I have posted this letter, not knowing much at all about Block. His spelling and grammar are uncorrected and his comments about the Shepherdstown battle are quite interesting. Any information about Block will be much appreciated.
John T. Block to Ezra Carman, May 30, 1899, in Antietam Studies, National Archives.
New Orleans May 30th 1899
Genl E.A. Carman
My dear sir,
The “Louisiana Guard Battery,” consisted of four (4) guns, two rifle and two howitzers. Capt Edgar D’Aquin, Hays Louisiana Brigade, Ewells Division, Jackson’s Corps.
My recollection of the battle of Sharpsburg, is, as follows. After an all night march from Harpers Ferry, we crossed the Potomac, at or near Shepperdstown on the morning of the 16th and marched out (I suppose was the Sheppardstown Road, where we halted for rest, then proceeded down this road until dusk, when we filed in to a patch of woods with Hays Brigade.
This woods must have been in the neighborhood of the Church and near the line of battle, as the pickets kept up a lively fireing all night, much to the discomfort of Jackson’s foot cavalry.
We remained in this position until one or two o’clock on the morning of the 17th (I being on guard at the time) General Jackson and his staff rode up to where we had the horses picketed and wanted to know what Cavalry is this; when informed that it was Artillery, He called for the officer in command and said to him, this is no place for your Battery, get out of as quick as possible. This wood will be shelled in a short time.” Day was just breaking when we reached the opening, the shelling was very heavy at this time. We went to the rear out of range and camped on the side of the road.
It was early in the forenoon when we were ordered to report to Genl JEB Stuart on the extreme left of our Army. Imediately took position on a Knoll in an open field.
I think we held this position until three or four o’clock in the evening. If I am not mistaken the 13th Virginia Regiment was the only Confederate Infantry on this part of our lines. Genl Stewart, was with or near the Battery while we were in action, and Genl Jackson was with him for some time. This was a very hot place and kept the men at the Battery hard at work. Fortunately our casualties were light, only one slightly wounded.
As I see the battle field after so many years have elapsed is, that there was a ravine in front of us (dont know whether it was a stone fence or a stream) in our front, beyond this was an open space, the woods being some distance back where the Federal Troops were. In the opening in front of our battery there was several trees (looked to me like apple trees) The Federal sharpshooters were concealed in these trees and gave us a good [?] [of?] [?] until we found out where the Minnies were coming from.
After leaving this position and on our way to the rear, to replenish our amunition chest, a courier halted us and wanted know if we had any howitzer amunition, on being informed that we had, the two guns went into the fight again. If I am not mistaken they went back through the woods they left in the early morning.
Mr J.H. O’Connor, was with this section and may be able to give you some information. Our camp on the evening of the 17th was on I suppose the same road that we marched from Shepperdstown. We entered through a double gate.
Dont remember the date of retreat, our battery was with the rear guard of the Army, took position on the heights of Shepperdstown to protect the crossing of the rear of the Army. Our loss in this position was heavy in men and horses. A Federal battery took a position on the left of the ford and made it very warm for us for until we succeeded in blowing up one of their Caissons.
Messrs Mark and O’Connor will send you their recollections of the battle field.
Hoping by this poor description of the battery at Sharpsburg will assist you in locating the position of our battery.
John T. Block
P.S. Our loss at Shepperdstown was three men killed by explosion of one shell and several wounded. The horses suffered most.