John C. Breckinridge “I infinitely prefer to see a peaceful separation of these States, than to see endless, aimless, devastating war, at the end of which I see the grave of public liberty and of personal freedom.”
Pre-War · Born in Lexington, Kentucky January 15, 1821 · Served in the state legistature · Served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1851-1855 · The youngest Vice President in U.S. history at age 35, serving under James Buchanan 1857-1860 · Ran for president in 1860 as the Southern Democratic candidate · Served in the US Senate, where he contested the Lincoln administration’s illegal usurpation of power · September 1861: US troops attemped to take Breckinridge into custody at Lexington based only on suspicion of him being a Southern sympathizer
Nov. 15, 1861 Brig.Gen. Breckinridge was assigned to command of the First Brigade, Second Division, Western Department, by order of Gen. Simon B. Buckner, commanding division. He had been commissioned brigadier general November 2. The brigade, commonly known as the First Kentucky Brigade, consisted of: 2nd KY – Col. R.W. Hanson 3rd KY – Col. A.P.Thompson 4th KY – Col. R.P. Trabue 5th [9th] KY – Col. T.H. Hunt 6th KY – Col. J.H. Lewis
April 6-7, 1862 Commanded the Reserve Corps (3 brigades) at the Battle of Shiloh TN April 14, 1862 Promoted to Major General
Aug. 5, 1862 Commanded an army of 2800 at the Battle of Baton Rouge LA The yankees evacuated Baton Rouge Aug. 20-21 and concentrated at New Orleans because of the Confederate attack & maneuvering
Oct. 28, 1862 Assumed command of forces in Middle Tennessee Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 3, 1863 Commanded a division at the Battle of Murfreesboro TN
May 23, 1863 Breckinridge’s Division was transferred from Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee to Mississippi in support of operations outside Vicksburg
Sept. 19-20, 1863 Commanded his division at the Battle of Chickamauga
Nov. 8-Dec. 15, 1863 Commanded a corps of the Army of Tennessee during the Chattanooga campaign (after his division had returned to the Army of Tennessee)
Feb. 4, 1864 Relieved from duty with the Army of Tennessee & ordered by the Secretary of War to report to Richmond “for special assignment” Feb. 25, 1864 Assigned to command of the Department of Western Virginia March 5, 1864 Assumed command of the Department of Western Virginia May 15, 1864 Commanded the army of that department at the Battle of New Market · His army numbered about 4800 against about 6500 of “those people” · Casualties totaled 577 CS (12%), 831 US (13%) · This decisive Confederate victory was one of the most important smaller battles of the war May 31-June 3, 1864 Commanded a division (the infantry present at New Market) that reinforced Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Cold Harbor
Summer-Fall 1864 Commanded a division (at times 2 divisions) in Lt.Gen. Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley through the 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign
Feb. 1865 Apointed Secretary of War by President Davis
Post-War · Escaped to Cuba in May 1865 · Returned to Kentucky in 1869 & practiced law · Died in Lexington May 17, 1875 at the age of 54
Wartime service compiled from War of the Rebellion: A Compiliation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (yankee name), commonly known as the OR.
Davis, William C., Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1974.
Heck, Frank H., Proud Kentuckian: John C. Breckinridge, 1821-1875. The University Press of Kentucky, 1976.