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John C. Breckinridge

(1821 - 1875)

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.  - - Biographical Data courtesy of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.



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John Cabell Breckenridge
US Vice President


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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