John Spare (Also Known As John Spear) – Private, United States Army

Thank you for offering to include information on John Spare.  I have included a write up on John Spare as a MS Word document and two images of John Spare and his Arlington gravestone.

I hope you will include a cross reference in you name index for John Spare to see “Jon Spear.” While his name is spelled as Jon Spear in both regimental records and in Arlington Cemetery records, the family spells its name as “Spare.”  Any family member who looks up his name is not likely to know to check Spear. The spelling of the family name did not standardize as “Spare” until sometime after the Civil War. John Spare was not an educated man and would probably have not cared about the variance in spelling.

The family has a hand-made 33 star flag, flown during the Battle of Gettysburg at the family home in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, to show family support for John Spare and several other family members who fought at Gettysburg.  If the Cemetery or other appropriate organization would ever like to borrow the flag for a Civil War exhibit, the family would be please to loan the flag. If you think it appropriate to include an image of the flag, I would be glad to send you an image. The flag is unique, because like the Spear/Spare family name, the flag was made before made before the placement of stars was standardized. The stars are all six pointed (I am told by that it would have been easier to sew a six pointed star than what has become the standard five-pointed star.)  There is also one star in the center of the star field that is significantly larger than the others; this star probably represented Pennsylvania.

JOHN SPARE (1823-1863)

John Spare, son of Nathan and Ann Johnson Spare, was born on July 25, 1823, and died on August 8, 1963.  On Dec 22, 1863, John Spare married Matilda Bitting who was born on March 4, 1822 and died on July 15, 1859.  He then married Elizabeth B. Shade in Trappe, Pennsylvania, on July 24, 1860. He had five children by Matilda and none with Elizabeth.  Regimental enlistment records indicate that he was a stonemason prior to the Civil War.


On October 22, 1861, at 38 years old, John Spare enrolled as a private in Captain Eli Sellers' Company G 91st Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry. (His regimental documents spell his name “Spear”). He joined the unit in December 1861 at Camp Chase, Pennsylvania; but is listed on the regimental rolls as sick for the rest of December, January and February.  The unit moved to Camp Stanton near Bladensburg, Maryland on January 25, 1862. On March 4, 1862, Company G was ordered to the “old capitol prison” for two days duty and then was stationed at Long Bridge.  On April 27, 1862, the Regiment was ordered to Alexandria, Virginia; Col Gregory, the 91st's Commanding Officer was appointed acting military governor.  The unit remained in Alexandria until August when it joined in the 1862 Maryland Campaign; the unit arrived at Antietam on 18 September, too late to participate in the battle.  The 91st participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and then went into camp for the winter except for a period when it participated in General Burnside's Mud campaign in late January 1863.

In spring 1863, the unit marched south and fought at Chancellorsville on May 2 and 3, 1863. The unit then marched north and assumed guard duty at various river crossings. On June 1, 1863, the regiment was on duty at Stoneman Switch, Virginia. When Lee's Army was threatening Pennsylvania, the unit was ordered to Gettysburg and fought at Little Round Top on July 2 and 3, 1863. Subsequent to the Gettysburg battle, the unit again marched south in pursuit of General Lee's forces.

Early August 1863 was a particularly hot period. Samuel P. Bates in The History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers states in the section dealing with the 29th PA Infantry which served in the same part of Virginia as the 91st PA Infantry that “…the first three days of (August 1863) … were remarkable for extreme heat, and during which the men suffered much.” (Bates, Vol. 1, page 491.)

The morning reports for Company G, 91st PVI contains the following entries:

July 29, 1863  Privs Spear, Collin & Sweeney sick
– August 10, 1863 Private John Spear died Aug 8th of apoplexy (sic)

Spear left five children by his first wife and a widowed second wife. He died at age 40, which was older than most of the privates in Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments. He was one of the first patriots buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  He is buried in Section 13, Grave 8787. In Regimental records & and on his Arlington National Cemetery headstone, his family name is spelled “Spear,” not Spare.

John Spare is descended from Leonard Spare who immigrated to America prior to the Revolutionary war.  Descendants of Leonard Spare have volunteered and served in every United States War from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam.  Descendants of Leonard Spare have always served in reserve or militia units, i.e. no descendants of Leonard have ever been a member of the “regular” military; Spare descendants have always served as “citizen soldiers.” John Spare was a member of a Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.


DATE OF DEATH: 08/08/1863
BURIED AT:  Section 13  SITE 8787

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