Monday, October 19, 2009



Nicholas Perczel is a native of Hungary, where he was born in the year 1813. He has a military education, and passed a number of years in active service, before coming to this country. For several years, he has been a resident of Davenport, Iowa, where he has been engaged in the business of merchant and trader. He was made colonel of the 10th Iowa Infantry, on the 1st day of September, 1861, and held that position till the 1st of November, 1862, when he resigned his commission.

Authority to recruit the 10th Iowa Infantry was granted by the War Department to J. C. Bennett, in July, 1861. Mr. Bennett was afterward major of the regiment. He, aided by F. M. Mills, Esq., of Des Moines, a brother of the late Colonel Mills of the 2d Iowa, had nearly completed the regiment's enlistment, when it was ordered to rendezvous at Iowa City. The manner in which the regiment was officered created considerable dissatisfaction; but this will not be matter of interest, either to the old members of the regiment, or to the public.

Colonel Perczel first served with the 10th Iowa in Missouri. He was engaged in the skirmish near Charleston, on the morning of the 6th of January, 1862, his loss being eight killed, and sixteen wounded. These were the first men the 10th Iowa lost in battle. The colonel was also present at the capture of New Madrid, and Island No. 10; and with his regiment formed a part of the force which, at Tiptonville, captured five thousand of the enemy. After operations were completed in this direction, the 10th Iowa sailed with the command of General Pope to Hamburg Landing, on the Tennessee, and served with that general during the siege of Corinth, on the left of the besieging army.

Colonel Perczel commanded a brigade before Corinth, two regiments of which were his own and the 17th Iowa; and during the siege of that city was engaged in two important reconnoissances and skirmishes. The first of these was made on the afternoon of the 26th of May, with a force consisting of the 10th Iowa, and four pieces of artillery. With the enemy, this skirmish assumed the importance of an engagement; for, saying nothing of his wounded, he admitted a loss of one hundred and twenty-five in killed. The 10th Iowa, the only troops on our side that suffered loss, had only eight men wounded. The losses were so disproportionate as to give the above statement an air of improbability; but its truth is well vouched for.

On the morning of the 28th of May, two days later, the 17th Iowa and the 10th Missouri of the same brigade had a skirmish with the enemy, in which the losses were nearly as disproportionate. These troops were sent out under the immediate command of Colonel Holmes of the 10th Missouri; and moving against the enemy's extreme right, which was held by the commands of Price and Van Dorn, came within musket-range of the two strong forts on the hills to the south of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. The enemy supposed they were being attacked in force, and came swarming out of their works and down the steep hills to oppose the advance; while their pickets, skirmishers and reserves, hurried with greater haste in the opposite direction. Corinth was evacuated that night, and, on passing over the ground the next morning, where the skirmish took place, ninety-three new graves were counted. The Union loss in this encounter was about thirty in killed and wounded.

On the fall of Corinth and the hasty retreat of the enemy, the division of General Schuyler Hamilton, to which Colonel Perczel's Brigade was attached, followed in pursuit, and marched as far south as Boonville, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The route from Corinth lay through the heavily timbered swamps, which form the head-waters of the Tombigbee River, and which would be, at any season of the year, difficult of passage to a large army with baggage-trains and artillery. There was but little fighting; but, one day of the march it rained incessantly, which rendered the corduroy roads almost impassable. Add to this the fact that the army had for a long time been lying before Corinth inactive, and the hardships and fatigue of the march can be imagined. One scene on the road, at a point some six miles north of Boonville, will never be forgotten by those troops who, on the night of the 2d of June, ascended from the swamps to the up-lands, near mid-night. On an open, even, but gradually-sloping field, containing not less than two thousand acres, and facing the Corinth road to the north-east, just in front of where it rises from the bottom-lands and turns to the left, were encamped nearly two entire divisions. The previous afternoon had been rainy, and the soldiers, cold and wet, had built large and brilliant camp-fires throughout their entire encampment. The sky was still hung with dark, heavy clouds, which, as viewed from the point in the road above mentioned, formed the background of this magnificent scenery — the grandest I ever witnessed. It was literally a city of fire, and was ample compensation for the slippery, hazardous, mid-night-march over the never-to-be-forgotten one-mile-of corduroy.

Pursuit was made to a few miles south of Boonville; but the enemy, with the exception of some hundreds of stragglers and deserters, had made good his escape with his shattered legions. To pursue further would so extend the line of communications as to imperil a safe return; and a "right about" was therefore ordered to Corinth. Returning to the vicinity of Corinth, the 10th Iowa went into camp at Clear Springs, a place three and a half miles south of Corinth, and so called from the beautiful, translucent springs which gush out from the foot of the hills, on which the camp was made. The regiment remained here and at Jacinto, the county-seat of Tishamingo county, and some twenty miles south of Corinth, till the 18th of the following September; when, with the balance of General Rosecrans' command, it was ordered out to engage the forces of General Price, then supposed to be intrenching [sic] themselves near Iuka. In this heedless, blundering fight, the 10th Iowa held the left of its brigade, and, like the other regiments of its brigade, suffered severely.

The pursuit of the enemy in his hasty retreat on the morning of the 20th, and the bloody battle at Corinth on the 3d and 4th of the following October, and subsequent pursuit of the rebel forces to and beyond the Hatchie, form the next chapter in the history of this regiment. With the close of these operations also closed the colonelcy of Nicholas Perczel; for, as has already been stated, he resigned his commission on the first of the following November.

He had in the meantime been recommended for promotion to brigadier-general, but for some reason was not appointed by the President.

Among the officers of the 10th Iowa with whom I became acquainted early in the regiment's history, were Major, afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel Nathaniel McCalla, Captain Albert Stoddard and Lieutenant and Adjutant John Delahoyd; and I hope that, in giving their names special mention, I shall do no injustice to other officers of the regiment equally deserving. I never met Major McCalla without thinking of an old Roman lieutenant. He is rough in exterior and in manners, and as gallant and generous as rough. Captain Stoddard is a handsome and most genial fellow, and was, in the spring and summer of 1863, Judge-Advocate of the old 7th Division. In the hour of battle, and at the convivial board, he always took his place in the front. Lieutenant John Delahoyd was one of the most reckless aids and adjutant-generals that ever carried a dispatch in the face of the enemy. He distinguished himself at Corinth. Having ridden out with the 17th Iowa to assign it a position, he put the regiment under a terrific fire of grape and canister, and then, directing it to lie down, sat and watched the enemy from his horse. Whenever the enemy were about to fire, he would say: "Lay low, Seventeenth." It is a wonder how he escaped being killed. He was General Sullivan's adjutant-general, and was one of the most popular officers of the brigade.

During the siege of Corinth, (I believe it was on the 22d of May) and while his brigade was encamped near Farmington, an incident occurred which the colonel will never forget. That morning a company of the 3d Michigan Cavalry, which, like all the troops before Corinth, had seen but little service, was stationed beyond the picket-line, as vedettes on the extreme left. And I should add further that, an attack from this direction was being anticipated, and the extreme left wing, by reliefs, was engaged in digging rifle-pits, and in cutting the timber which would form a cover for the approach of the enemy, and obstruct the range of the artillery. All was quiet, and the work was steadily progressing, until about two o'clock in the afternoon, when, instantly, a cry of alarm was heard in the direction of the enemy, and, turning the eye down the road, a cavalry-man was seen coming at the top of his speed, standing upright in his saddle, and whirling his drawn sword about his head in the wildest manner. In an instant he had passed, shouting in a frantic, broken voice, "The enemy are coming against the left in force! The enemy are coming against the left in force!" All were instantly under arms, and, with breathless determination, stood waiting the approach of the enemy. The guns of the 6th Wisconsin Battery, hurriedly charged with canister, were turned in the direction of the threatened attack, when Colonel Perczel, riding down the road and out through a large, open field to the right, suddenly saw — that he was sold. The captain of the 3d Michigan Cavalry had been frightened at the approach of one of our own scouting parties. Colonel Perczel was chief in command, and felt the sell most keenly; but he only said: "Whare es dat cap'n ob de Third (?) Mee-che-gan Cabalry, wat run widout firing one gun?"

Colonel Perczel is about six feet in hight [sic], and both slender and erect. He has a lively, gray eye, and, in the service, wore a long, heavy, gray beard. Naturally he is excitable, but in danger was cool and brave, and was greatly loved by his command. He knew his merit as a military man, and was chagrined at being placed under the command of officers who were not only his inferiors in military knowledge, but who would get beastly drunk on duty. To escape this unpleasant situation, I am advised, was the chief cause of his leaving the service. The general, whom he most despised, died late in 1862, at Corinth, of mania apotu.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 215-20

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