John Cabell Breckenridge, an American politician and soldier, born near Lexington, Ky., Jan. 21,1821. He was educated at Centre college, Danville, studied law at the Transylvania institute, and settled at Lexington. At the breaking out of the war with Mexico he was elected major of the third regiment of Kentucky volunteers, but had little opportunity for active service. After the war he was elected to the house of representatives of Kentucky, and in 1851 was chosen to congress, and in 1853 was reelected after a violent and protracted contest. During the first session of the 33d congress, in the course of the discussion of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, he-was involved in a personal altercation with Mr. F. B. Cutting, a member from New York, leading to the preliminaries for a duel, which, however, did not take place. Upon the accession of President Pierce he was offered the ministry to Spain, but declined it. In 1856 he was elected vice president, in conjunction with Buchanan as president. In 1860 the disunion delegates in the democratic national convention, having separated from the supporters of S. A. Douglas, nominated Mr. Breckenridge for president, and he received the electoral votes of all the southern states except Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. In the same year he was elected United States senator.
After defending the southern confederacy in the senate, he went south, entered the army, and rose to the rank of major general. He was repulsed in an attack on Baton Rouge in August, 1861; commanded a corps under Bragg at Stone river at the end of 1862, and at Chickamauga in September, 1863; defeated Sigel at Newmarket in May, 1864; participated in Early's advance on Washington in July of that year, and shared in his defeat near Winchester in September. In January, 1865, he was appointed confederate secretary of war. After the surrender of Gen. Lee he went to Europe, whence he returned in 1868, and has since lived in Kentucky.