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Joseph Berry Breck
Born (1828-07-12)July 12, 1828
Died July 26, 1865(1865-07-26) (aged 37)
Place of birth Maine
Place of death San Francisco, California
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1863–1864
Rank USN lt com rank insignia.jpg Lieutenant commander
Commands held USS Niphon
Battles/wars American Civil War

Joseph Berry Breck (12 July 1828 – 26 July 1865) was an officer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.[1]


Breck was born in Maine, the son of Benjamin Dunton Breck and Jane S. Simmons. Breck had a successful career in the American mercantile marine as a shipmaster and businessman, and at the outbreak of the Civil War was engaged in the Pacific and China trade, but soon offered his services to the Navy Department.[2] He was eventually commissioned as an Acting Ensign on 27 February 1863.[1] From 24 April 1863[3] he commanded the screw steamer Niphon, taking a prominent part in the destruction of the saltworks at Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, on 27 August 1864, and on many other expeditions ashore.[1] He received rapid promotion; to Acting Master on 8 August 1863, to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant on 16 November 1863, and to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commander on 25 November 1864.[3] Although his health was much impaired, Breck remained in command of Niphon until invalided out of the service by a medical board in November 1864.[1] (His younger brother Lowell Mason Breck (1839–1863) who served under him aboard Niphon, was also invalided out of the Navy suffering from "consumption", from which he soon died.[2]) Seeking a climate conducive to his recovery Lt-Cdr. Breck travelled to San Francisco, California, but died on 26 July 1865, soon after his arrival there.[1] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[citation needed]

Personal life

Breck was married twice, firstly to Fredonia Gaston, and after her death to Ellen Francis Newell, by whom he had four children; twin daughters, who died in infancy, and two sons. The eldest son, John Leslie Breck (1860–1899)[2] became a noted impressionist painter,[4] while the younger, Edward Breck (1861–1929)[2] was a scholar, journalist, champion golfer and fencer, and an officer of U.S. Naval Intelligence during the Spanish–American and First World Wars.[5]


The destroyer Breck (DD-283) (1919–1930) was named for him.


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