John Breakey

John Breakey, Civil War Veteran

    Little is known of Civil War Veteran John Breakey, yet family tradition and Civil War National Archive Records tempt this author to piece together a brief portrait of his life.

    According to Sara Glynn Breakey Dyson (Dyson to author, various dates), descendant of the Breakey family of Kickapoo Creek, Illinois [a manuscript yet to be included in The Breakey Collection], John Breakey, born 1825(7) is first mentioned in family data compiled by Anna Howes in 1919 [files of Judge James R. Breakey, Jr.), Anna being the granddaughter of John's half-brother, James.  According to family tradition, John was a cabinet maker having worked aboard ship and in Scotland.  John  went to Bloomington, Illinois, to visit the family of his half-brother, James, and while there the Chicago fire took place destroying his cabinet making tools.  [Editor’s note:  Although Mrs. Dyson suggests this occurred during the great fire of 1871 in which 3 ½ square miles in the heart of the city was destroyed, I would think it more likely to have taken place during the fire of 1857 inasmuch as John Breakey enrolled in the 7th Regiment Indiana Volunteers on April 1861, and John’s Civil War records indicate he was greatly incapacitated for manual labor when he filed for an invalid army pension on 15 December 1875].

    Mrs. Dyson further shares this tradition (Dyson to author, various dates): During the American Civil War, James Breakey, (John’s half-brother) of Kickapoo Creek, paid someone to go to war in his place.  He (James) had no desire to fight a war in America and preferred to clear land along the Kickapoo and keep some stock.  He had come there, he said, for peace.  {Editor’s note:  Is it possible that the ‘someone’ James paid to go to war was his own half-brother John Breakey?]

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    The following is taken from extensive Civil War National Archive Records as requested by the author.  The original documents have been paraphrased in the following narrative for ease of reading, yet direct quotes will be so noted.   This data, in part, may be found on by submitting John Breakey’s name for a ‘simple search.’


    “John Breakey Sgt. Major, Co. -. 7th Regiment Indiana volunteers, was enrolled on the 27th day April 1861 at Indpls, and was mustered out 2 Aug. 1861.”

    “On 18 Sept. 1861 John Breakey age 34, joined for duty in Lawrenceburg, Indiana for the duration of the war as 1st. Lt., Co. I 37th Reg’t., Indiana Infantry.”

    Camp Muster Rolls show John Breakey was enrolled 27 Aug. and read commission as 1st Lt. on 10th Sept. 1861.  Recapitulation shows him present for duty through Oct. 20, 1861.  Muster rolls of January and February 1862 show John absent from duty inasmuch as he was ill and was left at Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Muster rolls of March and April 1862 indicate John was present for duty and claiming pay from date of enrollment.  While the muster rolls of May and June 1862 do not indicate John’s presence in the company, the rolls of July and August 1862 state John was under arrest by order of Lt. Col. Hull “since August 15, 1862.”

    Events leading up to John Breakey’s arrest can be found in WAR OF THE REBELLION –Series 1, Vol. 16 Part 2 – Correspondence, Historical Society,  Jamestown NY  (James Breakey to author, no date).

Page 310:



                                                                                    August 11, 1862

Major Hull, Commanding Thirty-seventh Indiana, Stevenson:

    The trestle about a mile above Tantalon must be guarded. It is reported that Lieutenant Breakey, Company I, at Tantalon, has gone off without leave and that his wife was in camp with him.  Inspect and report facts in this case.  It is said some of your men straggle from their posts; if so, you must have it stopped, as we are dependent upon their vigilance.

                                                                                    James B. Fry

Page 322:



                                                                                    August 12, 1862

General Boyle, Louisville:

    Send a guard to Lawrenceburg, Ind., and arrest First Lieut., John Breakey, Thirty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, a deserter, and send him under guard to Nashville, to be forwarded under guard from there to this place.

                                                                                    James B. Fry

                                                                                    Chief of Staff

Page 356:


                                                                                    Army of the Ohio


                                                                                    August 17, 1862

Colonel Gazlay, Thirty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, Stevenson:

    Sir: It is reported that Lieut. John Breakey, Thirty-seventh Indiana Volunteers, who deserted some time since, has returned to his regiment.  The commanding general directs that he be placed in arrest and charges “be”  preferred against him for desertion.                                                                                                                                                                     Very respectfully,

                                                                                    Your obedient servant,

                                                                                    J. M. Wright

                                                                                    Assistant Adjutant-General

    Further research of the muster rolls for November-December 1862 finds Lieut. John Breakey being released from arrest on the 29th December 1862 by order of Col Miller, Commanding the 7th Brigade.

    From January 1863 through April 1863 the muster rolls indicate John Breakey was present and accounted for, entitled to the extra pay of Captain as commanding the company from 31 December 1862 until 30 April 1863 for the responsibility of arms and clothing.

Editor’s note:  Below is a U. S. Military Telegraph message from Mary Ann Breakey dated 15 May 1863  requesting permission for a pass to Nashville as her husband is sick (copy from Civil War Records, National Archives).

    John Breakey resigned from duty on the 6th of June 1863, with his resignation being accepted by order of General Rosecrans (letter of resignation included in Civil War records from National Archives).

    On 15th of December, 1875, John Breakey filed a declaration for invalid army pension stating that “while in the service aforesaid and in the line of duty as a soldier at a place called Murfreesboro in the state of Tenn., on the 31st day of December, 1862, during the battle of Stone River, he contracted disease of lungs from exposures and varicose veins of both legs which continue to affect him and with said lung disease greatly incapacitate him for manual labor…Received hospital treatment as follows: Murfreesboro, Tenn.…Since leaving the service he resided mostly at or near Dearborn Co. Indiana…His occupation has been cabinet maker…When enrolled he was a cabinet maker…His post  office address is Lawrenceburg, County of Dearborn, State of Indiana.”

    John Breakey married first Mary Ann (surname unknown).    Her death was attributed to a stroke of lightning at Milan in Ripley County, Indiana, on or about the 21st day of July 1864.  On 8 Nov. 1866 in Marion County, Indiana, John Breakey married Susan White, b 26 June 1836, daughter of Joseph [b Kentucky] and Martha Tirkum [b Kentucky] White.  John and Susan had a daughter, Maggie, b 27 June 1868(70) who married (given name unknown) Mehan and resided in Danville, Illinois.