John C. Breckinridge - Facts

January 16, 1821–Mary 17, 1875

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

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]

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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 October 5, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 5, 2022

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