John Cabell Breckinridge

Civil War Confederate General John Cabell Breckinridge was born near Lexington, Kentucky, January 15, 1821. He was graduated from Centre College in 1839, and after legal studies at Transylvania University, he began practicing law in Lexington in 1845. He enjoyed a meteoric political career and was elected Vice President of the United States at the age of thirty-five.

A member of the Kentucky legislature, 1849-51, and of the House of Representatives 1851-55, he was in 1856 the successful candidate for the vice presidency with Buchannan. In 1859-a year and a half before his term was to expire- he was elected to the U.S. Senate by the Kentucky legislature. He opposed war in the special session of 1861, but when Kentucky declared for the Union in September, he accepted a commission as Confederate brigadier, November 2, 1861, and was promoted major general to rank from April 14, 1862.

He commanded the reserve Corps at Shiloh, and in the summer of 1862 defended Vicksburg. Failing in an attack on Baton Rouge, he distinguished himself successfully at Murfreesboro, in Johnston’s campaign to relieve Vicksburg, and at Chickamauga. Having commanded the Department of Southwest Virginia for a time in 1864, he later accompanied General Early in the raid on Washington, and on February 4, 1865 was appointed by President Davis Confederate Secretary of War.        Following the surrender he went to England, thence to Canada, returning to Kentucky in 1869, where he was perhaps the most popular man in the state. Because of his political disabilities he disclaimed all ambitions, and quietly resumed his law practice. He died in Lexington, May 17, 1875, from the results of a serious operation, and is buried there.