James H. Sparks was born in 1844 in Ionia County, Michigan, the son of Stephen Jr. (b. 1813) and Angeline (b. 1821).
New York natives James’ parents were married in 1841 in Ionia County and by 1850 James was attending school and living with his family on a farm in Keene, Ionia County; next door lived his grandparents Stephen Sr.(b. 1781 in Connecticut) and Mercy (b. 1784 in Massachusetts). James probably lived his entire prewar life in Ionia County. James was still living in Keene in 1860.
James stood 5’10” with black eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was an 18-year-old farmer probably living in Keene when he enlisted in Company I on February 24, 1862, at Saranac, Ionia County for 3 years, and was mustered on February 22. He allegedly deserted at Williamsburg, Virginia, on May 7, 1862, although apparently he had been sent home on a furlough to recover his health. On June 19 he wrote a note, presumably to Lieutenant Colonel Smith, military commander in Detroit, explaining what had happened. “I now set down to inform you,” he said, “that I am not well. I have had the ague since I left here. I took cold in my finger. I don’t think that I shall be fit for duty under fifteen days. I would like to get my furlough extended that length of time.”
On August 11 Sparks arrived in Detroit Barracks. He reportedly deserted on May 7, 1864.
There is no further record.
However, in 1880 James applied for a pension (application no. 384889), but the certificate was never granted, possibly as a consequence of his having deserted.
Interestingly, however, there was one James W. Sparks, who, in 1907 applied for and received a pension (no. 1142677). He had reportedly served in Company I, Thirty-fourth Michigan infantry during the war. There were in fact only thirty infantry regiments fielded by the state of Michigan during the Civil War. Moreover, there is no other James sparks who served from the state of Michigan besides the one who served in the Third Michigan infantry.
In any case, it appears that this latter James Sparks eventually settled in Ionia County, and was married to New York native Amanda (b. 1850) and they had at least two children: Royal (b. 1868) and Stephen (1870-1874).
By 1870 James was working as a farmer and living with his wife and two sons in Keene. By 1880 James was listed as a widower and working as a farmer and living with his son Royal in Keene. James was living in Brighton, Livingston County in 1888, and may have been living in Dundee, Monroe County in 1890 and 1894.
He was probably the same James Sparks who was married to his second wife Alice and living in Michigan in 1907. If so he may have been living in Oregon when he probably died in late 1912 (?).
Alice was living in Oregon in January of 1913 (?) when she applied for a pension (no. 999644).