Albert C. Sparks was wounded in the chest at Spottsylvania on May 12, 1864, and his recovery was thought miraculous.
Albert C. Sparks, of Lee, Massachusetts, was a 21 year old merchant who enlisted in the 37th Massachusetts Infantry on August 11, 1862 and was promoted to first sergeant on November 11, that year. While holding the position of orderly sergeant of Company “E,” Sparks was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to duty with Company “C” on June 3, 1863.
During the Battle of Spottsylvania Court House, Va., “Second Lieutenant Albert C. Sparks had suffered a terrible wound in the chest, but fighting bravely for life he finally triumphed, contrary to all expectations….his wound was considered by the medical facility little less than miraculous.” (History of the 37th Massachusetts Vol. Inf,, by Lorenzo) He was discharged from the service on September 20, 1864.
He was also a member of G.A.R. Post #177 (Scott Bradley) in Lee, Mass.
The 37th Mass. had a slight roll at Fredericksburg, heavily committed the last two days at the Battle of Gettysburg, Mine Run, and the Wilderness until Sparks was wounded at Spottsylvania CH, Va. A note of interest: The 37th Mass. was issued the Spencer Repeating Rifles in mid July of 1864.
This 4 button sack coat has the appearance of an issue sack coat, with exception to the better quality wool, and narrow mohair trim on the front and lower hem of the coat and the collar. The buttons are infantry officer “I” types; the three lower made by Scovill (SCOVILL MF’G CO. . WATERBURY), and the top button is a Horstmann & Allien (HORSTMANN. BROS. &. ALLIEN. N.Y.). All the buttons are sewn using the same thread, and original. Threads are visible on the outside of the coat (with only one tiny initial loop visible on the back side for each button) . All of the buttons have the same wear and patina. The shoulder straps are a high quality style as featured in the Schuyler, Hartley & Graham catalog for 1864. There is a single hook & eye fastener at the lower neck.
Shoulder straps are 1 5/8 x 4 1/2 inches; double bordered with the use of two types of bullion, with the two borders running in the opposite, yet matched to create a chevron effect. Fine twisted wire used on the inside and outside of the bullion; the inner strap uses a medium blue velvet wool designating infantry. The coat his been black lighted in all areas, and void of any signs of alteration.
The mohair trim is approximately 1/4 inch wide around the entire collar, down both sides of the front opening and all around the hem of the coat. A few areas show some light fraying/ wear, but overall is fine-excellent.
The sleeves have no cuff buttons, and never did. The elbow measurement is 8 inches at the widest, and the cuff measurement is 4 3/4 inches. There is some residue on the left sleeve mostly that must have come off of leather or tarred equipment, caused by heat in an attic. A very little restoration would be needed, or as seen in the photos, displays quite nicely as found.
Green cotton is used in the interior around the upper shoulders and extending down the front only on both sides, with just a narrow panel used to support the back middle seam. Exposed areas, mainly in the shoulder area, has a fine polished brown cotton material backing, with is also present in the interior of the right breast interior pocket. Sleeve linings are of a buff colored silk. There is some fading and very slight wear in a few small areas only.
The fine blue wool has sporadic mothing. We has tried to photograph anything glaring. There are two 1/4 inch holes (approximate at the bottom left, a few odd sized 1/8 holes on lower left cuff, right side had mothing in the same location on bottom right (smaller), and 1/8 (there about) holes on middle back shoulder area. Other similar sized holes spread around of the 1/8 inch size or less. Sounds much worse than it is.
Spark’s forage cap is made of dark blue wool body with black mohair braid looped on the crown and single strands extending down from front, rear and sides to join a single horizontal band running 1 inch from the bottom. The cap rises 3 1/2 inches in front from visor upward. The visor is a faux leather, made of pressed paper fibers (in essence cardboard) then blackened; trimmed in a black painted cotton and applied to the body in the typical fashion. The visor is broken through from front to rear, completely separated. This may have occurred when Sparks was wounded (obviously fallen when shot), or sometime after? The is remnants of thread that held side buttons, now missing, and I am assuming a chinstrap was in place as well.
The small gold bullion Infantry horn insignia 1 3/4 inches in length, sewn onto black wool, conforming to the shape of the horn and sewn onto the cap. Some stitching is loose. The bullion has toned a darker color, and is generally in very good condition. I will submit with the paperwork, three photocopies of other officers wearing the same style cap and this small infantry horn insignia, all of whom were in the 37th Mass Vols. The lining is black silk, nearly all intact with a few areas of stress tearing. The leather sweatband is fine (one tear toward front), and all of the original stitching is intact as well. Leather sections were joined to form one band, No evidence of maker label or embossed name.
The carpet bag is 13 x 18 inches approximately with leather looped handles applied to middle of each side. Dull colors, but no moth visible. Leather handles worn, and stitches holding.
A regimental history was added to this group, It is in reasonably good condition and fine with wear to lower and upper spine, and cover edges.
This lot was purchased from the collector who acquired it at the July Brimfield Flea Market in 1992, from a person who had obtained it from his brother who apparently had the Sparks material originally. I have photographed all the original paper work included with this lot, including the signed affidavit from the seller. The buyer at Brimfield followed up with a letter to the seller, looking to purchase more material of Sparks if any were available. None was forthcoming. The collector then contacted James Stamatelos, a well known collector/ dealer of Civil War material from Cambridge, Mass. for his approval of the items, and info in Sparks and the 37th Mass, (his comments in his letter are photographed), and Stamatelos mentioned his interest to purchase the lot when available for resale.
This is definitely a Civil War coat, not a post war piece. In the inside pocket is a piece of paper with Sparks’ name written on it, not a period piece, and appears to be done in a woman’s hand. I believe the value placed on this lot is about what the value would be for an unidentified lot anyway.