Complete Biography of Officer Sprinkle

Private J. F. Sprinkle - Seventh Precinct
Private J. F. Sprinkle – Seventh Precinct

You all have been waiting a long, long time for this. So have we.

Thanks to one of our GoDC fans, we have in our possession, the biography of Officer Sprinkle from the 1908 Metropolitan Police Department’s official history book.

LIEUTENANT J. L. SPRINKLE

Lieutenant J. L. Sprinkle, stationed at No. 2 precinct, was born July 7th, 1864, on a farm south of Columbus, Ohio, where he lived with his parents until he was eleven years old, at which time the family moved to Des Moines, Iowa. At the age of twelve years he took up an apprenticeship in the harnessmakers and carriage trimmers’ trade. He followed this apprenticeship, attending school at the same time, until he was sixteen years old, that year finishing his education in the high school, and became a full journeyman. He then took up the study of civil engineering. In that capacity he assisted in making the first survey of what is now the Great Western Railroad, from Chicago to Kansas City. Later he followed his trade, except for a brief period, when he was a member of the Kansas City Fire Department. At the age of twenty-one years he enlisted in the United States Army for five years, and was assigned to Troop B, Fourth Cavalry, then stationed at Fort Huachua, Arizona, near the Mexican border. At that period, 1885, there was much unrest and strife among the lawless element in Old Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona. By reason of the geographical location of Fort Huachua the troops garrisoning at that post were kept on the jump every day in the year chasing border smugglers and thieves, principally cattle thieves, and in fighting hostile Indians.

Lieutenant Sprinkle went all through the campaign with his troop, commanded by Captain H. W. Lawton–later Captain Lawton was killed in the Philippines–against that notorious assassin, Geronimo, the Indian chief, and his gang of murderers, that resulted in the practical annihilation of the band and the capture of Geronimo. In this campaign Lieutenant Sprinkle’s command was continuously on the go for weeks at a time without taking off their clothes for the brief rest periods that came to them. Geronimo was captured at Skeleton Canyon, Mexico, and by the captors taken to the old Spanish fort at St. Augustine, Fla., and here made a prisoner. Later Geronimo was sent to Oklahoma, and is still a prisoner there. Dr. Leonard Wood, now a major general, who so highly distinguished himself in the late war with Spain in the Philippines, was at the capture of the notorious old Indian chief. This campaign lasted eight months, during which time the troops operating against Geronimo were practically without shelter, and many times without food. Lieutenant Sprinkle’s command started into the campaign with sixty-four picked and tried men, and finished with twenty-two, forty-two of the command having been killed in action. Lieutenant Sprinkle was one of ten men of his command in this campaign that volunteered to accompany Dr. Wood–now General Wood–on a scouting expedition against the Indians, lasting ten days. When volunteers were called for this trip the men were told it would be a most hazardous one, and that in all probability none of the body of volunteers would ever return from the trip. For three days they were without water. The mission was accomplished, and every volunteer returned in safety to his command/

On one occasion Lieutenant Sprinkle volunteered to make a trip of 350 miles over trackless mountains, infested by hostile Indians, to reach the base of supplies. He successfully accomplished the trip, and in doing so secured aid in the way of provisions which saved the men in the field from starvation. For his bravery and the successful accomplishment of his mission, covering a period of four days and four nights, he was publicly commended for his bravery in general orders read at all army posts.

After the Geronimo campaign he served in the West with his old command, and later was with the First Cavalry, stationed at Fort Myer. He was honorably discharged from the army on August 5, 1890. He was appointed a member of the Metropolitan Police force September 1, 1890. He was promoted to sergeant August 17, 1898, and a lieutenant July 1, 1906. For bravery, intelligent and efficient service he is one of the best men on the force, and has no superior in any line of police work that comes to a police precinct.

Amazing! Thanks to the GoDC community for sharing.

… and here is the original photo that inspired our logo.

Lieutenant J. L. Sprinkle
Lieutenant J. L. Sprinkle

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • GoDCer

    What’s the title of the 1908 history book? Is it available at the DC Public Library or google books? Thanks!

  • Officer Sprinkle Rules! I love to wear my Officer Sprinkle shirt and meet other GoDC fans.

  • Sheila

    That was amazing!