Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John C. Breckinridge
John Cabell Breckinridge (January 16, 1821 – May 17, 1875) was a lawyer, U.S. Representative, Senator from Kentucky, the fourteenth Vice President of the United States, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.
Breckinridge, grandson of U.S. Senator and Attorney General John Breckinridge, was born at "Cabell's Dale," near Lexington, Kentucky. He graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in 1839, later attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and then studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington. He was admitted to the bar in 1840 and moved to Burlington, Iowa, but soon returned and began practice in Lexington. He was married to Mary Cyrene Burch in 1843. Breckinridge was a major of the Third Kentucky Volunteers during the Mexican-American War in 1847 and 1848.
He was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1849 as a Democrat, and was then elected to the Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses (March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1855). Breckinridge did not run for reelection, and instead was nominated as Minister to Spain by President Franklin Pierce, but declined. He was elected Vice President in 1856 on the Democratic ticket with James Buchanan as President. He was the youngest Vice President in US history at age 35, the minimum age required under the US Constitution.
Breckinridge was an unsuccessful candidate for President in 1860, losing to Abraham Lincoln, and receiving more electoral votes than the other 2 major candidates, John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party, and Stephen Douglas, the Northern Democrats' nominee. He was elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1861 until expelled by resolution of December 4, 1861, for support of the rebellion. He entered the Confederate Army during the American Civil War as a brigadier general and soon became a major general, originally commanding the First Kentucky (Orphan) Brigade. He fought in many battles in the Western Theater, including the Battle of Shiloh, in which he was wounded. He returned east in 1864, during the Overland Campaign, and was wounded again in the Battle of Cold Harbor. He led the famous charge of the VMI cadets at the Battle of New Market on May 14, 1864. He later served as President Jefferson Davis's Secretary of War in the Cabinet of the Confederate States of America from January until the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston in April 1865.
Breckinridge feared prosecution by the Union and fled to Florida after the surrender. He continued to Cuba, England, Canada, and England again. He returned to Lexington in March 1869 after being granted amnesty and resumed the practice of law. He became vice president of the Elizabethtown, Lexington, and Big Sandy Railroad Company. He died in Lexington and was interred in Lexington Cemetery.
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James Buchanan | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Democratic Party Presidential candidate*
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