John C. Breckinridge, Portrait

John C. Breckinridge fled the United States to avoid prosecution for treason, after the American Civil War and lived in Europe and Canada until February 1869. [National Archives]

John C. Breckinridge - Facts

January 16, 1821–Mary 17, 1875

Key facts about U.S. Vice-president John C. Breckinridge.

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Full Name:

  • John Cabell Breckinridge

Birth Date:

  • January 16, 1821

Birth Location:

  • Cabell’s Dale near Lexington, Kentucky

Parents:

  • Joseph Cabell and Mary Clay (Smith) Breckinridge

Education:

  • Centre College (1839)
  • College of New Jersey (now Princeton University)

Occupation:

  • Lawyer
  • Politician
  • Army officer
  • Railroad executive

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Congressman
  • Vice President of the United States
  • U.S Senator
  • Major General (CSA)
  • Secretary of War (CSA)

Spouse:

  • Mary Cyrene Burch (1843)

Place of Death:

  • Lexington, Kentucky

Date of Death:

  • May 17, 1875

Place of Burial:

  • Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky

Significance:

  • John C. Breckinridge was the only son of Joseph Cabell and Mary Clay (Smith) Breckinridge.
  • John C. Breckinridge was named for his grandfather, John Breckinridge, who was a U.S. Senator and who served as attorney general in the Jefferson administration.
  • John C. Breckinridge attended Pisgah Academy, Woodford County, Kentucky.
  • John C. Breckinridge graduated from Centre College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1839.
  • John C. Breckinridge attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).
  • John C. Breckinridge studied law at the Transylvania Institute, Lexington, Kentucky.
  • John C. Breckinridge was admitted to the bar in 1840.
  • John C. Breckinridge married Mary Cyrene Burch in 1843.
  • John C. Breckinridge served as major of the Third Kentucky Volunteers during the Mexican American War (1846 – 1848).
  • John C. Breckinridge owned a few household slaves.
  • John C. Breckinridge served in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1849.
  • John C. Breckinridge was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses (March 4, 1851-March 3, 1855).
  • John C. Breckinridge was elected as Vice President of the United States in 1856 on the Democratic ticket with James Buchanan as President.
  • John C. Breckinridge remains the youngest man to be elected to the office of Vice President of the United States.
  • John C. Breckinridge was the unsuccessful candidate of the Southern Democrats in the 1860 presidential election.
  • John C. Breckinridge was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky from March 4, 1861 – December 4, 1861
  • John C. Breckinridge fled Kentucky on October 2, 1861 to avoid arrest by Unionists.
  • John C. Breckinridge was appointed as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army on November 2, 1861.
  • John C. Breckinridge was expelled from the United States Senate on December 4, 1861, for supporting the South after the American Civil War began.
  • John C. Breckinridge was promoted to major general in the Confederate Army on April 14, 1862.
  • John C. Breckinridge fought at the battles of Shiloh, Port Hudson, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Cold Harbor, and Monocacy.
  • In July 1864, John C. Breckinridge and Jubal Early led a dramatic, but unsuccessful raid on Washington, D.C.
  • John C. Breckinridge served as the fifth, and final, Confederate Secretary of War from January through April 1865.
  • John C. Breckinridge fled the United States to avoid prosecution for treason, after the American Civil War and lived in Europe and Canada until February 1869.
  • John C. Breckinridge practiced law and served as vice president of the Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy Railroad Company after the Civil War.
  • John C. Breckinridge was the only vice president ever to take up arms against the government of the United States.
  • John C. Breckinridge was Mary Todd Lincoln’s cousin.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John C. Breckinridge - Facts
  • Coverage January 16, 1821–Mary 17, 1875
  • Author
  • Keywords john c. breckinridge
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 30, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 28, 2021
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