John Wilson Sprague
Medal of Honor citation:
Rank and Organization: Colonel, 63d Ohio Infantry.
Place and Date: At Decatur, Ga., 22 July 1862.
Entered Service At: Sandusky, Ohio
Born: 4 April 1817, White Creek, N.Y.
Date of Issue: 18 January 1894.
With a small command defeated an overwhelming force of the enemy and saved the trains of the corps.
John Wilson Sprague was born April 4, 1817, in the village of White Creek, New York, close to the Vermont border. At the age of thirteen, after receiving a primary education in local schools, he entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy but left before his graduation in order to enter business. In 1845 he went to Ohio where he lived successively in Milan and Sandusky. In 1851-52 he served a term as treasurer of Erie County. Soon after the outbreak of war in 1861, Sprague recruited a company which became a part of the 7th Ohio Infantry, a three-month regiment which reenlisted for three years in June. On January 23, 1862, he became colonel of the 63rd Ohio, which he led at New Madrid and Island No. 10 in John Pope's Army of the Mississippi. At the battle of Corinth in October, 1862, nine of his thirteen line officers and 45 per cent of his total force were killed or wounded. Thereafter and until the beginning of W. T. Sherman's campaign against Atlanta, the XVI Corps, to which Sprague's regiment was attached, served mainly in garrison at various points in West Tennessee. In April, 1864, Sprague was assigned to command a brigade of the 4th Division of the corps and on July 30, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Years later he was awarded the Congressional medal for having saved the corps' trains at Decatur, Georgia, on July 22, 1864 (the day of the battle of Atlanta proper). During the operations incident to the withdrawal of Hood northeastward into Alabama and Tennessee, the 4th Division of the XVI Corps became the 1st Division of the XVII Corps and was briefly commanded by Sprague. Again in brigade command, he accompanied Sherman in the "March to the Sea" and through the Carolinas and was brevetted major general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865. After the war General Sprague engaged in railroad construction, in 1870 was general manager of the western division of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and became one of the founders of the city of Tacoma. He resigned from the railroad about 1883 but remained in Tacoma, where he was one of the leading business figures of the city, until his death on December 24, 1893. General Sprague was buried in Tacoma Cemetery.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.