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Battle of Marion
Cabell Breckinridge (January 16, 1821 – May 17, 1875) was an
American lawyer, politician, and soldier. He represented
both houses of Congress and became the 14th and youngest-ever Vice
President of the United States, serving from 1857 to 1861. He served
in the U.S. Senate during the outbreak of the American Civil War, but
was expelled after joining the Confederate Army. He was appointed
Confederate Secretary of War in 1865.
Breckinridge was born near Lexington,
Kentucky to a prominent local
family. After non-combat service during the Mexican–American War, he
was elected as a Democrat to the
Kentucky House of Representatives in
1849, where he took a states' rights position against interference
with slavery. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1850, he
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas in support of the Kansas–Nebraska
Act. After reapportionment in 1854 made his re-election unlikely, he
declined to run for another term. He was nominated for vice-president
1856 Democratic National Convention
1856 Democratic National Convention to balance a ticket headed
by James Buchanan. The Democrats won the election, but Breckinridge
had little influence with Buchanan and, as presiding officer of the
Senate, could not express his opinions in debates. In 1859, he was
elected to succeed Senator
John J. Crittenden
John J. Crittenden at the end of
Crittenden's term in 1861. As vice president, Breckinridge joined
Buchanan in supporting the pro-slavery
Lecompton Constitution for
Kansas, which led to a split in the Democratic Party.
Southern Democrats walked out of the 1860 Democratic National
Convention, the party's northern and southern factions held rival
Baltimore that nominated Douglas and Breckinridge,
respectively, for president. A third party, the Constitutional Union
Party, nominated John Bell. These three men split the Southern vote,
while more anti-slavery Republican candidate
Abraham Lincoln won all
but three electoral votes in the North, allowing him to win the
election. Breckinridge carried most of the Southern states. Taking his
seat in the Senate, Breckinridge urged compromise to preserve the
Union. Unionists were in control of the state legislature, and gained
more support when Confederate forces moved into Kentucky.
Breckinridge fled behind Confederate lines. He was commissioned a
brigadier general and then expelled from the Senate. Following the
Battle of Shiloh
Battle of Shiloh in 1862, he was promoted to major general, and in
October he was assigned to the
Army of Mississippi under Braxton
Bragg. After Bragg charged that Breckinridge's drunkenness had
contributed to defeats at Stone River and Missionary Ridge, and after
Breckinridge joined many other high-ranking officers in criticizing
Bragg, he was transferred to the Trans-Allegheny Department, where he
won his most significant victory in the 1864 Battle of New Market.
After participating in Jubal Early's campaigns in the Shenandoah
Valley, Breckinridge was charged with defending supplies in Tennessee
and Virginia. In February 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis
appointed him Secretary of War. Concluding that the war was hopeless,
he urged Davis to arrange a national surrender. After the fall of
Richmond, Breckinridge ensured the preservation of Confederate
records. He then escaped the country and lived abroad for more than
three years. When President
Andrew Johnson extended amnesty to all
former Confederates in 1868, Breckinridge returned to Kentucky, but
resisted all encouragement to resume his political career. War
injuries sapped his health, and he died in 1875. Breckinridge is
regarded as an effective military commander. Though well-liked in
Kentucky, he was reviled by many in the North as a traitor.
1 Early life
2 Early legal career
3 Mexican–American War
4 Political career
4.1 Early political career
Kentucky House of Representatives
4.3 U.S. Representative
4.3.1 First term (1851–1853)
4.3.2 Second term (1853–1855)
4.3.3 Retirement from the House
4.4 Vice Presidency
4.5 Presidential campaign of 1860
4.6 U.S. Senator
5 Civil War
5.1 Service in the Western Theater
5.2 Service in the Eastern Theater
5.3 Confederate Secretary of War
6 Escape and exile
7 Return to the U.S. and death
8.1 Historical reputation
8.2 Monuments and memorials
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Cabell Breckinridge was born at Thorn Hill, his family's estate
Kentucky on January 16, 1821. The fourth of six
children born to Joseph "Cabell" Breckinridge and Mary Clay (Smith)
Breckinridge, he was their only son. His mother was the daughter of
Samuel Stanhope Smith, who founded
Hampden–Sydney College in 1775,
and granddaughter of John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of
Independence. Having previously served as Speaker of the Kentucky
House of Representatives, Breckinridge's father had been appointed
Kentucky's Secretary of State just prior to his son's birth. In
February, one month after Breckinridge's birth, the family moved with
John Adair to the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort, so that
his father could better attend to his duties as Secretary of State.
In August 1823, an illness referred to as "the prevailing fever"
struck Frankfort, and
Cabell Breckinridge took his children to stay
with his mother in Lexington. On his return, both he and his wife
Cabell Breckinridge died, but she survived. His assets
were not enough to pay his debts, and his widow joined the children in
Lexington, supported by her mother-in-law. While in Lexington,
Breckinridge attended Pisgah Academy in Woodford County. His
grandmother taught him the political philosophies of her late husband,
John Breckinridge, who served in the U.S. Senate and as Attorney
General under President Thomas Jefferson. As a state legislator,
Breckinridge had introduced the
Kentucky Resolutions in 1798, which
stressed states' rights and endorsed the doctrine of nullification in
response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.
After an argument between Breckinridge's mother and grandmother in
1832, he, his mother, and his sister Laetitia moved to Danville,
Kentucky, to live with his sister Frances and her husband, who was
president of Centre College. Breckinridge's uncle, William
Breckinridge, was also on the faculty there, prompting him to enroll
in November 1834. Among his schoolmates were Beriah Magoffin,
William Birney, Theodore O'Hara, Thomas L. Crittenden and Jeremiah
Boyle. After earning a
Bachelor of Arts degree in September
1838, he spent the following winter as a "resident graduate" at the
New Jersey (now Princeton University). Returning to
Kentucky in mid-1839, he read law with Judge William Owsley. In
November 1840, he enrolled in the second year of the law course at
Transylvania University in Lexington, where his instructors included
two members of the
Kentucky Court of Appeals – George Robertson and
Thomas A. Marshall. On February 25, 1841, he received a Bachelor
of Laws degree and was licensed to practice the next day.
Early legal career
Breckinridge remained in Lexington while deciding where to begin
practice, borrowing law books from the library of John J. Crittenden,
Thomas Crittenden's father. Deciding that Lexington was
overcrowded with lawyers, he moved to Frankfort, but was unable to
find an office. After being spurned by a love interest, he and former
classmate Thomas W. Bullock departed for the
Iowa Territory on October
10, 1841 seeking better opportunities. Journeying westward, they
considered settling on land Breckinridge had inherited in
Jacksonville, Illinois, but they found the bar stocked with able men
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. They continued on to
Burlington, Iowa, and by the winter of 1842–1843, Breckinridge
reported to family members that his firm handled more cases than
almost any other in Burlington. Influenced by Bullock and the
citizens of Iowa, he identified with the Democratic Party, and by
February 1843, he had been named to the Democratic committee of Des
Moines County. Most of the
Kentucky Breckinridges were Whigs, and
when he learned of his nephew's party affiliation, William
Breckinridge declared, "I felt as I would have done if I had heard
that my daughter had been dishonored."
Kentucky in May 1843. His efforts to mediate
between his mother and the Breckinridges extended his visit and after
he contracted influenza, he decided to remain for the summer rather
than returning to Iowa's colder climate. While at home, he met
Bullock's cousin, Mary Cyrene Burch, and by September, they were
engaged. In October, Breckinridge went to Iowa to close out his
business, then returned to
Kentucky and formed a law partnership with
Samuel Bullock, Thomas's cousin. He married on December 12,
1843, and settled in Georgetown, Kentucky. The couple had six
children – Joseph Cabell (b. 1844), Clifton Rodes (b. 1846; later a
Congressman from Arkansas), Frances (b. 1848), John Milton (b. 1849),
John Witherspoon (b. 1850) and
Mary Desha (b. 1854). Gaining
confidence in his ability as a lawyer, Breckinridge moved his family
back to Lexington in 1845 and formed a partnership with future U.S.
Senator James B. Beck.
Breckinridge as a member of the
United States Army
A supporter of the Mexican–American War, Breckinridge sought
appointment to the staff of Major General William Orlando Butler, a
Kentucky Democrat, but Butler could only offer him an unpaid
aide position and advised him to decline it. In July 1847,
Breckinridge delivered an address at a mass military funeral in
Frankfort to honor Kentuckians killed in the Battle of Buena Vista.
The oration brought Whig Senator
Henry Clay of Kentucky, whose son was
among the dead, to tears, and inspired
Theodore O'Hara to write
Bivouac of the Dead.
Breckinridge again applied for a military commission after William
Owsley, the Governor of Kentucky, called for two additional regiments
on August 31, 1847. Owsley's advisors encouraged the Whig governor
to commission at least one Democrat, and Whig Senator John J.
Crittenden supported Breckinridge's application. On September 6,
1847, Owsley appointed Manlius V. Thomson as colonel, Thomas
Crittenden as lieutenant colonel and Breckinridge as major of the
Kentucky Infantry Regiment. The regiment left Kentucky
on November 1 and reached Vera Cruz by November 21. After a
serious epidemic of La Vomito, or yellow fever, broke out at Vera
Cruz, the regiment hurried to
Mexico City. Reports indicate that
Breckinridge walked all but two days of the journey, allowing weary
soldiers to use his horse. When the Third
Kentucky reached Mexico
City on December 18, the fighting was almost over; they participated
in no combat and remained in the city as an army of occupation until
May 30, 1848.
In demand more for his legal expertise than his military training, he
was named as assistant counsel for
Gideon Johnson Pillow
Gideon Johnson Pillow during a
court of inquiry initiated against him by Winfield Scott.
Seeking to derail Scott's presidential ambitions, Pillow and his
supporters composed and published letters that lauded Pillow, not
Scott, for the American victories at Contreras and Churubusco. To hide
his involvement, Pillow convinced a subordinate to take credit for the
letter he wrote. Breckinridge biographer William C. Davis writes that
it was "most unlikely" that Breckinridge knew the details of Pillow's
intrigue. His role in the proceedings was limited to questioning a
few witnesses; records show that Pillow represented himself during the
Returning to Louisville on July 16, the Third
Kentucky mustered out on
July 21. During their time in Mexico, over 100 members of the
1,000-man regiment had died of illness. Although he saw no combat,
Breckinridge's military service proved an asset to his political
prospects in Kentucky.
Main article: Political career of John C. Breckinridge
Early political career
Breckinridge campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee James K.
Polk in the 1844 election. He decided against running for county
clerk of Scott County after his law partner complained that he spent
too much time in politics. In 1845, some local Democrats
encouraged him to seek the Eighth District's congressional seat, but
he declined, supporting instead Alexander Keith Marshall, the party's
unsuccessful nominee. As a private citizen, he opposed the
Wilmot Proviso that would have banned slavery in the territory
acquired in the war with Mexico. In the 1848 presidential
election, he backed the unsuccessful Democratic ticket of Lewis Cass
and William Butler. He did not vote in the election. Defending his
decision during a speech in Lexington on September 5, 1860,
But it so happened that there were six or eight gentlemen also
accompanying me, all of them belonging to the Whig Party, and they
proposed to me that if I would not return to my own town and vote,
they would not. If they would, there would be six or seven votes cast
for Taylor and but one cast for Cass. I accepted the proposition, and
we went hunting; and had every man done as well as myself, we should
have carried the State by 40,000 majority.
Kentucky House of Representatives
In August 1849, Kentuckians elected delegates to a state
constitutional convention in addition to state representatives and
senators. Breckinridge's abolitionist uncles, William and Robert,
joined with Cassius Marcellus Clay to nominate slates of like-minded
candidates for the constitutional convention and the legislature.
In response, a bipartisan group of pro-slavery citizens organized its
own slate of candidates, including Breckinridge for one of Fayette
County's two seats in the House of Representatives. Breckinridge,
who by this time owned five slaves, had publicly declared his
opposition to "impairing in any form" the legal protection of
slavery. Despite his endorsement of slavery protections, he
was a member of the Freemasons and the First Presbyterian Church in
Lexington, both of which officially opposed slavery. He had also
previously represented free blacks in court, expressed support for
voluntary emancipation, and supported the
Society, which was dedicated to the relocation of free blacks to
Breckinridge, circa 1850
Breckinridge received 1,481 votes in the election, over 400 more than
his nearest competitor, making it the first time that Fayette County
had elected a Democrat to the state House of Representatives.
Between the election and the legislative session, Breckinridge formed
a new law partnership with Owsley's former Secretary of State, George
B. Kinkead; his previous partner having died in a cholera epidemic
earlier in the year. He also co-founded the
Kentucky Statesman, a
semi-weekly Democratic newspaper, and visited his cousin, Mary Todd,
where he met her husband, Abraham Lincoln, for the first time; despite
their political differences, they became friends.
When the House convened, Breckinridge received a plurality of votes
for Speaker, but fell at least eight votes short of a majority.
Unable to break the deadlock, he withdrew from the race, and the
position went to Whig Thomas Reilly. Breckinridge biographer Frank
H. Heck wrote that Breckinridge was the leader of the House Democratic
caucus during the session, during which time most of the measures
considered were "local or personal ... and in any case,
petty". Breckinridge was assigned to the House's standing
committees on Federal Relations and the Judiciary. He supported
bills allocating funding for internal improvements, a traditionally
Whig stance. As Congress debated Henry Clay's proposed Compromise
of 1850, the four Whigs on the Committee on Federal Relations drew up
resolutions urging the
Kentucky congressional delegation to support
the compromise as a "fair, equitable, and just basis" for settlement
of the slavery issue in the newly acquired U.S. territories.
Breckinridge felt that the resolution was too vague and authored a
minority report that explicitly denied federal authority to interfere
with slavery in states and territories. Both sets of resolutions, and
a set adopted by the Senate, were all laid on the table.
On March 4, 1850, three days before the end of the session,
Breckinridge took a leave of absence to care for his son, John Milton,
who had become ill; he died on March 18. Keeping a busy schedule
to cope with his grief, he urged adoption of the proposed constitution
at a series of meetings around the state. His only concern with
the document was its lack of an amendment process. The
constitution was overwhelmingly ratified in May. Democrats wanted to
nominate him for re-election, but he declined, citing problems "of a
private and imperative character". Davis wrote "his problem –
besides continuing sadness over his son's death – was money."
First term (1851–1853)
Breckinridge was a delegate to the January 8, 1851, state Democratic
convention which nominated
Lazarus W. Powell
Lazarus W. Powell for governor. A week
later, he announced that he would seek election to Congress from
Kentucky's Eighth District. Nicknamed the "Ashland district"
because it contained Ashland, the estate of Whig Party founder Henry
Clay, and much of the area Clay once represented, the district was a
Whig stronghold. In the previous congressional election, Democrats
had not even nominated a candidate. Breckinridge's opponent,
Leslie Combs, was a former state legislator whose popularity was
bolstered by his association with Clay and his participation in the
War of 1812; he was expected to win the election easily. In April,
the candidates held a debate in Frankfort, and in May, they jointly
canvassed the district, making daily speeches. Breckinridge
reiterated his strict constructionist view of the U.S. Constitution
and denounced the protective tariffs advocated by the Whigs, stating
that "free thought needs free trade". His strong voice and
charismatic personality contrasted with the campaign style of the much
older Combs. On election day, he carried only three of the
district's seven counties, but accumulated a two-to-one victory margin
in Owen County, winning the county by 677 votes and the election by
537. Democrats carried five of Kentucky's ten congressional
districts, and Powell was elected as the first Democratic governor
Supporters promoted Breckinridge for Speaker of the House, but he
refused to allow his own nomination and voted with the majority to
elect fellow Kentuckian Linn Boyd. Despite this, the two were
factional enemies, and Boyd assigned Breckinridge to the lightly
regarded Committee on Foreign Affairs. Breckinridge's first
speech, and several subsequent ones, were made to defend William
Butler, again a presidential aspirant in 1852, from charges leveled by
proponents of the
Young America movement
Young America movement that he was too old and had
not made his stance on slavery clear. The attacks came from the
pages of George Nicholas Sanders's Democratic Review, and on the House
floor from several men, nearly all of whom supported Stephen Douglas
for the nomination. These men included California's Edward C.
Marshall, who was Breckinridge's cousin. Their attacks ultimately
hurt Douglas's chances for the nomination and Breckinridge's defense
of Butler enhanced his own reputation. After this controversy, he
was more active in the chamber's debates but introduced few
significant pieces of legislation. He defended the constitutionality
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 against attacks by Ohio
Joshua Giddings and opposed Andrew Johnson's proposed
Homestead Act out of concern that it would create more territories
that excluded slavery. Despite his campaign rhetoric that federal
funds should only be used for internal improvements "of a national
character", he sought to increase Kentucky's federal allocation for
construction and maintenance of rivers and harbors, and supported
bills that benefited his district's hemp farmers.
Returning home from the legislative session, Breckinridge made daily
visits with Henry Clay, who lay dying in Lexington, and was chosen to
deliver his eulogy in Congress when the next session commenced.
The eulogy enhanced his popularity and solidified his position as
Clay's political heir apparent. He also campaigned for the
election of Democrat
Franklin Pierce as president. Although Pierce
Kentucky by 3,200 votes, Breckinridge wielded more influence with
him than he had with outgoing Whig President Millard Fillmore. A
week after his inauguration, Pierce offered Breckinridge an
appointment as governor of Washington Territory. He had initially
sought the appointment, securing letters of recommendation from Powell
and Butler, but by the time it was offered, he had decided to stay in
Kentucky and seek re-election to the House.
Second term (1853–1855)
Robert P. Letcher
Robert P. Letcher was unable to unseat Breckinridge in
The Whigs, seeking to recapture Breckinridge's seat, nominated
Kentucky State Attorney General James Harlan, but some Whig factions
opposed him, and he withdrew in March. Robert P. Letcher, a former
congressman and governor who had won 14 elections in
a loss, was the party's second choice. Both candidates campaigned
vigorously throughout the Eighth District, making multiple speeches a
day between May and August. Letcher was an experienced campaigner,
but his popular, anecdote-filled oratory was unpolished, and he was
prone to outbursts of anger when frustrated. By contrast,
Breckinridge delivered calm, well-reasoned speeches. Cassius Clay,
a political enemy of Letcher's for years, endorsed Breckinridge,
despite their differences on slavery. Citing this endorsement and
the abolitionism of Breckinridge's uncles, Letcher tried to paint
Breckinridge as an enemy of slavery. Breckinridge pointed to his
consistent support for slavery and claimed Letcher was actually
hostile to the interests of slaveholders. Although the district
had gone for Whig candidate
Winfield Scott by over 600 votes in the
previous year's presidential election, Breckinridge defeated Letcher
by 526 votes. Once again, he received a large margin in Owen
County, which reported 123 more votes than eligible voters living in
the county. Grateful for the support of the reliably Democratic
county, he gave his son
John Witherspoon Breckinridge the nickname
Of the 234 members of the House, Breckinridge was among the 80 that
were returned to their seats for the Thirty-third Congress. Due to
his increased seniority, he was assigned to the more prestigious Ways
and Means Committee, but he was not given a committee chairmanship as
many had expected. Although he supported Pierce's pro-slavery
agenda on the principle of states' rights and believed that secession
was legal, he opposed secession as a remedy to the country's immediate
problems. This, coupled with his earlier support of manumission
and African colonization, balanced his support for slavery; most still
considered him a moderate legislator.
An ally of Illinois' Stephen A. Douglas, Breckinridge supported the
doctrine of popular sovereignty as expressed in Douglas's
Kansas–Nebraska Act. He believed passage of the act would remove the
issue of slavery from national politics – although it ultimately had
the opposite effect – and acted as a liaison between Douglas and
Pierce to secure its passage. During the debate on the House
floor, New York's Francis B. Cutting, incensed by a statement that
Breckinridge had made, demanded that he explain or retract it.
Breckinridge interpreted Cutting's demand as a challenge to duel.
Under code duello, the individual being challenged retained the right
to name the weapons used and the distance between the combatants;
Breckinridge chose rifles at 60 paces. He also specified that the
duel should be held at Silver Spring, Maryland, the home of his friend
Francis Preston Blair. Cutting, who had not intended his initial
remark as a challenge, believed that Breckinridge's naming of terms
constituted a challenge; he chose to use pistols at a distance of 10
paces. While the two men attempted to clarify who had issued the
challenge and who reserved the right to choose the terms, mutual
friends resolved the issue, preventing the duel. The recently
Kentucky Constitution prevented anyone who participated in a
duel from holding elected office, and the peaceful resolution of the
issue may have saved Breckinridge's political career.
Retirement from the House
A campaign poster for Buchanan and Breckinridge
In February 1854, the Whig majority in the
Kentucky General Assembly
passed – over Powell's veto – a reapportionment bill that redrew
Breckinridge's district, removing Owen County and replacing it with
Harrison and Nicholas counties. This, combined with the rise of
Know Nothing Party
Know Nothing Party in Kentucky, left Breckinridge with little hope
of re-election, and he decided to retire from the House at the
expiration of his term. Following the December 1854 resignation of
Pierre Soulé, the U.S. Minister to Spain who failed to negotiate a
U.S. annexation of
Cuba following the controversial Ostend Manifesto,
Pierce nominated Breckinridge to the position. Although the Senate
confirmed the nomination, Breckinridge declined it on February 8,
1855, telling Pierce only that his decision was "of a private and
domestic nature." His term in the house expired on March 4.
Desiring to care for his sick wife and rebuild his personal wealth,
Breckinridge returned to his law practice in Lexington. In
addition to his legal practice, he engaged in land speculation in
Minnesota and Wisconsin territories. When Governor Willis A.
Gorman of the
Minnesota Territory thwarted an attempt by
Breckinridge's fellow investors (not including Breckinridge) to secure
approval of a railroad connecting Dubuque, Iowa, with their
investments near Superior, Wisconsin, they petitioned Pierce to remove
Gorman and appoint Breckinridge in his place. In 1855, Pierce
authorized two successive investigations of Gorman, but failed to
uncover any wrongdoing that would justify his removal. During his
time away from politics, Breckinridge also promoted the advancement of
horse racing in his native state and was chosen president of the
Kentucky Association for the Improvement of the Breed of Horses.
John C. Breckinridge, photograph by Mathew Brady
As a delegate to the
1856 Democratic National Convention
1856 Democratic National Convention in
Cincinnati, Ohio, Breckinridge favored Pierce's re-nomination for
president. When Pierce's hopes of securing the nomination faltered,
Breckinridge joined other erstwhile Pierce backers by throwing his
support behind his friend, Stephen Douglas. Even with this additional
support, Douglas was still unable to garner a majority of the
delegates' votes, and he withdrew, leaving
James Buchanan as the
Democratic nominee. William Alexander Richardson, a Kentucky-born
Congressman from Illinois, then suggested that nominating Breckinridge
for vice-president would balance Buchanan's ticket and placate
disgruntled supporters of Douglas or Pierce. A delegate from
Louisiana placed his name before the convention, and although
Breckinridge desired the nomination, he declined, citing his deference
to fellow Kentuckian and former House Speaker Linn Boyd, who was
supported by the
Ten men received votes on the first vice-presidential ballot.
John A. Quitman
John A. Quitman had the most support with 59 votes.
Eight state delegations – with a total of 55 votes – voted for
Breckinridge in spite of his refusal of the nomination, making him the
second-highest vote getter.
Kentucky cast its 12 votes for Boyd,
bringing his third-place total to 33 votes. Seeing Breckinridge's
strength on the first ballot, large numbers of delegates voted for him
on the second ballot, and those who did not soon saw that his
nomination was inevitable and changed their votes to make it
Unlike many political nominees of his time, Breckinridge actively
campaigned for his and Buchanan's election. During the first ten
days of September 1856, he spoke in Hamilton and
Cincinnati in Ohio;
Indianapolis in Indiana; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Covington,
Kentucky; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His speeches stressed the
idea that Republicans were fanatically devoted to emancipation, and
their election would prompt the dissolution of the Union.
Breckinridge's presence on the ticket helped the Democrats carry his
home state of
Kentucky – which the party had not won since 1828 –
by 6,000 votes. Buchanan and Breckinridge received 174
electoral votes to 114 for Republicans
John C. Frémont
John C. Frémont and William L.
Dayton and 8 for
Know Nothing candidates
Millard Fillmore and Andrew
Jackson Donelson. Thirty-six years old at the time of his
inauguration on March 4, 1857, Breckinridge was the youngest
vice-president in U.S. history, exceeding the minimum age required
under the Constitution by only a year.
Buchanan resented the fact that Breckinridge had supported both Pierce
and Douglas before endorsing his nomination. Relations between the
two were further strained when, upon asking for a private interview
with Buchanan, Breckinridge was told to come to the White House and
ask for Harriet Lane, who acted as the mansion's host for the
unmarried president. Feeling slighted by the response, Breckinridge
refused to carry out these instructions; later, three of Buchanan's
intimates informed Breckinridge that requesting to speak to Miss Lane
was actually a secret instruction to White House staff to usher the
requestor into a private audience with the president. They also
conveyed Buchanan's apologies for the misunderstanding.
A marble bust of Breckinridge from the Senate's vice-presidential bust
Buchanan rarely consulted Breckinridge when making patronage
appointments, and meetings between the two were infrequent. When
Breckinridge and Buchanan endorsed the Lecompton Constitution, which
would have admitted
Kansas as a slave state instead of allowing the
people to vote, they managed to alienate most Northern Democrats,
including Douglas. This disagreement ended plans for
Breckinridge, Douglas, and Minnesota's
Henry Mower Rice
Henry Mower Rice to build a
series of three elaborate, conjoined row houses in which to live
during their time in Washington, D.C. In November 1857, after
Breckinridge found alternative lodging in Washington, he sold a slave
woman and her young infant which, according to historian James C.
Klotter, probably ended his days as a slaveholder. When
Breckinridge did not travel to
Illinois to campaign for Douglas's
re-election to the Senate and gave him only a lukewarm endorsement,
relations between them worsened.
Functioning as the Senate's presiding officer, Breckinridge's
participation in the chamber's debates was also restricted, but he won
respect for presiding "gracefully and impartially." On January 4,
1859, he was asked to deliver the final address in the Old Senate
Chamber; in the speech, he expressed his desire that the Congress find
a solution that would preserve the Union. During its half century
in the chamber, the Senate had grown from 32 to 64 members. During
those years, he observed, the Constitution had "survived peace and
war, prosperity and adversity" to protect "the larger personal freedom
compatible with public order." Breckinridge expressed hope that
eventually "another Senate, in another age, shall bear to a new and
larger Chamber, this Constitution vigorous and inviolate, and that the
last generation of posterity shall witness the deliberations of the
Representatives of American States, still united, prosperous, and
free." Breckinridge then led a procession to the new
chamber. Breckinridge opposed the idea that the federal government
could coerce action by a state, but maintained that secession, while
legal, was not the solution to the country's problems.
Although John Crittenden's Senate term did not expire until 1861, the
Kentucky General Assembly met to choose his successor in 1859.
Until just days before the election, the contest was expected to be
between Breckinridge and Boyd, who had been elected lieutenant
governor in August; Boyd's worsening health prompted his withdrawal on
November 28, 1859. On December 12, the Assembly chose Breckinridge
over Joshua Fry Bell, the defeated candidate in the August
gubernatorial election, by a vote of 81–53. In his acceptance
speech, delivered to the
Kentucky House of Representatives on December
21, Breckinridge endorsed the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott
v. Sandford – which ruled that Congress could not restrict slavery
in the territories – and insisted that John Brown's recent raid on
Harpers Ferry was evidence of Republicans' insistence on either "negro
equality" or violence. Resistance in some form, he predicted,
would eventually be necessary. He still urged the Assembly against
secession – "God forbid that the step shall ever be taken!" – but
his discussion of growing sectional conflict bothered some, including
his uncle Robert.
Presidential campaign of 1860
United States presidential election, 1860
Breckinridge in 1860 by Jules-Émile Saintin
Early in 1859, Senator
James Henry Hammond
James Henry Hammond of
South Carolina reported
to a friend that Breckinridge was seeking the Democratic presidential
nomination, but as late as January 1860, Breckinridge told family
members that he had no desire for the nomination. A The New York
Times editorial noted that while Buchanan was falling "in prestige and
political consequence, the star of the Vice President rises higher
above the clouds." Douglas, considered the frontrunner for the
Democratic presidential nomination, was convinced that Breckinridge
would be a candidate; this, combined with Buchanan's reluctant support
of Breckinridge and Breckinridge's public support for a federal slave
code deepened the rift between the two.
Among Breckinridge's supporters at the 1860 Democratic National
Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, were several prominent
Kentuckians. They were former
Kentucky Governor and current Senator
Lazarus W. Powell, former
Kentucky Congressmen William Preston (a
distant relative) and law partner James Brown Clay, and James B.
Beck. Breckinridge did not attend the convention, but instructed
his supporters not to nominate him as long as James Guthrie remained a
candidate. Accordingly, when a delegate from
Breckinridge for president on the thirty-sixth ballot, Beck asked that
it be withdrawn, and the request was honored. Over the course of
57 ballots, Douglas maintained a wide plurality, but failed to gain
the necessary two-thirds majority; Guthrie consistently ran
second. Unable to nominate a candidate, delegates voted to
Baltimore, Maryland on June 18.
Pro-Southern delegates, who had walked out of the Charleston
convention in protest of its failure to adopt a federal slave code
plank in its platform, did not participate in the Baltimore
convention. The delegates from Alabama and
Louisiana – all
of whom had walked out at Charleston – had been replaced with
Douglas supporters from those states, leading to the nomination of
Herschel Vespasian Johnson
Herschel Vespasian Johnson for president and
vice-president, respectively. The protesting delegates convened
five days later in Baltimore. On the first ballot, Breckinridge
received 81 votes, with 24 going to former Senator Daniel S. Dickinson
of New York. Dickinson supporters gradually changed their support to
Breckinridge in order to make his nomination unanimous, and Oregon's
Joseph Lane was chosen by acclamation as his running mate.
Despite concerns about the breakup of the party, Breckinridge accepted
the nomination. In August,
Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis
attempted to broker a compromise under which Douglas, Breckinridge,
and Tennessee's John Bell, the nominee of the Constitutional Union
Party, would all withdraw in favor of a compromise candidate. Both
Breckinridge and Bell readily agreed to the plan, but Douglas was
opposed to compromising with the "Bolters," and his supporters
retained an intense dislike for Breckinridge that made them averse to
Opponents knew Breckinridge believed in the right of secession and
accused him of favoring the breakup of the Union; he denied the latter
during a speech in Frankfort: "I am an American citizen, a Kentuckian
who never did an act nor cherished a thought that was not full of
devotion to the Constitution and the Union." While he had very
little support in the northern states, most, if not all, of the
southern states were expected to go for Breckinridge. This would
give him only 120 of 303 electoral votes, but to gain support from any
northern states, he had to minimize his connections with the southern
states and risked losing their support to Bell. Some Breckinridge
supporters believed his best hope was for the election to be thrown to
the House of Representatives; if he could add the support of some
Douglas or Bell states to the thirteen believed to support him, he
could best Lincoln, who was believed to carry the support of fifteen
states. To Davis's wife, Varina, Breckinridge wrote, "I trust I
have the courage to lead a forlorn hope."
States' electoral votes by candidate; Lincoln states are red,
Breckinridge states are green, Bell states are orange, and Douglas
states are blue.
In the four-way contest, Breckinridge came in third in the popular
vote, with 18.1%, but second in the Electoral College. The final
electoral vote was 180 for Lincoln, 72 for Breckinridge, 39 for Bell,
and 12 for Douglas. Although Breckinridge won the states of the
Deep South, his support in those states came mostly from rural areas
with low slave populations; the urban areas with higher slave
populations generally went for Bell or Douglas. Breckinridge also
carried the border states of
Maryland and Delaware. Historian James C.
Klotter points out in light of these results that, while Douglas
maintained that there was "not a disunionist in America who is not a
Breckinridge man", it is more likely that party loyalty and economic
status played a more prominent role in Breckinridge's support than did
issues of slavery and secession. He lost to Douglas in Missouri
and Bell in
Virginia and Tennessee. Bell also captured
Breckinridge's home state, Kentucky. Lincoln swept most of the
northern states, although
New Jersey split its electoral votes, giving
four to Lincoln and three to Douglas. As the candidate of the
Buchanan faction, Breckinridge outpolled Douglas in
received support comparable to Douglas in Connecticut, although he
received very little support elsewhere in the North. It was
Breckinridge's duty as vice-president to announce Lincoln as the
winner of the electoral college vote on February 13, 1861.
On February 24, Breckinridge visited Lincoln at Willard's Hotel in
Washington, D.C., and frequently thereafter he visited his cousin, now
the First Lady, at the White House. In the lame duck session
following the election, Congress adopted a resolution authored by
Lazarus Powell, now in the Senate, calling for a committee of thirteen
(Committee of Thirteen on the Disturbed Condition of the Country) "to
consider that portion of the President's message relating to the
disturbances of the country." Frank Heck wrote that Breckinridge
appointed "an able committee, representing every major faction."
He endorsed Crittenden's proposed compromise, a collection of
constitutional amendments designed to avert secession and appease the
South. Breckinridge used his influence as the Senate's presiding
officer in an unsuccessful attempt to get it approved by either the
committee or the Senate. Ultimately, the committee reported that
they were unable to agree on a recommendation. On March 4, 1861,
the last day of the session, Breckinridge swore in
Hannibal Hamlin as
his successor as vice-president. Hamlin, in turn, swore in the newly
elected senators, including Breckinridge.
Seven states had already seceded when Breckinridge took his seat as a
senator, leaving the remaining Southern senators more outnumbered in
their defense of slavery. Seeking to find a compromise that would
reunite the states under constitutional principles, he urged Lincoln
to withdraw federal forces from the Confederate states in order to
avert war. The congressional session ended on March 28, and
in an April 2 address to the
Kentucky General Assembly, he continued
to advocate peaceful reconciliation of the states and proposed a
conference of border states to seek a solution. On April 12,
Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, ending plans for the
conference. Breckinridge recommended that Governor Beriah
Magoffin call a sovereignty convention to determine whether Kentucky
would side with the Union or the Confederacy. On May 10, he was
chosen by the legislature as one of six delegates to a conference to
decide the state's next action. The states' rights delegates were
Breckinridge, Magoffin, and Richard Hawes; the Unionist delegates were
Crittenden, Archibald Dixon, and S.S. Nicholas. Unable to agree
on substantial issues, the delegates recommended that
Kentucky adopt a
neutral stance in the Civil War and arm itself to prevent invasion by
either federal or Confederate forces. Breckinridge did not
support this recommendation, but he agreed to abide by it once it was
approved by the legislature.
In special elections in June, pro-Union candidates captured 9 of 10
seats in Kentucky's House delegation. Returning to the Senate for
a special session in July, Breckinridge was regarded as a traitor by
most of his fellow legislators because of his Confederate
sympathies. He condemned as unconstitutional Lincoln's enlistment
and arming of men for a war Congress had not officially declared, his
expending funds for the war that had not been allocated by Congress,
and his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. He was the only
senator to vote against a resolution authorizing Lincoln to use "the
entire resources of the government" for the war. Asked what he
would do if he were president, he replied, "I would prefer to see
these States all reunited upon true constitutional principles to any
other object that could be offered me in life ... But I
infinitely prefer to see a peaceful separation of these States than to
see endless, aimless, devastating war, at the end of which I see the
grave of public liberty and of personal freedom." On August 1, he
declared that, if
Kentucky sided with the federal government against
the Confederacy, "she will be represented by some other man on the
floor of this Senate."
Kentucky's neutrality was breached by both federal and Confederate
forces in early September 1861. Confederate forces under the
command of Major General
Leonidas Polk invaded
Kentucky on September 3
and occupied the southwestern town of Columbus. They were
followed by a Union force commanded by Brigadier General Ulysses S.
Grant, which on the morning of September 6 occupied the town of
Paducah on the
Ohio River. Soon after, Unionists in the state
arrested former governor
Charles S. Morehead
Charles S. Morehead for his suspected
Confederate sympathies and shut down the Louisville Courier because of
its pro-Confederate editorials. Word reached Breckinridge that
Thomas E. Bramlette
Thomas E. Bramlette intended to arrest him next. To
avoid detainment, on September 19, 1861, he left Lexington. Joined in
Prestonsburg by Confederate sympathizers George W. Johnson, George
Baird Hodge, William Preston, and William E. Simms, he continued to
Abingdon, Virginia, and from there by rail to Confederate-held Bowling
Green, Kentucky. The state legislature immediately requested his
In an open letter to his constituents dated October 8, 1861,
Breckinridge maintained that the Union no longer existed and that
Kentucky should be free to choose her own course; he defended his
sympathy to the Southern cause and denounced the Unionist state
legislature, declaring, "I exchange with proud satisfaction a term of
six years in the Senate of the
United States for the musket of a
soldier." He was indicted for treason in U.S. federal
district court in Frankfort on November 6, 1861, having officially
enlisted in the Confederate army days earlier. On December 2,
1861, he was declared a traitor by the
United States Senate. A
resolution stating "Whereas John C. Breckinridge, a member of this
body from the State of Kentucky, has joined the enemies of his
country, and is now in arms against the government he had sworn to
support: Therefore—Resolved, That said John C. Breckinridge, the
traitor, be, and he hereby is, expelled from the Senate," was adopted
by a vote of 36–0 on December 4. Ten Southern Senators
had been expelled earlier that year in July.
Service in the Western Theater
On the recommendation of Simon Bolivar Buckner, the former commander
Kentucky State Militia who had also joined the Army of the
Confederate States, Breckinridge was commissioned as a brigadier
general in the Confederate Army on November 2, 1861. On November
16, he was given command of the 1st
Kentucky Brigade. Nicknamed
Orphan Brigade because its men felt orphaned by Kentucky's
Unionist state government, the brigade was in Buckner's 2nd Division
of the Army of Mississippi, commanded by General Albert Sidney
Johnston. For several weeks, he trained his troops in the city,
and he also participated in the organization of a provisional
Confederate government for the state. Although not sanctioned by
the legislature in Frankfort, its existence prompted the Confederacy
Kentucky on December 10, 1861.
Johnston's forces were forced to withdraw from Bowling Green in
February 1862. During the retreat, Breckinridge was put in charge
of Johnston's Reserve Corps. Johnston decided to attack Ulysses S.
Grant's forces at Shiloh,
Tennessee on April 6, 1862 by advancing
North from his base in Corinth, Mississippi. Breckinridge's reserves
soon joined the
Battle of Shiloh
Battle of Shiloh as Johnston tried to force Grant's
troops into the river. Despite Johnston being killed in the
fighting, the Confederates made steady progress against Grant's troops
P. G. T. Beauregard
P. G. T. Beauregard – who assumed command after Johnston's
death – ordered his generals to break off the fighting at about 6
o'clock in the afternoon. The next day, the Union forces
regrouped and repelled the Confederates. Of the 7,000 troops
under Breckinridge's command at the battle, 386 were killed and 1,628
were wounded, Breckinridge among the latter.
John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews
Breckinridge's performance earned him a promotion to major general on
April 14, 1862. After his promotion, he joined
Earl Van Dorn
Earl Van Dorn near
Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Confederate forces awaited a Union
attack throughout most of July. Finally, Van Dorn ordered
Breckinridge to attempt to recapture Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from
federal forces. Despite having his forces reduced to around 3,000 by
illness and desertions, on August 5, he attacked the Union garrison,
capturing several prisoners, destroying its supplies, and driving it
from the city. The ironclad CSS
Arkansas was supposed to support
Breckinridge's attack, but it was immobilized by a mechanical failure
and its crew sank it to prevent its capture. Without naval support,
the Confederates were unable to hold the city.
Later that month, Breckinridge served as an independent commander in
Mississippi Valley, securing Confederate control of the area
by taking Port Hudson, which helped halt the federal advance down the
Mississippi River. Meanwhile, General Braxton Bragg, commanding
the Army of Mississippi, was preparing an invasion of Kentucky, and
Breckinridge was ordered to join him. Confederate leaders believed
that Breckinridge's presence in the state could spur enlistments. Van
Dorn was reluctant to lose command of Breckinridge and his men, and by
the time he relented on October 15, Bragg was already retreating from
the state after being defeated at the Battle of Perryville.
Breckinridge and his division of 7,000 men met Bragg at Murfreesboro,
Kentucky solidly under Union control,
Breckinridge's wife and children moved south and followed his troops
as closely as was safely possible.
Bragg resented Breckinridge's close ties to Confederate commanders,
particularly Joseph E. Johnston, Wade Hampton, John B. Floyd, and
William Preston, all of whom were related to Breckinridge.
Furthermore, he thought Breckinridge's late arrival for the Kentucky
campaign had contributed to the lack of Confederate volunteers he
found in the state. In December, Bragg ordered the execution of
Asa Lewis after a court martial had convicted him of
desertion. Lewis's enlistment had expired, but he continued to
serve with the 6th
Kentucky Infantry until his impoverished mother and
siblings begged him to return home. Although Lewis claimed he was
returning to the army at the time of his arrest, Bragg was insistent
on reducing desertions by making him an example. After
witnessing the execution, Breckinridge reportedly became nauseated and
fell forward on his horse, requiring assistance from members of his
staff. He protested Bragg's "military murder" and was barely able
to prevent open mutiny by his
Kentucky soldiers. Relations
between Breckinridge and Bragg continued to deteriorate;
Breckinridge's opinion that Bragg was incompetent was shared by many
At Murfreesboro, Breckinridge's Division was assigned to Lieutenant
General William J. Hardee's Corps and was stationed on the east side
of the Stones River. When the
Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded
by Major General William Rosecrans, attacked on December 31, 1862,
beginning the Battle of Stones River, Bragg's main force initially
repelled the attack. Bragg ordered Breckinridge to reinforce him
on the west side of the river, but Brigadier General John Pegram, who
commanded a Cavalry brigade, erroneously reported that a large Union
force was advancing along the east bank, and Breckinridge was slow to
comply with Bragg's order. When he finally crossed the river, his
attacks were ineffective, and Bragg ordered him back across the
river. By January 2, Union forces had taken a ridge that ran
along the river; against Breckinridge's advice, Bragg ordered the 2nd
Division to launch a near-suicidal attack on the federal
position. Prior to the attack, Breckinridge wrote to Preston, "if
[the attack] should result in disaster and I be among the killed, I
want you to do justice to my memory and tell the people that I
believed this attack to be very unwise and tried to prevent it."
Breckinridge's men initially broke the Union line and forced them
across the river. Artillery on the opposite side of the river then
opened fire on Breckinridge's men, and reinforcements for the fleeing
Union troops arrived. In just over an hour, nearly one-third of
Breckinridge's troops were killed, wounded, or captured. One anecdote
holds that, as he rode among the survivors, he cried out repeatedly,
"My poor Orphans! My poor Orphans," bringing recognition to the Orphan
Brigade. Bragg's official report criticized the conduct of
Breckinridge's division and assigned to Breckinridge most of the blame
for the Confederate defeat. Breckinridge asserted to
his superiors that Bragg's report "fails ... to do justice to the
behavior of my Division"; he requested a court of inquiry, but the
request was denied. Several Kentuckians under Breckinridge's
command, who already blamed Bragg for the failed invasion of their
native state, encouraged him to resign his commission and challenge
Bragg to a duel.
In May 1863, Breckinridge was reassigned to Joseph E. Johnston,
participating in the Battle of Jackson in an unsuccessful attempt to
break the Siege of Vicksburg. Vicksburg fell to Grant's forces on
July 4, and Breckinridge was returned to Bragg's command on August 28,
1863. After seeing no action on the first day of the Battle of
Chickamauga in Georgia on September 19, he led a division of D.H.
Hill's corps in an attack on the Union forces the next morning.
The Confederate troops succeeded in breaking the Union line, but
the main army, due at least in part to Bragg's hesitation, escaped
back to Tennessee. Of Breckinridge's 3,769 men, 166 were killed
in the battle; 909 were wounded and 165 were missing.
In late November, Breckinridge commanded one of Bragg's two corps
during the Confederate defeat at the Battles for Chattanooga.
Bragg ordered a significant number of Breckinridge's men to reinforce
Hardee's corps, leaving him with insufficient forces to repel the
combined attack of
Joseph Hooker and
George Henry Thomas
George Henry Thomas on Missionary
Ridge. His son, Cabell, was captured in the battle. He was later
freed in a prisoner exchange. In his official report, Bragg
charged Breckinridge with drunkenness at Chattanooga and
(retroactively) at Stones River. Historian
Lowell H. Harrison noted
that, while Breckinridge frequently drank whiskey, he was well known
for being able to consume large amounts without getting drunk. Before
submitting his own resignation, which was accepted, Bragg removed
Breckinridge from command. It would be almost two years – on
May 1, 1865 – before the two would reconcile.
Service in the Eastern Theater
Breckinridge as a Confederate general
On December 15, 1863, Breckinridge took leave in Richmond.
Premature rumors of his death prompted
The New York Times
The New York Times to print a
quite vituperative obituary suggesting that Breckinridge had been a
hypocrite for supporting states' rights, then abandoning his home
state when it chose to remain in the Union. Confederate leaders
were skeptical of Bragg's claims against Breckinridge, and in February
1864, Confederate President
Jefferson Davis assigned him to the
Eastern Theater and put him in charge of the Trans-Allegheny
Department (later known as the Department of East
Tennessee and West
On May 5, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern
Virginia, ordered Breckinridge to take command of a reconnaissance
mission to scout the federal forces under
Franz Sigel near Winchester,
Virginia as part of the Lynchburg Campaign. With a force of about
4,800 men, including 261 cadets from the
Virginia Military Institute,
he defeated Sigel's 6,300 men at the
Battle of New Market
Battle of New Market on May 15,
driving them west across the Shenandoah River. In doing so,
Breckinridge's troops managed to protect Lee's flank, defend a crucial
railroad juncture, and protect the valuable wheat supply. Lee had
suggested that Breckinridge invade Maryland, but he was unable to do
so because floodwaters had made the
Potomac River virtually
impassable. The victory was considered one of his best
performances as a general. Since then, many in the South have
viewed him as a "worthy successor" of the late Stonewall Jackson.
Breckinridge would draw more comparisons at the Second Battle of
Kernstown, the scene of the first fight in Jackson's Valley Campaign
two years earlier. In the Second Battle, which occurred on July 24,
13,000 Confederate troops commanded by Lt. Gen.
Jubal Early attacked
and defeated 10,000 Federal troops under the command of Brig. Gen.
George Crook. The victory allowed the Confederates to resume their
invasion of the North. Shortly thereafter, Breckinridge's
Division reinforced Lee's Army of Northern
Virginia and played an
important role in halting Grant's advance at the Battle of Cold
Harbor. During the battle, his troops repulsed a powerful Union
attack. Breckinridge was wounded when a cannonball struck his
horse and he was pinned underneath. He was still unable to walk
or ride when Lee ordered him to take command of the survivors of the
Confederate defeat at the Battle of Piedmont. Traveling by rail
Rockfish Gap on June 10, he marched his forces into the city of
Lynchburg, Virginia. He was joined there by General Early's
troops, who arrived just in time to save the Confederate forces from
an assault by Union forces under
David Hunter at the Battle of
After Early and Breckinridge (who was now able to ride a horse) chased
Hunter more than sixty miles away from the city, Lee ordered them to
clear the Union forces from the Shenandoah Valley, then cross into
Maryland and probe the defenses of
Washington, D.C. Union forces' only
serious attempt to turn back the expedition came at the Battle of
Monocacy on July 9. Confederate troops were delayed, but ultimately
prevailed and continued toward Washington. They were defeated at
Battle of Fort Stevens
Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11–12, partially with
reinforcements brought in by the
United States Government with the
time gained from the Battle of Monocacy. Since Lincoln was
watching the fight from the ramparts of Fort Stevens, this marked only
time in American history in which two former opponents in a
presidential election faced one another across battle lines.
Following the battle, Early decided to withdraw rather than assault
the well-fortified federal capital. Early and Breckinridge were
able to hold the
Shenandoah Valley through July and August, but on
September 19, 1864,
Philip Sheridan forced their retreat at the Third
Battle of Winchester. Responding to General John Brown Gordon's
admonition to be careful in the fight, Breckinridge responded, "Well,
general, there is little left for me if our cause is to fail."
After the death of John Hunt Morgan, Breckinridge again took command
of the Department of East
Tennessee and West Virginia. He
reorganized the department, which was in great disarray. On October 2,
1864 at the First Battle of Saltville, his troops were able to protect
critical Confederate salt works from
United States forces under
Stephen G. Burbridge, despite a lack of resources. The next
morning, he discovered that soldiers under his command had begun
killing about 100 wounded black Union soldiers of the 5th United
States Colored Cavalry. Hearing the gunfire, he rushed to stop
the massacre. Brigadier General
Felix Huston Robertson
Felix Huston Robertson was
suspected of involvement. General Lee instructed Breckinridge to
"prefer charges against him and bring him to trial", but no trial ever
In mid-November, Breckinridge led a raid into northeastern Tennessee,
driving Alvan Cullem Gillem's forces back to Knoxville at the Battle
of Bull's Gap. On December 17–18, he faced a two-pronged attack from
Union cavalry under Major General
George Stoneman at the Battle of
Marion in Virginia. Badly outnumbered on either flank, Breckinridge
resisted Stoneman's forces until he ran low on ammunition. Stoneman's
forces were able to damage Confederate salt works, lead mines, and
railroads in the area, and destroy supply depots at Bristol and
Abingdon. Finally restocked with ammunition after three days,
Breckinridge was able to drive Stoneman – whose men were now short
of ammunition themselves – out of the area.
Confederate Secretary of War
James A. Seddon
James A. Seddon resigned his position as the Confederate Secretary of
War on January 19, 1865. On February 6, Davis appointed Breckinridge
to the vacant position, partially to quiet growing opposition to his
administration. Initially opposed by several members of the
Confederate Congress because he had waited to join the Confederacy, he
eventually gained their support by administrating his office more
efficiently than his predecessors. With their support, he was
able to expand the post's influence to include making officer
assignments and promotion recommendations and advising field generals
regarding strategy. His first act as secretary was to promote
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee to general-in-chief of all Confederate forces.
After Lee reported a critical shortage of food, clothing, and supplies
among his troops, Breckinridge recommended the removal of Lucius B.
Northrop, the Confederate commissary general. Northrop's successor,
Isaac M. St. John, improved the flow of supplies to troops in the
Breckinridge's statue at
Cheapside Park in downtown Lexington
By late February, Breckinridge concluded that the Confederate cause
was hopeless. Delegating the day-to-day operations of his office to
his assistant, John Archibald Campbell, he began laying the groundwork
for surrender. Davis desired to continue the fight, but
Breckinridge urged, "This has been a magnificent epic. In God's name
let it not terminate in farce." On April 2, Lee sent a telegram to
Breckinridge informing him that he would have to withdraw from his
position that night, and that this would necessitate the evacuation of
Richmond. Ordering Campbell to organize the flight of the
Confederate cabinet to Danville, Virginia, Breckinridge remained in
the city to oversee the destruction of facilities and supplies to
prevent their use by the invading federal forces. In the process,
he ensured that the Confederate archives, both government and
military, were captured intact by the Union forces, ensuring that a
full account of the Confederate war effort would be preserved for
history. Upon his exit from the city, he ordered that the bridges
James River be burned. His son Clifton, then serving in the
Confederate Navy at Richmond, resigned his post and joined his father
as he moved southward to meet Davis.
After overseeing the transfer of Richmond, Breckinridge joined Lee's
forces at Farmville, Virginia, on the night of April 5 and remained
there until April 7. He continued on to Danville, arriving on
April 11 to discover that Lee had surrendered on April 9 and the
Confederate cabinet had already fled to Greensboro, North
Carolina. Arriving in Greensboro on April 13, he advised the
cabinet that the remaining Confederate armies should be surrendered;
only Davis and Secretary of State
Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin disagreed. At
Bennett Place, he assisted
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston in his surrender
negotiations with Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman
later praised Breckinridge's negotiating skills, and the surrender
terms agreed to were later rejected by Washington as too generous,
forcing Sherman to offer the same terms as Grant had at Appomattox,
which were accepted.
On April 18, Breckinridge heard from Sherman and Johnston of the
Abraham Lincoln four days earlier; the President had
died in the Petersen House, where Breckinridge briefly resided in late
1852 as a congressman. The Kentuckian was visibly devastated.
Eyewitness accounts recall him to have said, "Gentlemen, the South has
lost its best friend."
Breckinridge rode into Abbeville,
South Carolina on the morning of
April 28. While there, Breckinridge and Brigadier General Basil
W. Duke finally convinced Davis that further prosecution of the war
was hopeless. Breckinridge was put in charge of the $150,000 in
gold specie remaining in the Confederate treasury; traveling southward
by rail toward Washington, Georgia, a group of soldiers in his
military escort – unpaid for months – threatened to divide the
gold among themselves before it could be captured by federal
troops. Breckinridge convinced them to abandon their scheme
after paying them their wages from the treasury, but some of them
refused to escort Breckinridge and the bullion any further.
Breckinridge's party arrived in Washington on May 4 and, after paying
out several requisitions from the treasury, deposited the rest in
banks there. He also composed a letter to his remaining deputies in
which he disbanded the War Department.
Escape and exile
On May 5, the same day that Davis officially dissolved the Confederate
Government in Washington, Georgia, Breckinridge discharged most
of the men escorting him, retaining only a small contingent of
Kentuckians under the command of his cousin, William Campbell Preston
Breckinridge. Feeling honor bound to protect Davis, he attempted to
create a diversion that would allow him to escape. The next day, his
party encountered a large Federal force; while his cousin negotiated
with the force's commander, Breckinridge and a small detachment
escaped. Riding southward across Georgia, they reached Milltown
(now Lakeland) by May 11 and remained there for a few days.
Learning of Davis's capture, he left Milltown with only a military
aide, a personal servant, and his son Cabell. On May 15, 1865, in
Madison, Florida, he was joined by fellow fugitive John Taylor Wood,
who had been a captain in the Confederate Navy. Breckinridge and
Wood decided to flee to the Bahamas, but because Cabell was allergic
to mosquito bites, Breckinridge told him to surrender to the nearest
Breckinridge's party hijacking a larger boat
At Gainesville, Florida, the group found Confederate Colonel John
Jackson Dickison, who gave them a lifeboat he had taken from a
captured federal gunboat. Traveling down the St. Johns River,
they reached Fort Butler on May 29. From there, they continued on the
St. Johns to Lake Harney where the boat was loaded on a wagon and
hauled about 12 miles to Sand Point (today's Titusville) on the Indian
River. They reached the river by May 31, but as they followed its
course southward, they had to drag the boat across the river's
mudflats and sandbars. They stopped at the John C. Houston place
on Elbow Creek (Melbourne), where their boat was brought ashore and
caulked. When the repairs were completed, Colonel John Taylor Wood,
again led the party south. Transferring the boat to the Atlantic
Ocean near Jupiter Inlet, they continued along the Florida coast and
landed near present-day Palm Beach on June 4. Strong winds prevented
them from navigating the small craft out to sea, so they continued
southward down the coast.
On June 5, the party was spotted by a federal steamer, but convinced
the crew they were hunters scavenging the coast. Two days later,
they encountered a larger boat with a mast and rigging; chasing it
down, they disarmed the occupants and hijacked the craft. As
compensation, they gave their old boat and twenty dollars in gold to
the owners of the larger craft, and returned some of their weapons
after the exchange was complete. With this more seaworthy craft,
they decided to flee to Cuba. Departing from Fort Dallas, they
survived an encounter with pirates, two significant storms, and a
dangerous lack of provisions before arriving in the city of Cárdenas
on June 11, 1865. A Kentuckian then living in the city recognized
Breckinridge, introduced him to the locals, and served as his
interpreter. The refugees were given food and stayed the night in a
local hotel. The next morning, they traveled by rail to Havana,
where Breckinridge was offered a house. He declined the offer,
choosing to travel with Charles J. Helm, a fellow Kentuckian who had
been operating as a Confederate agent in the Caribbean, to Great
Breckinridge in exile in Paris
Arriving in Britain in late July, he consulted with former Confederate
agents there and arranged communication with his wife, then in Canada.
Re-crossing the Atlantic, he was reunited with his wife and all of his
children except Clifton in
Toronto on September 13, 1865. The
family spent the winter in Toronto, living first in a hotel and then
in a rented house. There were quite a number of other Confederate
exiles in the city. It was enough, according to Mrs. Breckinridge, "to
form quite a pleasant society among ourselves." The family
moved to Niagara in May. In August, doctors advised Breckinridge's
wife that the climate of France might benefit her ailing health.
Cabell Breckinridge returned to the U.S. to engage in business
ventures with his brother Clifton, and Mary, just 12 years old, was
sent to live with relatives in New York. The remainder of the
family journeyed to Europe, where the children attended school in
Paris, Versailles, and Vevey, Switzerland. From mid-1866 to early
1868, Breckinridge toured Europe – including visits to Germany,
Austria, Turkey, Greece, Syria, Egypt, and the Holy Land; because of
her poor health, his wife remained in France until February 1868, when
she joined him in Naples, Italy. During their tour of Italy,
Breckinridge met with
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX in Rome, and also visited
Desiring to return to the U.S. but still fearing capture, Breckinridge
moved his family back to Niagara in June 1868. Within sight
of the U.S. border, he steadfastly refused to seek a pardon, although
70 members of the
Kentucky General Assembly had requested one on his
behalf from President
Andrew Johnson on February 10, 1866. On
January 8, 1868, the Louisville City Council instructed the state's
congressional delegation to seek assurance that Breckinridge would not
be prosecuted on his return. James Beck, Breckinridge's old law
partner, was then in Congress and wrote to him on December 11, 1868,
that it appeared likely that Johnson would issue a general pardon for
all former Confederates; he advised Breckinridge to return to the U.S.
prior to the pardon being issued because he feared it might only apply
to those in the country.
Return to the U.S. and death
Johnson proclaimed amnesty for all former Confederates on December 25,
1868. Still in Canada, Breckinridge lingered for a few weeks to
receive assurance that it still applied to him even though he had not
been in the U.S. when it was issued. Departing Canada on February
10, 1869, he made several stops to visit family and friends along the
route to Lexington, where he arrived on March 9. Although he
Kentucky for the rest of his life, he never bought a home
there after the war, living first in hotels and then renting a home on
West Second Street.
Breckinridge after the war
Many insurance companies in the south asked Breckinridge to join them
in various capacities. In August 1868, he became manager of the
Kentucky branch of Virginia's Piedmont Life Insurance Company (which
soon became the Piedmont and Arlington Insurance Company). Washington
College (now Washington and Lee University) offered him a
professorship. He was urged to accept by former Confederate Colonel
William Preston Johnston, who was already serving as a faculty
member, but Breckinridge declined. He resumed his law
practice, taking as a partner Robert A. Thornton, a 27-year-old former
Confederate soldier. He served as general counsel for the
Cincinnati Southern Railway, which would connect Cincinnati
to Chattanooga via Lexington. Officials in Louisville tried
to block the move, which would break the near-monopoly that the
Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Louisville and Nashville Railroad had on southern trade. On
January 25, 1870, he presented his case to the House and Senate
railroad committees and, although they rejected it at that time, they
approved it two years later. Construction began in 1873.
Breckinridge's other railroad ventures were less successful. During
his lifetime, he was unable to secure the construction of railroads to
his real estate investments in and around Superior, Wisconsin. As
president of the newly formed Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy
Railroad company, he secured financial backing from Collis Potter
Huntington for a railroad connecting Elizabethtown and Lexington to
the Big Sandy River as part of a route linking those cities with the
Atlantic Ocean. When Huntington invested in June 1871, he became
president of the company, and Breckinridge became vice-president.
A line from Lexington to Mount Sterling was all that could be
completed before the
Panic of 1873
Panic of 1873 dried up the needed investment
capital. The proposed line was finally completed in 1881.
Breckinridge refused all requests – including one made by President
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant – to return to politics, insisting, "I no more feel
the political excitements that marked the scenes of my former years
than if I were an extinct volcano." Under the terms of section 3
of the Fourteenth Amendment, a two-thirds vote in each house of
Congress would have been needed to allow him to hold office because he
sided with the Confederacy. He never expressed interest in seeking
such approval. Speaking as a private citizen in March 1870, he
publicly denounced the actions of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1872, he
supported passage of a state statute which successfully legalized
black testimony against whites in court.
By 1873, Breckinridge began to experience health problems which he
referred to as "pleuro-pneumonia". Repeated surgeries and visits
to the New York coast and the
Virginia mountains did not improve his
condition. In May 1875, he consulted surgeons
Lewis Sayre and
Samuel D. Gross, who concluded that his ill health was caused by
cirrhosis brought on by injuries to his liver suffered during the war.
Of more immediate concern was the fluid that filled two-thirds of one
of his lungs. On May 11, Sayre attempted to create an artificial
opening through which the fluid could drain; although he had to stop
before completing the operation, some of the fluid was drained,
bringing a measure of relief. Assisted by Beck and Frank K. Hunt,
Breckinridge completed his will. Sayre further alleviated
Breckinridge's pain via another surgery on the morning of May 17, but
by the afternoon, his condition rapidly worsened, and he died at
approximately 5:45 p.m. at the age of 54. Basil Duke led the
funeral procession to
Lexington Cemetery where Breckinridge's body was
As a military commander, Breckinridge was highly respected. Fellow
Confederate George M. Edgar, describing Breckinridge's performance,
General Breckinridge had few if any superiors on the field of battle.
Besides being a man of wonderful courage, he had a keen eye to discern
the strong and weak points of the enemy's position, skill in using his
forces to the best advantage, and a celerity of movement which
reminded me of Jackson.
On May 20, 1875, the Louisville Courier Journal declared that it was
Breckinridge who was "truly representative of the rebellion as an
actual force and its underlying causes." He was viewed poorly in
the North. The premature New York Times 1863 obituary labelled "him
one of the basest and wickedest of traitors."
Monuments and memorials
Despite differences in spelling, the towns of Breckenridge,
Minnesota, Breckenridge, Missouri, Breckenridge, Texas,
Breckenridge, Colorado were named in Breckinridge's honor. The
Colorado town deliberately changed the spelling of its name when its
namesake joined the Confederacy. Fort Breckinridge, Arizona
Territory (1860 to 1865), located at the confluence of the Aravaipa
Creek and the San Pedro River, was named in honor of the Vice
President. During the Civil War, its name was changed to Fort Stanford
in honor of
California Governor Leland Stanford, before being changed
back to Fort Breckinridge. After the Civil War, the name was changed
once again to Camp Grant. Between 1855 and 1862, the county now
known as Lyon County, Kansas, was known as Breckinridge County.
Breckinridge was played by
Jason Isaacs in the 2014 film Field of Lost
Shoes, which depicted the Battle of New Market.
A memorial to Breckinridge was placed on the Fayette County Courthouse
lawn in Lexington in 1887. The racially motivated Charleston
church shooting in
South Carolina in June 2015 reinvigorated demands
for the removal of monuments dedicated to prominent pro-slavery and
Confederate figures. In November 2015, a committee, the Urban
County Arts Review Board’s, voted to recommend removal of both the
Breckinridge statue and the
John Hunt Morgan
John Hunt Morgan statue from the
Courthouse grounds. Amy Murrell Taylor, an associate professor of
history at the University of Kentucky, claimed that the "statues are
not and have never been neutral representations of the Civil War past
but instead they are embodiments of a racially charged postwar
interpretation of it."
American Civil War
American Civil War portal
United States Army portal
American Civil War
American Civil War generals (Confederate)
United States Senators expelled or censured
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New Orleans removed its Confederate
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1821–1875. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.
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Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Cabell Breckinridge.
Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
about John Cabell Breckinridge.
New York Times premature obituary
Biographical sketches of Hon. John C. Breckinridge, Democratic nominee
for president : and General Joseph Lane, Democratic nominee for
John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge at
Find a Grave
Find a Grave
U.S. House of Representatives
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 8th congressional district
Party political offices
Democratic nominee for
Vice President of the United States
Democratic nominee(1) for
President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
Confederate States Secretary of War
United States Senator (Class 3) from Kentucky
Served alongside: Lazarus Powell
Notes and references
1. The Democratic party split in 1860, producing two presidential
candidates. Breckinridge was nominated by the rebel Southern
Democrats; Stephen Douglas was the official nominee by the Northern
Vice Presidents of the
United States (list)
John Adams (1789–1797)
Thomas Jefferson (1797–1801)
Aaron Burr (1801–1805)
George Clinton (1805–1812)
Elbridge Gerry (1813–1814)
Daniel D. Tompkins
Daniel D. Tompkins (1817–1825)
John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun (1825–1832)
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren (1833–1837)
Richard M. Johnson (1837–1841)
John Tyler (1841)
George M. Dallas
George M. Dallas (1845–1849)
Millard Fillmore (1849–1850)
William R. King
William R. King (1853)
John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge (1857–1861)
Hannibal Hamlin (1861–1865)
Andrew Johnson (1865)
Schuyler Colfax (1869–1873)
Henry Wilson (1873–1875)
William A. Wheeler
William A. Wheeler (1877–1881)
Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur (1881)
Thomas A. Hendricks
Thomas A. Hendricks (1885)
Levi P. Morton
Levi P. Morton (1889–1893)
Adlai Stevenson (1893–1897)
Garret Hobart (1897–1899)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901)
Charles W. Fairbanks
Charles W. Fairbanks (1905–1909)
James S. Sherman
James S. Sherman (1909–1912)
Thomas R. Marshall
Thomas R. Marshall (1913–1921)
Calvin Coolidge (1921–1923)
Charles G. Dawes
Charles G. Dawes (1925–1929)
Charles Curtis (1929–1933)
John Nance Garner
John Nance Garner (1933–1941)
Henry A. Wallace
Henry A. Wallace (1941–1945)
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (1945)
Alben W. Barkley
Alben W. Barkley (1949–1953)
Richard Nixon (1953–1961)
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson (1961–1963)
Hubert Humphrey (1965–1969)
Spiro Agnew (1969–1973)
Gerald Ford (1973–1974)
Nelson Rockefeller (1974–1977)
Walter Mondale (1977–1981)
George H. W. Bush
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Dan Quayle (1989–1993)
Al Gore (1993–2001)
Dick Cheney (2001–2009)
Joe Biden (2009–2017)
Mike Pence (2017–present)
United States Senators from Kentucky
J. C. Breckinridge
Cabinet of President
Jefferson Davis (1861–65)
Alexander H. Stephens
Alexander H. Stephens (1861–65)
Secretary of State
Robert Toombs (1861)
Robert M. T. Hunter
Robert M. T. Hunter (1861–62)
Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin (1862–65)
Secretary of the Treasury
C. G. Memminger (1861–64)
G. A. Trenholm (1864–65)
John H. Reagan (1865)
Secretary of War
Leroy P. Walker (1861)
Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin (1861–62)
George W. Randolph
George W. Randolph (1862)
James A. Seddon
James A. Seddon (1862–65)
John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge (1865)
Secretary of the Navy
Stephen R. Mallory (1861–65)
John H. Reagan (1861–65)
Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin (1861)
Thomas Bragg (1861–62)
Thomas H. Watts
Thomas H. Watts (1862–63)
George Davis (1864–65)
United States presidential election, 1856 (1860 →)
John C. Breckinridge
Stephen A. Douglas
John C. Frémont
William L. Dayton
Nathaniel P. Banks
Robert F. Stockton
Andrew J. Donelson
Other 1856 elections: House
United States presidential election, 1860 (1864 →)
Salmon P. Chase
William L. Dayton
William H. Seward
Stephen A. Douglas
Northern VP nominee
Herschel V. Johnson
John C. Breckinridge
Southern VP nominee
Daniel S. Dickinson
Robert M. T. Hunter
Constitutional Union Party
John J. Crittenden
William A. Graham
William C. Rives
Other 1860 elections: House
American Civil War
Timeline leading to the War
Compromise of 1850
Dred Scott v. Sandford
President Lincoln's 75,000 volunteers
Fugitive slave laws
Plantations in the American South
Slavery in the United States
Treatment of slaves in the United States
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Susan B. Anthony
William Lloyd Garrison
Elijah Parish Lovejoy
J. Sella Martin
George Luther Stearns
Revenue Cutter Service
Union naval blockade
1st Bull Run
2nd Bull Run
state or territory)
R. H. Anderson
A. S. Johnston
J. E. Johnston
E. K. Smith
D. D. Porter
Colfax Riot of 1873
Eufaula Riot of 1874
Freedman's Savings Bank
Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
Knights of the White Camelia
Ku Klux Klan
Memphis Riot of 1866
Meridian Riot of 1871
New Orleans Riot of 1866
Pulaski (Tennessee) Riot of 1867
Habeas Corpus Act 1867
Enforcement Act of 1870
Enforcement Act of February 1871
Enforcement Act of April 1871
Indian Council at Fort Smith
South Carolina riots of 1876
Southern Claims Commission
Southern Homestead Act of 1866
Timber Culture Act
Timber Culture Act of 1873
Civil War Discovery Trail
Civil War Roundtables
Civil War Trails Program
Civil War Trust
Confederate History Month
Confederate monuments and memorials
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee Day
Lost Cause mythology
Modern display of the Confederate flag
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Southern Historical Society
United Daughters of the Confederacy
Monuments and memorials
List of Union Civil War monuments and memorials
List of memorials to the Grand Army of the Republic
Memorials to Abraham Lincoln
List of Confederate monuments and memorials
Removal of Confederate monuments and memorials
List of memorials to Robert E. Lee
List of memorials to Jefferson Davis
Roger B. Taney Monument
Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Confederate Women's Monument
Roger B. Taney Monument
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee and
Stonewall Jackson Monument
Durham, North Carolina
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee Monument
Battle of Liberty Place Monument
Jefferson Davis Monument
General Beauregard Equestrian Statue
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee Monument
Confederate Memorial Day
Ladies' memorial associations
U.S. Memorial Day
U.S. national cemeteries
1913 Gettysburg Reunion
Grand Army of the Republic
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S.
Old soldiers' homes
Southern Cross of Honor
United Confederate Veterans
Confederate Home Guard
Confederate Revolving Cannon
Medal of Honor recipients
Union corps badges
U.S. Balloon Corps
U.S. Home Guard
U.S. Military Railroad
Committee on the Conduct of the War
Confederate States Presidential Election of 1861
Confiscation Act of 1861
Confiscation Act of 1862
Habeas Corpus Act of 1863
Hampton Roads Conference
National Union Party
U.S. Presidential Election of 1864
Confederate war finance
Confederate States dollar
Confederate Secret Service
Great Revival of 1863
Naming the war
New York City Gold Hoax of 1864
New York City Riot of 1863
Richmond Riot of 1863
Supreme Court cases
U.S. Sanitary Commission
United States Democratic Party
of the DNC
Van Buren/R. Johnson
Douglas/H. Johnson (Breckinridge/Lane, SD)
W. Bryan/Stevenson I
J. Davis/C. Bryan
B. Clinton/Gore (twice)
District of Columbia
1868 (New York)
1876 (Saint Louis)
1888 (Saint Louis)
1904 (Saint Louis)
1916 (Saint Louis)
1920 (San Francisco)
1924 (New York)
1960 (Los Angeles)
1964 (Atlantic City)
1972 (Miami Beach)
1976 (New York)
1980 (New York)
1984 (San Francisco)
1992 (New York)
2000 (Los Angeles)
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Democratic Governors Association
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
National Conference of Democratic Mayors
College Democrats of America
National Federation of Democratic Women
Stonewall Young Democrats
Young Democrats of America
High School Democrats of America
2005 chairmanship election
2017 chairmanship election
The Breckinridge family
James Douglas Breckinridge
Robert Jefferson Breckinridge
John Cabell Breckinridge
Cabell Breckinridge Sr.
Robert Jefferson Breckinridge
Robert Jefferson Breckinridge Jr.
William Campbell Preston Breckinridge
John Breckinridge Grayson
Clifton Rodes Breckinridge
Henry Skillman Breckinridge
Cabell Breckinridge Jr.
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Mary (Breckinridge) Desha
Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge
James Carson Breckinridge
John Bayne Breckinridge
John Cabell "Bunny" Breckinridge
Samuel Miller Breckinridge Long
Marvin Breckinridge Patterson
Kentucky's delegation(s) to the 32nd–37th
United States Congress
(ordered by seniority)
Senate: J. R. Underwood H. Clay
House: L. Boyd H. Marshall J. C. Mason R.
H. Stanton B. E. Grey P. Ewing W. T. Ward
J. W. Stone A. White J. C. Breckinridge
Senate: J. R. Underwood D. Meriwether
House: L. Boyd J. C. Mason R. H. Stanton B.
E. Grey P. Ewing W. T. Ward J. W. Stone
A. White J. C. Breckinridge W. Preston
Senate: J. R. Underwood A. Dixon
House: L. Boyd J. C. Mason R. H. Stanton B.
E. Grey P. Ewing W. T. Ward J. W. Stone
A. White J. C. Breckinridge W. Preston
Senate: A. Dixon J. B. Thompson
House: L. Boyd R. H. Stanton B. E. Grey
P. Ewing J. C. Breckinridge W. Preston J.
M. Elliot L. Cox J. Chrisman C. S. Hill
Senate: A. Dixon J. B. Thompson
House: L. Boyd R. H. Stanton B. E. Grey J.
C. Breckinridge W. Preston J. M. Elliot
L. Cox J. Chrisman C. S. Hill F. Bristow
Senate: J. B. Thompson J. J. Crittenden
House: J. M. Elliot L. Cox H. Burnett J.
P. Campbell Jr. A. G. Talbott J. Jewett
W. Underwood H. Marshall A. K. Marshall S.
Senate: J. B. Thompson J. J. Crittenden
House: J. M. Elliot H. Burnett A. G. Talbott
J. Jewett W. Underwood H. Marshall S. Peyton
J. B. Clay J. C. Mason J. W. Stevenson
Senate: J. J. Crittenden L. W. Powell
House: H. Burnett S. Peyton J. W. Stevenson
F. Bristow W. C. Anderson J. Y. Brown
G. Adams R. Mallory W. E. Simms L. T. Moore
Senate: L. W. Powell J. C. Breckinridge
House: H. Burnett R. Mallory J. Jackson
H. Grider A. Harding C. Wickliffe G.
W. Dunlap J. J. Crittenden W. H. Wadsworth
ISNI: 0000 0000 3725 9770
US Congress: B000789