John C. Breckinridge

John Cabell Breckinridge (1821 - 1875)

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Maj. Gen. John Cabell (John C.) Breckinridge
Born in Cabell's Dale, Fayette, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 12 Dec 1843 in Kentuckymap
Descendants descendants
Died in Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Profile last modified 13 Feb 2020 | Created 5 May 2011 | Last significant change: 13 Feb 2020
16:02: Amy (Crawford) Gilpin edited the Biography for John Cabell Breckinridge (1821-1875). (Edit Clan category) [Thank Amy for this | 1 thank-you received]
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U.S. Vice President
John C. Breckinridge is a US Vice President
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Preceded by
13th Vice President
William R. King

Preceded by
John J. Crittenden

Preceded by
4th Secretary

James Seddon
John C. Breckinridge
14th Vice President
of the United States
Vice President

US Senator (Class 3)
from Kentucky
Seal of the US Senate

5th Confederate States
Secretary of War
Seal of the CSA
Succeeded by
15th Vice President
Hannibal Hamlin

Succeeded by
Garrett Davis

Confederacy dissolved
May 10, 1865



John C. Breckinridge is Notable.
Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge served in the United States Civil War.
Enlisted: 1861
Mustered out: 1865
Side: CSA

John Cabell Breckinridge (January 16, 1821 – May 17, 1875) was a lawyer and politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky. He represented the state in both houses of Congress and in 1857, became the 14th and youngest-ever Vice President of the United States (1857–1861). Serving in the U.S. Senate at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was expelled after joining the Confederate Army. He remains the only Senator of the United States convicted of treason against the United States of America by the Senate. He was appointed Confederate Secretary of War late in the war.[2]

Major General commanding Trans-Allegheny Department, his most significant victory: The Battle of New Market. Participated in Jubal Early's 1864 campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley. Served as Secretary of War in the Cabinet of the Confederate States from January until April 1865


The subject of this sketch, although a young man, is one of the most popular men X of the day. His family is one of the oldest and most respectable of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. His grandfather, John Breckinridge, was a staunch Democrat—a party-leader in his day. He was elected to the Senate of the United States in 1801, and was United States Attorney-General in 1805-6. He was the author and advocate of the resolutions of 1788-89 in the Virginia Legislature. Many members of the family have been celebrated as statesmen and divines. The celebrated clergyman, Robert C. Breckinridge, is an uncle of the present Vice-President.
John Cabell Breckinridge is the only son of Cabell Breckinridge, a distinguished member of the bar, deceased some years since. John was born at the family-seat, Cabellsdale, near Lexington, Fayette County, Ky., January 21, 1821. He was educated at Center College, Danville, Kentucky, from which he graduated with distinction. His talents for composition and elocution were early developed; and although full of boyish fun and frolic, he could accomplish wonders on close application. After graduating at Danville, Mr. Breckinridge entered the Transylvania Institute, where he studied law under Chief-Justice George Robinson, Judge A. K. Wooley, and Thomas F. Marshall. On receiving his license, Mr. Breckinridge emigrated to Burlington, Iowa, where he commenced the practice of his profession,. as the associate of Mr. Bullock, a relative. Not satisfied with his prospects in Iowa, he returned to Kentucky, and for a time was settled in Georgetown, where he was married to Miss Birch, of that place. Soon after his marriage, from inducements offered, Mr. Breckinridge returned to Lexington, where, except during his absence on official business, he has since remained, one of the leading members of the bar.
On the breaking out of the Mexican war, Mr. Breckinridge early came forward to aid in sustaining our national reputation. He was elected Major of the third regiment of Kentucky Volunteers. Unfortunately, this regiment was not mustered into the service until late in the campaign. When it did arrive in the enemy's territory, it was placed on the line between Vera Cruz and the City of Mexico; and, excepting an occasional brush with a band of guerrillas, or other marauders, it experienced no active service, and did not arrive at the Halls of the Montezumas until after the American flag was waving over them.
On his return to Lexington, Mr. Breckinridge was elected a member of the lower branch of the Legislature of the State of Kentucky. He soon gave evidences of his ability as a debater, and the other valuable qualities as a legislator.
In 1851, General Leslie Coombs was the Whig nominee for Congress in the Ashland District. For twenty years no Democrat had been elected from it. It was the home of Mr. Clay, and it was deemed idle for a Democrat to make the race. Breckinridge resolved to try. His opponent, General Coombs, was well known as a popular orator, and he possessed, in a high degree, the affections of the Whig party. When they took the stump, according to Western custom, it soon became apparent that Breckinridge was decidedly an overmatch for his antagonist. After an animated contest, Breckinridge was returned by over 600 majority. His party became so proud of his services, and the distinction he won during the first two years he was in the National Legislature, that they unanimously gave him a re-nomination in 1853. The Whigs determined to conquer their enemy in their old stronghold, and brought out Robert Letcher to run against him. This gentleman had been in political life for thirty years. He had been repeatedly in Congress, was Governor of the State for one term, and had just then returned from a Mexican mission, to which he had been appointed by General Taylor. He had been, and was then, one of the most popular men in the State, and one of the best stump-orators. When "Black Bob," as Governor Letcher was familiarly called, was put upon the track, the Whigs declared that " Old Boston" was entered, and that he would distance his competitor.
Never was so much feeling elicited in any Congressional canvass in that State. They began speaking together early in May, and there was not a day, except Sunday, until the first Monday in August, that they did not meet, and fight foot to foot, and hand to hand. Mr. Breckinridge was re-elected by a majority of 520 votes.
On the accession of President Pierce, Mr. Breckinridge was nominated as Minister to Spain. Family affairs compelled Mr. Breckinridge to decline, and Mr. Soule was appointed.
Mr. Breckinridge was a delegate to, and active member in, the Cincinnati Convention. When the nomination for the Vice-Presidency was about being made, his name, among others, was proposed. On the first ballot Mr. Breckinridge received fifty-five votes, and on the second he was nominated unanimously.[3]
BRECKINRIDGE. John Cabell (grandson of John Breckinridge, father of Clifton Rodes Breckinridge, and cousin of Henry Donnel Foster), a Representative and a Senator from Kentucky and a Vice President of the United States; born at "Cabell's Dale," near Lexington, Ky., January 21, 1821; attended Pisgah Academy, Woodford County, Ky.; was graduated from Centre College, Danville, Ky., in 1839; later attended Princeton College; studied law in the Transylvania Institute Lexington, Ky.; was admitted to the bar in 1840; moved to Burlington, Iowa, but soon returned and began practice in Lexington, Ky. ; major of the Third Kentucky Volunteers during the Mexican War in 1847 and 1848; member of the State house of representatives in 1849; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses (March 4, 1851-March 3, 1855); was not a candidate for renomination in 1854; was tendered the mission to Spain by President Pierce, but declined; elected Vice President of the United States in 1856 on the Democratic ticket, with James Buchanan as President, being the youngest Vice President who had ever held that office; defeated as a candidate for President in 1860 by Abraham Lincoln; elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1861, until expelled by resolution of December 4, 1861; entered the Confederate Army during the Civil War as brigadier general and soon became a major general; Secretary of War in the Cabinet of the Confederate States from January until April 1865; resided in Europe for a year or more; returned to Lexington, Ky., and resumed the practice of law; vice president of the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Railroad Co.; died in Lexington, Ky., May 17, 1875; interment in Lexington Cemetery.[4]

Enslaver and a Former Slave in the Union Army

His former slave, George King, served with the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first regiment in the United States made up entirely of enlisted men of color.

One of the men killed, George King, last place of residence, Toledo, Ohio, was once a slave, belonging to Gen. [John Cabell] Breckinridge, rebel army, and his mother and one sister are yet slaves, now [1863] in Richmond, Va.[5]


Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, USA Plot: Section G, Lot 1[6]


  1. Expelled for his support of the Confederacy, vacant December 4, 1861 – December 10, 1861 when successor elected.
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Jones, A. D. American Portrait Gallery, Containing Correct Portraits and Brief Notices of the Principal Actors in American History ... from Christopher Columbus Down to the Present Time. New York: Henry Miller, 1869.
  4. Biographical directory of the American Congress, 1774-1949. The Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788 and the Congress of the United States from the First to the Eightieth Congress, March 4, 1789, to January 3, 1949,inclusive (1950)
  5. Gooding, p. 55
  6. Find A Grave: Memorial #132
  • [1] The Cabells and Their Kin: A Memorial Volume of History, Biography, and Genealogy Alexander Brown January 1, 1895 Houghton, Mifflin & Company: Parents, Siblings, Birth, Marriage, Wife, Children, Image page 493-495
  • Gooding, James Henry and Virginia M. Adams (ed.) On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier's Civil War Letters from the Front. University of Massachusetts Press: April 1999.


  • WikiTree profile Breckenridge-34 created through the import of Maltby master 08282011.GED on Aug 30, 2011 by Harry Maltby. See the Changes page for the details of edits by Harry and others.
  • WikiTree profile Breckinridge-53 created through the import of export-Forest.ged on Jun 21, 2012 by Caroline Woolgar.

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Looking for a descendant of John Cabell Breckenridge who married someone with the last name of Somes.
posted by Douglas S.
Breckenridge-34 and Breckinridge-33 appear to represent the same person because: same data and family
posted by Robin Lee
Breckinridge-53 and Breckinridge-33 appear to represent the same person because: all data and family match
posted by Robin Lee

John C. is 20 degrees from Danielle Liard, 15 degrees from Jack London and 13 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.