US Congressman, Vice President, Senator, and American Civil War Confederate Major General. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the US House of Representatives for Kentucky's 8th congressional district from March 1851 until March 1855. In 1856 he was elected as the 14th US Vice President under James Buchanan, serving from March 1857 until March 1861. As a Senator, he served briefly from March 1861 until December 1861 when he was expelled for joining the Confederate Army. The son of a Kentucky state politician, his father died when he was two years old and the family went to live with his paternal grandmother. He graduated with a bachelor's of law degree from Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky in February 1841, admitted to the bar, and established a law practice in Lexington. He briefly served as a non-combatant during the Mexican American War and upon his return home, he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, serving from 1849 until 1850. He was then elected to two terms in the US House of Representatives, returning home at the end of his second term. In 1856 he was nominated as James Buchanan's running mate and won the general election. In 1860 he was chosen by the Democratic Party as their nominee for US President with Joseph Lane as his running mate and they lost the presidential race to Abraham Lincoln and the newly formed Republican Party. He was then elected to the US Senate but expelled as a traitor after accepting a brigadier general commission in the Confederate Army. During he American Civil War, he participated in numerous engagements, including the Battle of Shiloh (1862), after which he was promoted to the rank of major general, and the Battle of Chickamauga (1863). He commanded the Confederate forces during the 1864 battle of New Market, Virginia, which featured the famous charge of the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets. In January 1865 Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed him to serve as the Confederate Secretary of War, replacing James Seddon who had resigned. Following the end of the war, he fled to Florida and then to Cuba, where he obtained passage to England and from there to Canada, where he was reunited with his wife. The following year, they left for Europe and spent a year travelling to different countries. In June 1868 they returned to Canada and when President Andrew Johnson declared amnesty for all former Confederates six months later, he returned to Lexington, Kentucky in March 1869 and resumed his law practice and other business ventures which proved to be unsuccessful. He refused all requests to re-enter politics and by 1873 his health began to decline, and he died of complications from surgery two years later at the age of 54.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Mary Cyrene Burch Breckinridge
1826–1907 (m. 1843)
Caroline Laurens Breckinridge Bullock