Whole Number 155
[Editor's Note: From time to time we have been publishing abstracts of pension application files for Union soldiers who served in the Civil War. (Confederate soldiers could not qualify for federal pensions, although some received pensions from their respective states.) These abstracts have been prepared by Dr. Paul E. Sparks, president of our Association. They are based on copies of the "selected" pension papers provided to us by the National Archives in Washington, D.C. from the individual files. For a more detailed description of these records, the reader is referred to page 3730 of the March 1991 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No.153.]
RANSOM SPARKS, probable son of James Sparks, was born ca. 1824 in Tennessee. He married Martha A. Rainey about 1841. He served in Company D, 1st Regiment Tennessee Infantry. File Designation: Invalid Application No. 1,140,220.
Ransom Sparks, aged 83, of Bryant's Store (Knox County) Kentucky, applied for an Invalid Pension on November 12, 1892. He stated that he had enlisted on August 2, 1861, in Company D, 1st Regiment Tennessee Infantry at Barbourville, Kentucky, and had been discharged on October 15, 1862, at Lancaster, Kentucky. He was now unable to earn his support because of bad hearing and poor eyesight, and he also had a broken arm and disease of the heart. He appointed L. C. Wood & Company, Washington, D.C., as his attorneys, and his declaration was witnessed by R. S. Rose and G. B. Rose.
On November 17, 1892, the Bureau of Pensions requested Sparks's military records from the War Department in order to process this application, and on February 4, 1893, an employee of the Department responded. It was reported that Ransom Sparks, aged 44, had been enrolled as a private in Captain Branson's Company (later Company D) of the 1st Regiment East Tennessee Infantry at Maynardsville, Tennessee, to serve for a period of three years. He had been mustered-in at Barbourville, Kentucky, on August 16, 1861.
It does not appear that the Bureau of Pensions received from the War Department a complete record of the company muster rolls showing Ransom Sparks's service. It is apparent, however, that the Bureau's decision regarding his pension application was based only on Company D's "Muster-Out Roll" dated September 17, 1864, at Nashville, Tennessee. On that document, Ransom was listed with the notation: "Deserted from Cumberland Gap, September 17, 1862." On the "Notation Page" of this document, dated April 17, 1888, appears the following: "Application for the removal of the charge of desertion and for an honorable discharge was denied on April 17, 1888."
The application for an Invalid Pension by Ransom Sparks was denied because of this decision; however, his attorneys, L. C. Wood & Company, pursued his claim until August 29, 1893, when the case was closed.
[Editor's Note: Our readers are reminded that the terms "deserter" and "deserted," as applied to the soldiers of the Civil War, need evaluating and should not be accepted as proven facts based on unsuccessful pension applications alone. A soldier's absence from his military organization could have been caused by several reasons. One of the most common reasons was that the soldier received orders for his discharge from an officer who lacked authority to do so, or that the orders were never properly confirmed nor recorded. In the case of Ransom Sparks, it is obvious that he was dealt an injustice by someone in the War Department who failed to provide the Bureau of Pensions with a full record of his service. See the preceding article, beginning on page 3825.
Today, in addition to being able to obtain copies of pension application files from the National Archives, it is also possible to obtain copies of an individual soldier's military records. We have obtained copies of the papers contained in Ransom Sparks's military file and, while they consist only of references to him in the muster rolls of his company, they reveal that he was not a deserter.
Muster rolls for Company D from August 1861 until February 1862 provide no information regarding Ransom's presence nor absence--we can assume that he was present. For the period from March 1862 until August 1862, he was definitely shown as present for duty. From August 31, 1862, until April 1863, however, Sparks was shown as "Absent," with the remark: "Left sick at Cumberland Gap, September 17, 1862."
Historians of the Civil War are well aware of the frequent illness of both Union and Confederate soldiers, caused usually by the fact that the germ theory in the treatment of disease had not yet been discovered. Illness was especially' prevalent among older soldiers. Ransom Sparks had been 44 years old when he enlisted. He would have been looked upon as an "old man" by most of his comrades.
A muster roll for Company D of the 1st Regiment East Tennessee Infantry for the period from March 1863 to June 1863 contains the following significant remark pertaining to Ransom Sparks: "Dismissed the service by order of Col. R. K. byrd, July 5, 1863." From this, it is apparent that, because of his illness, Sparks had been given a medical discharge by a colonel (probably a surgeon) at Cumberland Gap where he had been left by his company captain. Perhaps Col. byrd did not have authority to do this, or he may have failed to record this decision properly. We can well imagine that after recovering sufficiently, Sparks had gone home and that he likely did not learn for many years thereafter that when Company D had been mustered out on September 17, 1864, at the end of the three-year enlistment period, he had been recorded as having deserted at Cumberland Gap on September 17, 1862. Actually, he had been left there because he had been too ill to continue with the rest of the company, and on July 5, 1863, Col. R. K. byrd had dismissed him from the service. It would appear that in 1888, some four years before Ransom Sparks applied for a pension, he, or someone on his behalf, had requested that the charge of desertion be removed from his records, but that the War Department had refused. From the evidence now available, it appears that Ransom Sparks was dealt a great injustice by the very government which he had tried to serve a quarter-century earlier.]
FRANCIS M. SPARKS, son of John T. and Mary (Godwyn) Sparks, was born in 1847 in Butts County, Georgia. He served in Company A, 1st Regiment Alabama Cavalry. File Designation: mv. Appl. Co. 1,400,961.
On January 8, 1912, Francis M. Sparks, aged 64, a resident of Rocky Ford, Colorado, applied for an Invalid Pension. He said he had enlisted in July 1863 at Larkinsville, Alabama, in Company A, 1st Regiment Alabama Cavalry and had served until he was discharged at Nashville, Tennessee, on May 15, 1865. He had been 5 feet, 9 inches tall; he had a dark complexion, dark eyes and dark hair; and he was a farmer. He had been born in 1847 at Griffin, Georgia. Since leaving the service, he had lived at Clarkston, Missouri, for 24 years before coming to Colorado. B. F. Stauffer and H. L. Palmer witnessed him make his mark, and the application was sworn to before William C. Steele, a notary public.
The Adjutant General's Office failed to find the name of Francis M. Sparks on the roll of Company A, 1st Regiment Alabama Cavalry, and on January 19, 1912, it asked Sparks to forward his Certificate of Discharge and to state the names of his commanding officers and comrades.
Francis M. Sparks responded to the request on 3 February 1912, with an affidavit that he had been a private in Company A, 1st Regiment Alabama Cavalry Independent Scouts and Guides. J. T. Sparks was the Captain; Richard Smock was the 1st Lieutenant; Jesse Cook was the 2nd Lieutenant; and Robert Harper was the orderly sergeant. In the same regiment were Captain Hamlin, Captain McGilbreth, Captain Gowens, and Colonel Hall of the 4th Regiment Ohio Infantry. Sparks went on to say that he had never received a discharge. S. T. Fyffe and B. F. Stauffer witnessed him make his mark.
On February 10, 1912, the Adjutant General's Office again gave the Pension Office a report that there were no records to show that an organization called the 1st Alabama Cavalry Indpt. Scouts and Guides was ever mustered into the service of the United States.
Six days later, Francis M. Sparks was instructed to make an affidavit setting forth the nature of the duties he had performed while in the service, the amount of the salary he had received, and the name of the paymaster by whom he was paid. He replied on February 22, 1912, that he had served as a scout and had been paid by the Northern Army in rations, horse feed, and uniform.
Sparks's application was rejected on the grounds that his name did not appear on the roll of Company A, 1st Regiment Alabama Volunteer Cavalry.
On March 9, 1912, Francis M. Sparks wrote the following letter to the Commissioner of Pensions:
I will rite to you in answer to yours of March 4th in regard to my application for a pension. I cannot understand why my name does not appear on the records unless it is because i never received any pay and never got any discharge. All i ever got from the goverment was my rations and ammunition and clothes. My name may be found on their books, or at least it ought to be there for God knows i done good servis for almost 2 years although i was only a boy and after i was robbed of every horse we had and our house was burned to the ground not even allowing my mother to take out the Family Bible even or a bed for my sick brother who died from the exposure, all because my Father was in the Northern Army. Why i just went and was inlisted in above and at the close of the war, i had no education as i cannot read or write. i never thought a discharge was of any value only just to show they were through with me. So i, of course, was so glad to get home to mother that i never waited for nothing and went just as fast as a train could take me. Now after all these years of waiting surely you will allow me my pension which is justly mine to sustain me in my declining years. So trusting you will look and try and see if you cannot help an old soldier, i am,
by his wife. his
(inclosed is a list of names) Francis M. X Sparks
I her inclose a list of names of 12 month soldiers of 1st Alabama Cav. commanded by Col. Stokes and Capt. Laytham J. T. Sparks, a private which was my father. His height was 5 ft. 9 in. dark complected and was a mecanic and after he was discharged he went to work and made up a company of scouts and guides for the Northern Army. W. H. McAnellie, Dave Evans, Robert Harper, Martin Kirkpatrick, Joe Kirkpatrick, Jack Davis, Sam Berry and Richard Miricks. So noe hunt for these names. If any of them live, they came tell you i was there. i would not think of trying for anything i never had any right to. So hoping to hear from you at once, i am yours truly.
Francis M X Sparks
by his wife
Do help us. we have 12 children ranging in age from 10 months to 25 years old
Mrs. F. M. Sparks
The Commissioner of Pensions, J. L. Davenport, wrote to Francis M. Sparks on March 15, 1912, that no action could be taken on his application until he furnished the correct service in which he had served.
On March 24, 1912, Mrs. Francis M. Sparks wrote the following letter to the United States President, William H. Taft, Washington, D.C.
Dear Sir, your Honor: I write to you to ask for information in regard to a pension that has been rejected in the Pension Department for my husband. He was a soldier for almost 2 years. He belonged to a company of scouts and guides and he was ignorant of the value of a discharge. Besides they were left on guard at a town until the Southern soldiers all got by on their way home and then when they were released they went for home as fast as a train could take them. He cannot read or write and now after years of toil he is convinced there is a pension due him and he is not able to work now. We have 12 children, our youngest being only 11 months old, for i am 21 years his junior, and now if he dont get that pension for he never drew no pay even, only drew his food and horse feed and ammunition and clothes. He, to the best of his memory, was in Co. A, 1st Alabama Cavalry.
Now, our honored President, we have just enough stock and impliments to farm with and there is a $300 chattel on them and it is almost due, and if we dont get the pension, which is a small sum compared to your wages you recieve each year, why we are ruined.
With 9 children at home, the other three has gone to Jesus why try to live any longer. We helped put you in your honored place as there is 5 of us to vote this year if we can live. Just think what $3500 would mean to us. Why a home in our old days and enough to raise our little ones on who God has seen fit to give to us, and there is not $100 from each $1000 that you get each year. We know we brought nothing into this world, neither can we take anything out with us. If you would just count us out $12 for each month of your administration just see what joy and comfort it would bring to my whitehaired husband and little ones.
You are a father, so do have mercy on us as you expect God to have on you and he will certainly bless you in all your efforts. Everything we have on earth, family, home, cow and our horses, all depend and hang on your decision whether we shall live and bless thee or otherwise die. So much in this world is going to waste. So now do, for the love of God, help us if it is only just enough to pay off our mortgage which is $300, then we can farm for we are only renters and own nothing but our children. One cow and 3 horses and wagons and farming impliments are all in- cluded in the chattels. So dont forsake the way of an upright man for he that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord. Now do me the favor of replying. Thanking you in advance, i remain, yours resp.
Mrs. Francis M. Sparks
307 N. 4th St.
Rocky Ford, Colorado
P.S. Mr. Secratary, please put this in
Mr. Tafts own hands and God will
bless you for it.
The last document (in chronological order) sent from the pension file of Francis M. Sparks is a letter from the Commissioner of Pensions written on April 2, 1912. He referred to Mrs. Sparks1s letter to the President which had been forwarded to his office to answer. He again reviewed the claim of Francis Sparks and said that no evidence had been found that there ever was a 1st Regiment of Alabama Cavalry Independent Scouts and Guides. He concluded that in the absence of such a record or an honorable discharge of her husband, no pension could be allowed under existing laws. [Editor's Note: See page 3812 of this issue of the Quarterly for further information regarding Francis Marion Sparks.]
JOHN F. SPARKS, was born in New Jersey about 1823. He married Rebecca W. Rice on March 27, 1845, in Gloucester County, New Jersey. He served in Company F, 119th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry and was killed in action on May 12, 1864. File Designation: Wid. Cert. No. 59,467.
On July 24, 1864, Capt. William A. Wiedeish, Commanding Company F, of the 119th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers stationed at Taneytown, Maryland, prepared an "Officer's Certificate" about John F. Sparks. He certified that Sergeant Sparks had been killed in action at Spottsylvania, Virginia, on May 12, 1864. He wrote: "Sergt. Sparks was a good and faithful soldier and was instantly killed by a gunshot in the head."
On November 25, 1864, Rebecca W. Sparks, aged 35, and a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, applied for a Widow's Army Pension. She stated that she had been married to John F. Sparks on March 27, 1845, in Gloucester County, New Jersey. They had one child, Rachel C. Sparks, born on October 11, 1851. She appointed W. N. Ashman of Philadelphia as her attorney. John Rusk and Fannie C. Herter witnessed the application.
Accompanying the application was a marriage certificate (to be used by a minister) which showed that John F. Sparks and Miss Rebecca Rice had been married on March 27, 1845. The ceremony had been performed by Thomas G. Stewart, a Minister of the Gospel, who had also completed the certificate. Witnesses were Samuel T. Locke, Mahlon Ginbison [?], and Dr. Samuel Jackson.
The Adjutant General's Office confirmed the military service of John F. Sparks to the Commissioner of Pensions on February 13, 1865. Sparks had been enrolled on August 16, 1862, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Company F, 119th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers to serve for three years or during the war. On the muster roll of Company F for May-June 1864, he was reported "Killed in action, May 12, 1864." He was borne on the roll as a 1st Sergeant.
On May 30, 1865, Sarah E. Rich, a resident of Perry County, Pennsylvania, testified that she had been present when her sister, Rebecca Rice, married John F. Sparks, now deceased. They had been married at Swedesboro, New Jersey, on March 27, 1845, by the Rev. Stewart who was now dead. They had been married in the minister's parsonage. Mrs. Rich went on to state that -there is no church or public record of this marriage. The Certificate of Marriage on file in this claim was given by the minister to my sister at the time she was married."
Widow Certificate No. 59,467 was issued to Rebecca W. Sparks, and she was placed upon the pension roll at the rate of $8.00 per month. On August 16, 1866, she applied for an increase in her pension under the provisions of the 1866 Act of Congress. She appointed James M. Sellers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as her attorney. Elizabeth B. Hoffner and I. N. T. Jackson witnessed her signature.
[Editor's Note: When the 1850 census was taken of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, John and Rebecca Sparks, aged 26 and 24 years, respectively, were living in Cedar Ward of that city.]
DAVID H. P. SPARKS,son of Benjamin D. and Elizabeth (Pew) Sparks, was born January 9, 1843, at Billingsport, New Jersey. He married (first) Annie R. Becker on May 24, 1868, at Woodbury, New Jersey, and (2nd) to Anna (Clark) Bean on April 12, 1899, at Camden, New Jer- sey. He served in Company E, 24th Regiment New Jersey Infantry, and as a seaman on the vessels: The Princeton, Huron, and The Mendota. File Designations: Inv. Cert. No. 25,303; Wid. Cert. N 827,059.
David H. Sparks applied for an invalid pension on February 28, 1887, but no record of his application was sent among the "selected papers" from his pension file by the National Archives. On August 9, 1887, the War Department con- firmed his military service. He had been enrolled on September 1, 1862, at Beverly, New Jersey, in Company E, 24th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers to serve for nine months. He had been present for duty until he was discharged on June 29, 1863, at Beverly, New Jersey.
The Bureau of Pensions issued Invalid Certificate No. 25,303 to David Sparks, and he was placed upon the pension roll. On May 4, 1898, he answered a questionnaire from the Bureau of Pensions on which he stated that he had been married to Annie R. Becker on May 24, 1868, by the Rev. Roe at Woodbury, New Jersey. She had died on March 3, 1893. They had had two children: Edward E. Sparks, born June 27, 1873, and Elizabeth Sparks, born December 14, 1876.
On June 25, 1899, the Fourth Auditor of the Treasury Department informed the Bureau of Pensions that David H. Sparks had served as a ship carpenter on the following military vessels: The Princeton from September 6, 1864, until September 26, 1864; The Huron from September 27, 1864, until October 19, 1864; The Mendota from October 20, 1864, until May 13, 1865; and The Princeton from May 14, 1865, until June 11, 1865, when he was discharged.
On February 27, 1907, Sparks asked for increased pension benefits under the 1907 Act of Congress. He said that he had been born on January 9, 1843, at Billingsport, New Jersey, and that he was 5 feet, 4 ½ inches tall; weighed 135 pounds; he had a sandy complexion, blue eyes, and light hair; and he was a fireman of boilers. Since leaving the service, he had lived in Gloucester and Camden Counties in New Jersey and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chas. Gray and James Quigley witnessed his signature.
When David Sparks died on October 14, 1912, he was receiving a pension of $12.00 per month. The Certificate of Death issued by the state of New Jersey gave his parents' names as Benjamin D. Sparks and Elizabeth Pew.
On October 4, 1916, Anna C. Sparks, aged 74, a resident of Camden, New Jersey, applied for a widow's pension. She said that she and David H. Sparks had been married on April 12, 1899, at Camden by the Rev. H. R. Blackwood. Frank B. Armstrong and Ada V. Skinner witnessed her application.
On December 2, 1916, the New Jersey Bureau of Vital Statistics sent the Bureau of Pensions a copy of the marriage record of David H. Sparks and Anna C. Clark. They had been married at Camden, New Jersey, on April 12, 1899. It had been the second marriage for both. David was then 56 years of age and Anna had been 54. She was a daughter of John W. Clark. Her first marriage had been to FNU Bean.
On March 17, 1917, Mary E. Starn, aged 66, a resident of Camden, New Jersey, made an affidavit to support the claim of Anna C. Sparks. She stated that she had known Anna C. Sparks since childhood and had known her first husband, Dr. Bean. After Dr. Bean had died, his widow had been married to a sailor, David H. Sparks, and they had lived together as man and wife until his death on October 14, 1912.
On the same day, Ellen Armstrong, aged 82, also a resident of Camden, made an affidavit to support the claim of Mrs. Sparks. Mrs. Armstrong stated that she was a sister of Mrs. Sparks and knew that she had lived with her husband, David H. Sparks, from the date of their marriage until he had died in 1912.
Widow Certificate No. 827,059 was issued to Anna C. Sparks, and she was placed on the pension roll. When she died on May 23, 1922, she was receiving a pension of $30.00 per month. [Editor's Note: The reader is referred to page 2,437 of the September 1982 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 119, where David H. P Sparks is shown (age 7) as a child on the 1850 census of Gloucester County, New Jersey. He was living in the household of his parents, Benjamin D. Sparks and Elizabeth Sparks, aged 29 and 30, respectively.]