Breckinridge, John Cabell

Life Span
Full name
John Cabell Breckinridge
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Slave State
No. of Siblings
No. of Spouses
No. of Children
Mary Cyrene Burch (wife, 1843)
Princeton (College of New Jersey)
Other Education
Centre College, KY
Attorney or Judge
Political Parties
Southern Democratic (1860)
Buchanan Administration (1857-61)
US House of Representatives
State legislature
US military (Pre-Civil War)
Confederate Army

John Cabell Breckinridge (Congressional Biographical Directory)

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 16, 1821; attended Pisgah Academy, Woodford County, Ky.; graduated from Centre College, Danville, Ky., in 1839; later attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University); studied law in the Transylvania Institute, Lexington, Ky.; 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, State house of representatives 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 Franklin Pierce, but declined; elected Vice President of the United States in 1856 on the Democratic ticket with James Buchanan as President; unsuccessful candidate for President in 1860; 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; 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 until 1868; 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.
"Breckinridge, John Cabell," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,

John Cabell Breckinridge (American National Biography)

A friend and confidant of both President Franklin Pierce and the Illinois senator Stephen Douglas, Breckinridge was one of the congressional intermediaries who convinced Pierce to accept southern demands that Douglas's bill for organizing the Kansas and Nebraska territories include the statement that the Missouri Compromise restriction on slavery was "inoperative and void." Breckinridge also played a key role in securing approval of Douglas's bill in the House. Until this point he had been viewed as a moderate from the Border South on the slavery issue. Hereafter, although Breckinridge still tried to be a sectional mediator, he was associated with the extreme demands of the Lower South. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed in 1854, it triggered a storm of protest in the North that spawned the Republican party. Although he sponsored little in the way of major legislation, Breckinridge was a popular congressman whose charm and affability won him many friends. This popularity, combined with his representation of a key border state that traditionally had voted for the Whigs in presidential elections, gained him the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1856. The Buchanan-Breckinridge ticket carried Kentucky and the election. Breckinridge's service as vice president, however, was even less distinguished than his congressional record. He was virtually ignored by James Buchanan and shut out of the administration's policy decisions. It was with some relief that Breckinridge looked forward to entering the U.S. Senate, having been elected in 1859 by the Kentucky legislature to fill the seat to be vacated by John J. Crittenden in 1861.
William L. Barney, "Breckinridge, John Cabell," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Date Event
The United States Senate occupies its new chamber at the Capitol
The Kentucky Democratic Party Convention endorses Dred Scott decision, purchase of Cuba, and other Administration policies
The Senate of the United States opens a week long special session in Washington, DC
- The Senate of the United States is sitting in a week long special session in Washington, DC
The Senate of the United States ends its week long special session in Washington, DC
Breakaway delegates in Baltimore nominate John C. Breckinridge, splitting the Democratic Party
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Democrats meet over the split in the party's presidential nominations
Mayor Wood of New York City proposes Democrats vote strategically across the country in November
Outside the White House, thousands of Democrats hear President Buchanan speak in favor of Breckinridge
Breckinridge supporters meet in Indianapolis, Indiana
Sparse attendance at a Douglas meeting in Wilmington, Delaware
Bell-Everett newspaper in Augusta, Georgia calls the Breckinridge-Lane candidacy the "Suicide Ticket"
Breckinridge supporter John Brown Gordon tells college students slavery is "the hand-maid of civil liberty"
In Baltimore, Stephen Douglas speaks to a large crowd in Monument Square
In New York City, Democrats meet to ratify a united front in November against Lincoln and the Republicans
In Kentucky, "fire-eater" William Lowndes Yancey stumps for Breckinridge
The moderate Constitutional Union ticket of Bell and Everett narrowly carries Virginia
Election Day in Memphis, Tennessee
Senator John C. Breckinridge votes at home in Lexington, Kentucky
The presidential election becomes official with the announcement from the Electoral College
Massed Confederate forces attack the Union's Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing
At Pittsburg Landing, Union reinforcements turn the tide on the second day of the Battle of Shiloh
- In Georgia, advancing Union forces suffer a very heavy defeat near Chickamauga Creek
Date Title
New York Times, "The Joint Committee to Notify the President and Vice-President Elect," February 14, 1857
(Concord) New Hampshire Statesman, “Douglas in the Senate,” March 6, 1858
New York Times, “Vice-President Breckenridge for Douglas,” October 23, 1858
Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Presidential Aspirants,” January 10, 1859
New York Times, “Albany and Richmond,” June 29, 1859
Lowell (MA) Citizen & News, “Presidential,” August 30, 1859
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Where will they Go?,” October 17, 1859
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Thirty Days From Now,” June 26, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “An Explanation,” June 28, 1860
Cleveland (OH) Herald, “A Difference of Opinion,” June 29, 1860
New York Times, “The Presidential Election,” July 4, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Shabby Treatment,” July 7, 1860
Atchison (KS) Freedom's Champion, “The Democratic ‘Irrepressible Conflict,’” July 7, 1860
Cleveland (OH) Herald, “A Political Dodge,” July 10, 1860
Charlestown (VA) Free Press, “In A Quandary,” July 12, 1860
New York Times, “The Fears of Mr. Wigfall,” July 17, 1860
Raleigh (NC) Register, “The President on the Stump,” July 18, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “An Important Change,” July 19, 1860
New York Times, “The Herald in Harness,” July 21, 1860
William T. Sherman to Thomas Ewing, Jr., July 22, 1860
New York Herald, “Lincoln or Breckinridge,” July 22, 1860
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “Disunion,” July 30, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Making a Cat’s-Paw of Douglas,” July 31, 1860
Ripley (OH) Bee, “The Two Kinds of Intervention,” August 2, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Result of Freedom,” August 3, 1860
New York Herald, “The Election in North Carolina,” August 4, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “A Word For Douglasites,” August 6, 1860
Lowell (MA) Citizen & News, "Who Are For Disunion?," August 8, 1860
Charlestown (VA) Free Press, "Precipitate A Revolution," August 9, 1860
New York Times, "Politics at the South," August 10, 1860
James Buchanan to Gerard Hallock, August 11, 1860
Ripley (OH) Bee, "Let Us Frighten Them," August 16, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “How the Field Looks,” August 17, 1860
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “The South for Bell and Everett,” August 20, 1860
Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, "Not Going to Dissolve the Union," August 21, 1860
New York Times, “Mr. Yancey's Speech,” August 21, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, "No Go Yet," August 23, 1860
(Montpelier) Vermont Patriot, "California for Douglas," August 25, 1860
(Jackson) Mississippian, "Facts for the People," August 28, 1860
Charlestown (VA) Free Press, “A Broken Platform,” August 30, 1860
Cleveland (OH) Herald, “A Two-Edged Sword,” September 3, 1860
New York Times, “Speech of Mr. Breckinridge,” September 10, 1860
(Jackson) Mississippian, "Mr. Breckinridge’s Great Speech at Lexington," September 11, 1860
Ripley (OH) Bee, “The War of the Giants,” September 13, 1860
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, "The Disunion Movement," September 13, 1860
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “Mum on the Great Question,” September 17, 1860
New York Times, “Disunion Ravings,” September 20, 1860
New York Herald, “The Missouri Breckinridge State Convention,” September 23, 1860
New York Times, “Found at Last,” October 5, 1860
Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, "Judge Taney vs. Douglas," October 9, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Information Wanted,” October 10, 1860
Charlestown (VA) Free Press, “A Trap For Douglas,” October 11, 1860
New York Herald, “Disturbance at a Breckinridge Barbecue in Kentucky,” October 14, 1860
New York Times, “The Disunion Plot at Washington,” October 26, 1860
Chicago (IL) Tribune, "The Union at the South," October 29, 1860
New York Times, "Douglas Out of the Canvass," November 3, 1860
Raleigh (NC) Register, "Look Out, Douglas Men," November 6, 1860
(Montpelier) Vermont Patriot, “John C. Breckinridge,” November 10, 1860
William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, November 10, 1860
New York Times, “A Secession Breakwater,” November 20, 1860
Israel Washburn Jr. to Abraham Lincoln, January 21, 1861
Worthington G. Snethen to Abraham Lincoln, February 15, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Popular Sovereignty,” February 18, 1861
(Montpelier) Vermont Patriot, “The Policy of the Administration,” March 30, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “A Cheat at the Board,” April 6, 1861
New York Times, “Rushing to Ruin,” April 26, 1861
Ripley (OH) Bee, “Letter from a Union man in Kentucky,” May 16, 1861
Boston (MA) Advertiser, “Impotent Rage,” May 27, 1861
Cleveland (OH) Herald, “Union Feeling in North Carolina,” August 27, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Resignation of Secretary Cameron,” January 14, 1862
Abraham Lincoln to Erastus Corning and others, June 12, 1863
Basis of Agreement for the surrender of the Confederate Army of the Tennessee
Chicago Style Entry Link
Davis, William C. Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974.
view record
Cluskey, M. W. Buchanan and Breckinridge: The Democratic Handbook. Washington, DC: R. A. Waters, 1856. view record
Mering, John V. "Allies Or Opponents? The Douglas Democrats and the Constitutional Unionists." Southern Studies 23, no. 4 (1984): 376-385. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Breckinridge, John Cabell," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,