Affair at Des Sair [Desert] Station — Lorenzo Sturtevant

We quartered in a sugar house at Bonnet Carre, Dec. 9th., 1862. Left B. C. the next morning with twenty-one men and a Lieut. Took a row boat to carry our baggage up the bayon through the swamp. Came to the R. R. where the 12th Maine was waiting with a car; we taking the car and they the boat. After six miles travel, we came to Des Sair [Desert] Station. Then being drawn up in line, Lieut. Bond asked if there was any one who could make some coffee as we had not many supplies. Comrade Crossier said he could. Then Lieut. said he would not put out but one picket now. Tomorrow, he would make his picket post. He gave orders to break ranks. Then we made a rush for the best bunks.

After securing mine, I stepped out to view the land when I saw a company of soldiers coming up the R. R. on a double quick. I went into the station and said I guessed the Rebs were coming. Lieut. Bond stepped out and an old man came out from another door in the station and asked Lieut. B. if those were his men. Lieut. B. said no. Then they are Confederates, look out for them. We afterwards learned that they were in hiding in a small cemetery that we passed on the R. R. and they supposed we were an Advance Guard and our Reg. was coming on, so they did not dare to molest us, which, if they had known the truth, they could have taken us all, as our arms and ammunition were on the car while we were walking.

Then Lieut. B. gave the order “fall in men.” Line was formed, the Rebs took to the swamp and fired on us. First volley took no effect. Next one killed Sergt. Wade. All we could do was fire where the smoke came from. Another volley wounded McCarthy. Then came the order “every man for himself”. Seven of us went up the R. R. They fired on us and we dodged under a platform used to load cotton on to the cars. Between fires we managed to get across the R. R. and reach the swamp. This was Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., Dec. 10th., 1862, (I may as well state here that we did not get our coffee).

Several of our boys were taken prisoners. The Rebs knew that we were in the swamp and kept the car going up and down the R. R. and calling come out this way; but we preferred the swamp to the Rebs’ company so kept travelling in the swamp all night. Next day, we came across some wood choppers, but they would have nothing to say to us fearing the Rebs, but we finally persuaded them to take us across the bayou. Friday, we got to the edge of the swamp, tired, hungry and discouraged. One of the boys went up a tree and saw a Rebel flag flying from the Rebel prison Camp Moore, then we went back into the swamp. All of the boys had thrown away their guns, [except] only myself. I said if I have to die in the swamp my gun will be with me. We found a Rebel cartridge box and a piece of cornbread about as large as my hand. That cornbread with brierberries was all we had to eat and the dirty swamp water to drink. Several times we gave up and sat down to die, but some power would start one of us up and the rest would follow.

Sunday morning we gave up again, this time for sure; but when I got rest some, I said I was going to make another start for the R. R. They all tried to stop me for they were sure I would die, but I went, while they said “don’t go out of our sight.” I only went a short way when I came to the R. R., after wandering round that swamp three days and four nights.
One of our pickets was close to where we came out and came and talked to us. Capt. Allen and Lieut. Jones saw us from the lower station where they were and came down to see who we were.

They were very glad to see us and when we got rested some we went down to the station. When Capt. Allen took my gun and looked it over and asked me when that was loaded. I told him Wednesday and this was Sunday. He asked the boys where their guns were. They said they threw them away in the bayou, not being able to carry them. He said “weren’t you as able to carry yours as Sturtevant was to carry his?” Then turnlng to me he said “I will promote you to Corporal.” I protested, but he would not allow me to say a word, so he promoted me. They had killed a beef “critter” that morning and the cook had two great pans full-cooked. The Capt. gave orders not to let us have any of that fresh meat for it would kill us, but we got at it and ate most of it while the cook was swearing and repeating the Captain’s orders which,in that case, we did not obey. It would have made us much sicker to have gone without the meat than it did to eat it. We were new men after that. We resumed our duties in the Regiment.          — Lorenzo Sturtevant, Co. K.

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