Monday, May 13, 2013

"The Federal sharpshooters...gave us a good deal of worry..." John T. Block and the Louisiana Guards

New Orleans May 30 1899

Genl E.A. Carman
Washington, D.C.

My dear Sir,

The “Louisiana Guard Battery,” consisted of four (4) guns, two rifle and two howitzers. Capt Edgar D’Aquin, Hays Louisiana Brigade, Ewell’s Division, Jackson’s Corp.

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 Shepherdstown on the the morning of the 16th and marched out (I suppose it was the Shepherdstown Road), where we halted for rest, then proceeded down this road until dark, when we filed in to a patch of woods[1] with Hays Brigade.

9:00 Hours--D'Aquin's Battery moves onto Hauser Ridge.
Cope/Carman Map (1908)

This woods must have been in the neighborhood of the Church,[2] and near the line of battle, as the pickets kept up a lively firing 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 as quick as possible, this woods 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 J.E.B. Stuart on the extreme left of our Army. Immediately took position on a knoll in an open field.[3]

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 sometime. 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 battlefield after so many years have elapsed, is that there was a ravine in front of us (don’t know whether it was a stone fence or a stream) on our front, beyond this was an open space, the woods being some distance back where the Federal troops were.[4] In the opening in front of our battery there was several trees (looked to me like apple trees) The Federal sharpshooters[5] were concealed in these trees and gave us a good deal of worry until we found out where the minnies were coming from.
After learning this position and on our way to the rear to replenish our ammunition chest, a courier halted us and wanted [to] know if we had any howitzer ammunition. 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.[5] Our camp on the evening of the evening of the 17th was on I suppose the same road that we marched from Shepherdstown. We entered through a double gate.

Don’t remember the date of retreat, our battery was with the rear guard of the Army. Took position on the heights of Shepherdstown 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 at the ford and made it very warm for us for until we succeeded in blowing up one of their Caissons.

Messrs Marks[6] 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.

I am

Very respectfully

John T Block

P.S. Our loss at Shepherdstown was three men killed by explosion of one shell and several wounded. The horses suffered most. JTB


Source: John T. Block to Ezra Carman, May 30 1899, National Archives, Antietam Studies, Record Group 92. 

Twenty eight year old John T. Block enlisted as a private on April 28, 1861 in the Louisiana Guard Artillery. Born in Missouri, he resided at the outbreak of the war with his younger brother Robert in the First Ward home of sugar broker James W. Demarat. John gave his occupation in 1860 as a “gauger” or inspector. He survived the war and by 1880 he was the head of a household that included his wife, Mary, three sons, two daughters, and a boarder. 1860 and 1880 Census (Louisiana); National Archives, Record Group 109 (Louisiana), M320, Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Louisiana units, labeled with each soldier's name, rank, and unit, with links to revealing documents about each soldier, Roll 073; Andrew B. Booth. Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers and Confederate Commands. Vol. I-III. (New Orleans, LA, USA: n.p., 1920), Volume 1 B. Page 12.


[1] The West Woods.

[2] The Dunkard Church.

[3] See maps on post of May 10, 2013.

[4] The Cope/Carman 9:00 o’clock map shows the battery pulling up on Hauser Ridge to the left of Brockenbrough’s Baltimore Battery. This would place it nearly opposite the First Minnesota. An unidentified battery is depicted on the map just in front of the 13th Virginia. Edward A. Walker of the First Minnesota observed “Our regiment was close to a rail fence and a corn field between us and the enemies battery. This battery was on a hill about 700 yards to our right—directly in front of us was their infantry, about 300 yards distant at the commencement of the fight. As soon as we got into the proper position both sides commenced peppering one another. Our company fired a few shots at the artillerymen, but as the distance was so great we directed most of our shots at the rebel colors…” Richard Moe, The Last Full Measure: Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers (New York: Avon Books, 1993), pp. 181-82.

[5] This is probably the Minnesota Sharpshooters, Second Company who were attached to the First Minnesota. They are depicted in the Cope/Carman map as forming on the left of the regiment’s line which would align them nearly opposite D'Aquin's battery.

[6] See post of May 10 for John O’Connor’s correspondence to Ezra Carman of June 14, 1899 and July 5, 1899.

[7] The correspondence of Edwin Marks will be posted here.

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