Notes on Hamilton Sparks and John F. Sparks:
The marble monument in Jacobs Lutheran Cemetery, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, marking the graves of John Sparks and Elizabeth Grove Sparks, includes the names of Hamilton Sparks and John F. Sparks. (See the photograph of the gravestone contributed by Pat Mount to the Fayette County Genealogy Project: Headstone Photos at (http://www.pagenweb.org/~fayette/headstones/surname_s/sparks...
Hamilton, the son of John and Elizabeth Sparks, was married to Martha Neukomer (aka Newcomer). They had two children: John F. Sparks and [Mary] Anna (who later married Jefferson Bice). Hamilton, who enlisted in June of 1845, served as a Private in the United States Army, Company E of the Fourth Infantry division. He was severely wounded in the Battles of Chapultepec and the City of Mexico, which took place on September 13 – 14, 1847, and died of his wounds on 25 October 1847, in a hospital in Mexico. The notation following his description in the U.S. Army Register of Enlistments states “A Corporal.” It is unlikely that Hamilton is actually buried at Jacobs Lutheran Cemetery. According to an article on the Descendants of Mexican War Veterans Web site, “Honoring Our Ancestors,” (http://www.dmwv.org/honoring/mexcem.htm
), “The bodies of soldiers who died later of their wounds, or from some other cause, were also buried promptly, usually near whichever building was serving as an army hospital at the time. … Only a few bodies were shipped back to the U.S. for permanent burial. Since the U.S. government did not assume this responsibility during the Mexican War, most of these were officers whose families could afford the expense. If the deceased was particularly well-known, other prominent citizens of the community from which he came might contribute to the cost of transporting his body. … Apart from the few whose remains were brought home, the graves of most Americans who died in Mexico during the war were left unmarked and untended. “ A poignant article, relating to the funeral of Hamilton’s widow, Martha, appeared on the front page of the Connellsville Courier in the August 8, 1903 evening edition: “Buried in War Stockings. As a mark of remembrance of her husband, who was killed in the Mexican war, Mrs. Martha Sparks, aged 85 years, of Masontown, treasured for 55 years a pair of silk stockings sent by her husband from Mexico, and she was buried in them Thursday.”
John F. Sparks was the only son of Hamilton Sparks and Martha Neukomer. In the 1860 census of Nicholson Township, Fayette County, John is listed as a farmhand in the household of Samuel Cover. Samuel’s wife, Mary, was the sister of Martha Neukomer Sparks. On 3 July 1861, John F. Sparks enlisted for a period of 3 years as a volunteer in Captain Lazier’s Company E, 7th Regiment of Virginia Volunteers (Union) at Morgantown, Virginia. In the Regimental Descriptive Book he is described as being 20 years old, 5’ 7” tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. His place of birth is given as Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and his occupation that of farmer. While in Company E, he was wounded in the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. He was in the U.S. General Hospital in Frederick, Maryland from September 1862 through August of 1863. He appears on the Muster Roll of Captain Gardner’s detachment of convalescents, Camden Station, in September and October of 1863. Company E, 7th Regiment Union Virginia Infantry was consolidated with other companies in September 1863 to form Batt’s 7th Regiment West Virginia Infantry. After this consolidation, John F. Sparks appears in the Muster-in Rolls for Company A of the 7th Regiment of West Virginia. He reenlisted for another term of 3 years in Company A of the 7th Regiment of West Virginia Volunteers on 4 January 1864 at Stevensburgh, Virginia. He is present in the Company Muster Roll of Company A from January through April 1864. Although there is a Casualty Sheet, dated 28 July 1882, signed by Smith Thompson, that provides a date of casualty of 5 May 1864, the May and June 1864 Company Muster Roll states “Missing in action and supposed to be captured May 6, 1864.” The Muster Rolls for July through October 1864 also state that he is missing in action. Beginning with the November and December 1864 Muster Roll and continuing through the end of the Civil War, John F. Sparks is no longer described as missing in action, but as a “prisoner of war since May 6, 1864.” According to the Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of West Virginia for the Year Ending December 31, 1864, John F. Sparks was “Taken prisoner at Wilderness, May 6, 1864.” The December 1865 Report repeats the same information. The Company Muster-out Roll for John F. Sparks, dated 1 July 1865, says under “Remarks,” “Taken prisoner by enemy May 6/64 at Wilderness, Va. Not heard from since. No discharge furnished. No [Wid?] or [chdn??]” The National Park Service database of Andersonville Prison Records describes John Sparks of the 7th West Virginia Infantry, who was captured on 6 May 1864 at Wilderness, Virginia, as a “Possible Prisoner” at Andersonville Prison. According to an abstract of Martha Neukomer Sparks’ obituary posted under “Newspaper Clippings Kept by Mrs. Andrew Moser of Uniontown PA” (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~treasures/...
), John F. Sparks was killed in the Civil War. It is possible that John may have been a prisoner at Andersonville and may have been one of the many prisoners who died during their confinement there. According to an excerpt fom Heroes and Cowards: the Social Face of War by Dora L. Costa and Matthew E. Kahn (Princeton University Press), at the time that John F. Sparks was taken prisoner in May 1864, Andersonville had filled beyond its capacity of 10,000 men. “Prisoners were dying at the rate of twenty per day, their bodies piled up like cordwood in front of the gates to be taken outside in the morning.” By July, there were almost 33,000 prisoners at Andersonville. It is possible that John’s health was already compromised, given his one-year hospitalization after being wounded at Antietam, and that he died while a prisoner of war. It is unlikely that he is buried with his father, Hamilton, and his grandparents, John and Elizabeth Sparks in the cemetery at Jacobs Lutheran in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Like his father, Hamilton, John was probably buried far from home in an unmarked grave.
The Two John F. Sparks:
John F. Sparks, the son of Hamilton Sparks and Martha Neukomer, served as a private in the 7th Regiment of the Virginia, later West Virginia, Volunteers. He was taken prisoner on 6 May 1864, never to be heard from again. Presumably he died while a prisoner.
Another John F. Sparks (sometimes listed as “Joseph F. Sparks”) was a 1st Sergeant in Company F of the 119th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry. He was killed on 10 May 1864 at the Battle of Spotsylvania. An eyewitness, Daniel M. Dungan of Company F, 119th Pennsylvania Infantry, stated in a letter written in the field, “Our first sergeant John F. Sparks was killed almost instantly.” Sergeant Sparks was buried in the burial grounds at Wilderness, Virginia. He left a widow, Rebecca W. Sparks, who appears in the 1890 Veterans Schedule, living in Philadelphia, where the 119th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers had been organized in 1862.