The Civil War, Day by Day

Thunder In The Valley (detail)

Gen. Breckenridge Dies

Born January 16, 1821 in Lexington to old Kentucky aristocracy, Breckenridge practiced law in Kentucky and then went into politics in 1849, when he won a seat to the state legislature. Extremely popular, he became the Vice President of the United States as the running mate to James Buchanan, making him the youngest Vice President in American history.

With the approach of the Civil War Breckenridge was a proponent of conciliation and compromise. Finally forced to choose one side or the other, his southern sympathies won out and by the fall of 1861, he left Kentucky and joined the southern cause.

Breckenridge was commissioned a Brigadier General and saw action at Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga, and Lookout Mountain. He is best remembered for the Battle of New Market in Virginia. He led Confederate forces, including cadets from Virginia Military Institute and soundly beat back the Union Army of General Franz Sigel, saving the resources of the Shenandoah Valley for vital weeks.

He finally disbanded the Confederate Government on May 4, 1865 and made his escape to Cuba under extremely difficult circumstances. Three years later he returned from exile, to his native Kentucky and resumed his practice of law, as well as becoming active in other enterprises. Breckenridge always spoke out for conciliation and moderation. Robert E. Lee spoke of him as “a lofty, pure, strong man …a great man.”

June's Archived Features:

Monday June 1, 2020
Tuesday June 2, 2020
Wednesday June 3, 2020
Thursday June 4, 2020



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.