See biographies by L. Stillwell (1936) and W. C. Davis (1974, repr. 1992).
(born Jan. 21, 1821, near Lexington, Ky., U.S.—died May 17, 1875, Lexington) U.S. politician, vice president (1857–61), and Confederate army officer. He practiced law and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1851–55). In 1856 he was elected vice president under James Buchanan. In 1860 the Democratic Party split into factions over the slavery issue, and Breckinridge became the Southern wing's nominee for president. Defeated by Abraham Lincoln, he worked for compromise; but after the firing on Fort Sumter he urged Kentucky to secede. He became a general in the Confederate army and took part in the Vicksburg, Wilderness, and Shenandoah Valley campaigns. He served as Confederate secretary of war in 1865. After the war he fled to England for three years before returning to Kentucky to resume his law practice.
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