Samuel Breck (general)

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Samuel Breck
Samuel Breck.jpg
Samuel Breck
Born(1834-02-25)February 25, 1834
Middleborough, Massachusetts
DiedFebruary 23, 1918(1918-02-23) (aged 83)
Brookline, Massachusetts
AllegianceUnited StatesUnited States
Service/branchUnited States United States Army
Union Army
Years of service1855–1898
RankUnion Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands heldAdjutant General of the U.S. Army
Battles/warsThird Seminole War
American Civil War
Indian Wars

Samuel Breck (February 25, 1834 – February 23, 1918) was an officer in the United States Army who served as Adjutant General of the U.S. Army from 1897 to 1898.

Early career[edit]

Born in Middleborough, Massachusetts to one of the oldest families in the state, Breck entered the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1851. He graduated seventh in his class on July 1, 1855 and was commissioned second lieutenant of artillery. While with the 1st Artillery, he served in Florida during the Third Seminole War.

Breck served at several forts along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from 1856 to 1860. From 1856 into 1857 he was at the garrison at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina. He served at Fort McHenry in Maryland from 1857 to 1859. In 1859 he marched from Helena, Arkansas to Fort Clark, Texas. Later in 1859 into 1860, he was again in the garrison at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina.

At Auburndale, Massachusetts on September 23, 1857, Breck married Caroline Juliet Barrett (b. May 18, 1832), daughter of Samuel and Anne Juliet (Eddy) Barrett. They would have two children: Amelia, born August 25, 1860 at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, died in infancy; and, Samuel, born August 8, 1862 in Washington, D.C., who became a practicing physician in Boston.

From September 24, 1860 to April 26, 1861 Breck served at West Point as Assistant Professor of Geography, History and Ethics. From April 26 to December 3, 1861, he was Principal Assistant Professor of Geography, History, and Ethics, during which time he was a first lieutenant with the 1st Artillery from April 11, 1861 to February 20, 1862. Breck was promoted to captain on November 19, 1861.

Civil War[edit]

On November 29, 1861 Breck became staff captain—assistant adjutant general of General Irvin McDowell's division of the Army of the Potomac, which defended Washington, D.C during the American Civil War or, as it was characterized at the time by the Union, "the Rebellion of the Seceding States."

On March 24, 1862 Breck became assistant adjutant general of the 1st Army Corps. From April 4 to June 20, 1862 he was assistant adjutant general of the Department of the Rappahannock. On April 18, 1862 he was engaged in the occupation of Falmouth, Virginia on the north side of the Rappahannock River opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia[1] He was commissioned major, additional aide-de-camp on May 23, 1862. In late May and early June, he was part of Union Brigadier General Irvin McDowell's unsuccessful expedition to the Shenandoah Valley to intercept the Confederate forces under General Stonewall Jackson and cut off their avenue of retreat from Winchester, Virginia.[2]

On July 2, 1862, Breck took the post of assistant in the adjutant general's office in Washington, which he held until the end of the war. He was in charge of "Rolls, Returns, Books, Blanks and business pertaining to the enlisted men of the Regular and Volunteer Forces, and of the records of discontinued commands and the preparation and publication of the ‘Volunteer Army Register.’"

Samuel was successively brevetted lieutenant colonel (September 24, 1864), colonel (March 13, 1865) and brigadier general (appointed March 8, 1866 and confirmed May 4, 1866 to rank from March 13, 1865[3] "for diligent, faithful and meritorious service in the adjutant general's department during the rebellion").

Later career[edit]

Breck remained in the Adjutant General's Department following the end of the war. From 1879, he served in California, New York, Washington, D. C., and Minnesota. From 1885 he served as adjutant general for various departments, including the Department of the Platte, Omaha, Nebraska and the Department of Dakota. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel assistant adjutant general February 28, 1887.

In August 1893 he returned to the Adjutant General's Department in Washington as a colonel, and on September 11, 1897, was elevated by President William McKinley and Secretary of War Russell Alger to Adjutant General of the U. S. Army with the rank of brigadier general. He retired in February 1898, and died in February 1918 in Brookline, Massachusetts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Long, E.B., The Civil War Day by Day, p. 201. Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1971. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 73-163653.
  2. ^ On May 23, 1862, Jackson defeated a Union detachment at Front Royal, Virginia. Long, 1971, p. 215. On May 24, President Abraham Lincoln ordered General McDowell to send 20,000 men from the Rappahannock line and capture the forces of Jackson and Confederate Major General Richard S. Ewell in the Shenandoah Valley and McDowell sent a division under Brigadier General James Shields, which had recently been sent to him from Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in the Shenandoah Valley. Long, 1971, p. 216. On May 25, 1862, Jackson occupied Winchester, Virginia after driving out Union forces under Major General Banks. Long, 1971, p. 216. Jackson's troops pursued Banks's forces to Harpers Ferry on the Potomac River. Long, 1971, p. 217. On May 30, 1862, Jackson began to move south to avoid the trap that McDowell's forces were trying to set for him and squeezed past the forces sent from McDowell's corps under Brigadier General James Shields and another Union force under Major General John C. Frémont. Long, 1971, p. 218. On June 8, 1862, Jackson and Ewell defeated pursuing Union forces under Fremont at the Battle of Cross Keys Virginia. Long, 1971, p. 224. On June 9, 1862, Jackson defeated McDowell's forces under Brigadier General Shields at the Battle of Port Republic, Virginia. Long p. 224. On June 25, 1862, the Seven Days Battles, the decisive stage of the Peninsula Campaign began as Jackson's forces approached from the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce the Confederate forces defending the Richmond, Virginia area. Long, 1971, p. 230. See also generally, Tanner, Robert G., Stonewall in the Valley. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1976.
  3. ^ Eicher, John H. and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, p. 732. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3


  • Eicher, John H. and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Long, E.B., The Civil War Day by Day, p. 201. Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1971. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 73-163653.
  • Association of Graduates (1919). Fiftieth Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy. Saginaw, Michigan: Seemann & Peters. p. 48.
  • Bowen, James Lorenzo (1889). "Brevet Brigadier General Samuel Breck". Massachusetts in the War, 1861-1865. Springfield, Massachusetts: Clark W. Bryan and Company. pp. 888–890.
  • Breck, Samuel (1889). Genealogy of the Breck Family Descending from Edward of Dorchester and His Brothers in America. Omaha, Nebraska: Rees Printing Company. pp. 109–111, 115.
  • "General Ruggles Retires; Col Samuel Breck Succeeds Him as Adjutant General of the Army". New York Times. September 12, 1897. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
Military offices
Preceded by
George D. Ruggles
Adjutant General of the U. S. Army
September 11, 1897-February 25, 1898
Succeeded by
Henry C. Corbin