Thursday, June 28, 2007

Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol

by William C. Davis

From the publisher:
"A superbly written and judiciously documented account of one of America's most outstanding and least understood mid-nineteenth-century statesmen." — Pennsylvania History

"Breckinridge is superb biography. The research is definitive....More unusual in scholarly works, the writing is excellent, sometimes brilliant." — Georgia Historical Quarterly

"William C. Davis gives new prominence to a man who served his country as congressman, vice president, and senator before casting his lot with the Confederacy....a first-rate biography." — Journal of Southern History

At the age of thirty-five, John C. Breckinridge was the vice president of the United States. Later he came closest to defeating Abraham Lincoln for the presidency in 1860. In a short time he became secretary of war in the Confederate cabinet. This—the first—comprehensive biography of this remarkable man and his generation covers one of the most turbulent eras of the American past.

Breckinridge was a Kentucky lawyer and veteran of the Mexican War when he was elected to the state legislature in 1849. Soon thereafter he was elected to Congress and in 1865 became James Buchanan's running mate. After his defeat by Lincoln in the 1860 election, he took his seat in the Senate and supported the Union on the question of secession. Because he opposed most of Lincoln's other policies, he was considered dangerous. When Lincoln ordered him arrested, even though no charges had been brought against him, Breckinridge escaped to the South and joined the Confederate army as a brigadier general. Later he was appointed secretary of war by Jefferson Davis.

Prominent in every field he entered, Breckinridge was a leading statesman and soldier. As a moderate and an earnest supporter of compromise, he became the symbol of peaceful reconciliation between the states after the Civil War.

WILLIAM C. DAVIS is the author of many books, including Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War; The Battle of New Market; Duel Between the First Ironclads; The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn't Go Home; and Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour. He is a professor of history at Virginia Tech.