John C. Breckinridge — Facts and APUSH Notes

January 16, 1821–Mary 17, 1875

APUSH Definition — John C Breckinridge (1821–1875) was an officer in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was Vice President to James Buchanan and joined the Confederacy when the Civil War started. He is perhaps most well-known for being the youngest person elected vice president.

John C Breckinridge, 14th Vice President

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. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Who was Civil War officer John C. Breckinridge?

U.S. Vice-president John C. Breckinridge was an American political leader who represented Kentucky in the U.S. House and Senate before serving as a general in the Confederate Army and as the fifth, and final, Confederate Secretary of War.

During the Civil War, Breckinridge took part in the battles of Shiloh, Port Hudson, Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Cold Harbor, and Monocacy. In July 1864, Breckinridge and Jubal Early led a dramatic but unsuccessful raid on Washington, D.C. As the war ground to a halt, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Breckinridge as the Confederacy’s fifth, and last, Secretary of War, in January 1865. When the Confederacy collapsed, Breckinridge fled the country to avoid being prosecuted as a traitor.

Breckinridge lived three years in exile in England and Canada before President Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for Confederate officers on December 25, 1868. In 1869, Breckinridge returned to Kentucky where he practiced law and served as vice president of the Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy Railroad Company.

Breckinridge died in Lexington, Kentucky, on May 17, 1875, at the age of 54, from complications from cirrhosis. His final resting place is in Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky.

Battle of Cold Harbor, Illustration
Battle of Cold Harbor. Image Source: Library of Congress.

John C. Breckinridge Facts for APUSH

Birth and Early Life

  • Full Name: His full name was John Cabell Breckinridge.
  • Parents: His parents were Joseph Cabell and Mary Clay (Smith) Breckinridge.
  • Date of Birth: He was born on January 16, 1821.
  • Birthplace: He was born in Cabell’s Dale near Lexington, Kentucky.

Family Tree

  • Spouse: His wife was Mary Cyrene Burch. They were married in 1843.

Death

  • Death: He died on May 17, 1875.
  • Place of Death: He died in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Burial: He is buried at Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky.

Education

He attended Centre College (1839) and College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).

Career

He worked as a lawyer, politician, army officer, and railroad executive.

Career Summary

He was a U.S. Congressman, Vice President of the United States, U.S Senator, Major General (CSA), and Secretary of War (CSA).

John C. Breckinridge — Summary of His Life and Accomplishments for APUSH

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

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title John C. Breckinridge — Facts and APUSH Notes
  • Date January 16, 1821–Mary 17, 1875
  • Author
  • Keywords john c. breckinridge
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 15, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 11, 2023

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