter was a son of 32. Richard Sparks (born ca. 1725, lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania) on whom we published an article in the December, 1971 Quarterly, Whole No. 76, pp. 1440-46. The photograph of Bateman Sparks appearing on the cover has been provided by a grandson, Dr. Sherman P. Sparks of Rockwall, Texas. Dr. Sparks's father was Ernest Melvin Sparks, born in 1872.]