John Heath Breese was born October 12, 1830 in New Jersey. He was married to Elizabeth Lewis in Peoria, Illinois, on November 16, 1859. They had seven children: Nellie Virginia, born September 2, 1861; Ellis E., born April 14, 1867; Emmor E., born 29 June 1869; Cora, born September 19, 1871; Nora B., born March 11, 1874; William L., born October 25, 1876; Walter, born December 24, 1878.
At age 32, he enrolled as a private in Company C, 1st Regiment, Illinois Light Artillery Volunteers on August 22, 1862. He participated in a number of noted campaigns: the battles of Chicakamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Kenesaw Mountain, and Sherman’s march to the sea. He was discharged at Springfield, Illinois, June 12, 1865. He suffered from rheumatism and heart trouble as a result of a fever he contracted at Nashville in the winter of 1862-3. He spent some weeks in the hospital and suffered from rheumatism from then on.
This severely limited his ability to do farm work and made him eligible for a pension. On his return from the war, he spent 8 years in Kansas, returning to Dayton in 1874. In the summer of 1880 he was working in the paper mill in Dayton when he injured himself jumping up out of a pit without waiting for the ladder to be brought. In 1889 he applied for a pension from the federal government, claiming rheumatism and heart trouble due to the sickness he suffered in January 1863. In 1892, after the investigation into his claims, he was granted a pension of $8/month, retroactive to August 16, 1889. In 1903, he applied for an increase, claiming total disability; his pension was raised to $12/month.
He died in Dayton, September 30, 1914. Both he and Elizabeth are buried in the Dayton cemetery, along with children Nellie Virginia, Ellis, Emmor, and Nora (wife of Lowell Hoxie).