Private John Sparks

Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry

Private John Sparks' entry in the Official Roster reveals little about the life of this young patriot. Born in Indiana, he resided in Jasper County, Iowa when he enlisted in Company B of the Fifth Iowa Infantry on June 24, 1861. He served faithfully for the duration of his three-year enlistment, mustering out on July 30, 1864, at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Fortunately, the 1912 publication, Past and Present of Jasper County Iowa, reveals much more. Here is the entry which offers a tribute to this "citizen-soldier."

John H. Sparks

Another of the old soldiers of Jasper County is John H. Sparks, a venerable farmer of Lynn Grove Township, and it gives the historian no small degree of pleasure to place his life history on record, partly because of his services to his country during her direst need, partly because of the fact that he is one of our respected pioneers and partly because of his life of integrity and kindness. The records of the lives of such men should be obtained before it is too late to get the full particulars from their own lips. Their sacrifices were too great not to deserve ample mention in the pages of history. It meant a great deal for the citizen-soldier to quit all pursuits and go away to war with the chances against him of ever coming back, or if he did return it would probably be with shattered health for the remainder of his life or in a crippled condition. But such was the chance taken willingly by Mr. Sparks, in fact, he seemed to enjoy taking chances for his country. Let us learn a little more about this sterling old soldier and pioneer. He was born in Washington County, Indiana, about seventy-six years ago, the son of Matthew and Lucy (Calloway) Sparks, the father born in Kentucky and the mother in Indiana. The former crossed the Ohio River into the Hoosier state when a young man and there married and began life for himself as a farmer. In 1855 the family came to Jasper County, Iowa, and, starting life anew as pioneers, built up a good farm and a good home in which they spent the balance of their earthly days, the mother dying after a comparatively short residence in the new state. They were the parents of twelve children. The mother was a member of the Christian Church.

John H. Sparks was educated in the old-time public schools of Indiana and Iowa, but his text-book training was not very extensive, as was the custom of farmers' boys in those days, especially the sons of pioneers as was he, for it was necessary for him to spend the major part of the year assisting in the general farm work.

In 1861 Mr. Sparks enlisted in Company B, Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, in which he served with much credit for a period of three years. He saw hard service and participated, among other engagements, in those of the famous siege of Vicksburg, battles of Iuka, Mississippi, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. He received an honorable discharge in July 1864.

After his career as a soldier Mr. Sparks returned to his old home in Iowa and resumed farming, and soon bought eighty acres in Lynn Grove Township. It was wild land, but he soon had it broke, properly improved and under cultivation, and from time to time he added such improvements as were needed, and established a good home and here he still resides. He has not done much work on the place for some time, renting it at times, and leaving the operation of it mostly to his sons. Politically, he is a Republican.

Mr. Sparks was married on April 29, 1866, to Ellen Mathews, a native of Illinois, from which state she moved to Iowa when a child with her parents, Matthew T. and Nancy Mathews, who were very early settlers in Jasper County. Nine children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Sparks, namely: Lucy, Perry, Jerry, Moses, Richard, Ray, Robert, Ruth and Guy.

Return to the Fifth Iowa Infantry Personnel
Return to the History of the Fifth Iowa Infantry