Vice President under James Buchanan March 4, 1857 until March 3, 1861
Library of Congress
BRECKINRIDGE, John Cabell, (grandson
of John Breckinridge, father of Clifton Rodes Breckinridge, and cousin of Henry
Donnel Foster), a Representative and a Senator from Kentucky and a Vice
President of the United States; born at ‘Cabell’s Dale,’ near Lexington,
Ky., January 16, 1821; attended Pisgah Academy, Woodford County, Ky.; was
graduated from Centre College, Danville, Ky., in 1839; later attended the
College of New Jersey (now Princeton University); studied law in the
Transylvania Institute, Lexington, Ky.; was admitted to the bar in 1840; moved
to Burlington, Iowa, but soon returned and began practice in Lexington, Ky.;
major of the Third Kentucky Volunteers during the Mexican War in 1847 and 1848;
member, State house of representatives 1849; elected as a Democrat to the
Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses (March 4, 1851-March 3, 1855); was not
a candidate for renomination in 1854; was tendered the mission to Spain by
President Franklin Pierce, but declined; elected Vice President of the United
States in 1856 on the Democratic ticket with James Buchanan as President;
unsuccessful candidate for President in 1860; elected to the United States
Senate and served from March 4, 1861, until expelled by resolution of December
4, 1861, for support of the rebellion; entered the Confederate Army during the
Civil War as brigadier general and soon became a major general; Secretary of War
in the Cabinet of the Confederate States from January until April 1865; resided
in Europe until 1868; returned to Lexington, Ky., and resumed the practice of
law; vice president of the Elizabethtown, Lexington Big Sandy Railroad Co.; died
in Lexington, Ky., May 17, 1875; interment in Lexington Cemetery.-
Data courtesy of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
BRECKINRIDGE, John Cabell, vice-president
of the United States, born near Lexington, Kentucky, 21 January, 1821; died in
Lexington, Kentucky, 17 May, 1875. He was a grandson of John Breckenridge,
United States senator and attorney general, was educated at Centre College,
Danville, studied law at the Transylvania institute, and, after a short
residence in Burlington, Iowa, settled at Lexington, where he practiced his
profession with success.
At the beginning of the war with Mexico, in 1847, he was elected major in a
regiment of Kentucky volunteers, and while on duty in Mexico he was employed by
General Pillow as his counsel in his litigation with his associates and
superiors. On his return, he was elected to the Kentucky House of
Representatives. In 1851 he was elected to congress, and was reelected in 1853.
He declined the Spanish mission tendered him by
President Pierce. In the presidential election of 1856 he was chosen
vice-president of the United States, with Mr.
Buchanan as president.
In 1860 he was the candidate for president as the representative of the
slave-holding interest, nominated by the Southern delegates of the democratic
convention who separated from those that supported
Stephen A. Douglas. In the electoral College he received 72 votes, to 180
cast for Lincoln, 39 for Bell, and 12 for Douglas, all the southern states
voting for him excepting Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. In the
same year he was elected United States senator as the successor of John J.
Crittenden, and took his seat in March, 1861.
At the beginning of the civil war he defended the southern confederacy in the
senate, soon afterward went south, entered the Confederate army, and was
ex-polled from the senate on 4 December, 1861. On 5 August of the following
summer he was appointed a major general. He commanded the Confederate reserve at
Shiloh, 6 April, 1862; was repelled in the attack on Baton Rouge in August,
1862; commanded the right wing of Bragg's army at Murfreesboro, 31 December,
1862; was at Chickamauga, 19 and 20 September, 1863; and Chattanooga, 25
November, 1863; defeated General Sigel near Newmarket, 13 May, 1864; then joined
General Lee's army, and was at the battle of Cold Harbor, 3 June, 1864;
commanded a corps under Early, and was defeated by General Sheridan in the
Shenandoah valley in September, 1864; defeated General Gillem in east Tennessee,
12 November, 1864; and was in the battle near Nashville, 15 December, 1864.
He was secretary of war in Jefferson Davis's
cabinet from January, 1865, till the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston in
April. He left Richmond for Charlotte, North Carolina, with Mr. Davis and the
other officers of the Confederate government, and, after it was decided to
abandon the contest, left the party at Washington, Georgia, made his escape to
the Florida Keys and thence embarked for Cuba, and sailed from Havana for
Europe. He returned in 1868 determined to take no further part in politics, and
to devote himself to his profession. As vice-president he was the youngest man
that had ever held that office.
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