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John C. Breckinridge


This Disunion piece on John C. Breckinridge was somewhat more charitable than I would have been for a man who more than almost anyone embraced committing treason to defend slavery. I thought there was nothing, nothing at all that could redeem the man in my eyes. But then I saw this late life picture of the man, sporting one of the single greatest mustaches in history, a feat impressive even for the Gilded Age.

I mean, holy hell, that thing extends to his shoulders!

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  • cpinva

    the author cites the

    Lincoln administration’s bellicose policies

    as bearing on breckinridge’s ultimate decision to leave congress and head south. yet, it’s not until many paragraphs down the article that she bothers to articulate what, exactly, those “bellicose policies” might actually be, i think.

    she mentions the union blockade of confederate ports (part of the anaconda plan), put in place after the firing on ft. sumter (a lovely place, should you ever have occasion to visit), and the senate resolution “pledging the full resources of the union to fight the rebellion”. if these are what ms. hindley classifies as “bellicose policies”, i would be intrigued to get her take on the allied invasion of normandy, during wwII.

    yeah, i tend to agree with your perceptio overall, a much more sympathetic take on a man i consider to be more an opportunist than anything else.

    • firefall

      I was about to comment on the same phrase – I congratulate you on your intestinal fortitude, my gorge rose at that phrase & compelled me to abandon the article as another sickening excuse for waving the Treason Flag and blaming the nasty northerners for not lying down and letting treason happen.

      Impressive moustache, tho.

  • Henry

    Ms. Hindley article was awful, I was just waiting where she started talking about the “War of Northern Agression”.

  • Justin VW

    The town of Breckenridge, Colorado was originally named for the traitor as “Breckinridge” in an attempt to curry political favor in 1859, when it was founded and he was VP.

    It was the first Post Office (back when that meant a great deal) between the Continental Divide and Salt Lake City. This is the sort of thing you know when your parents’ house is in the South Park south of Fairplay and Breckenridge.

    But the people of Colorado, though not yet a state, were Union folk, so they changed the name of the town from “Breckinridge” to “Breckenridge.” I think it’s fitting that the one famous thing that the man was named after was taken from him not entirely, but as a mockery. If only there were so many “Robart E. Ley” places in our country.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t go wait to visit a place named for “Geofferson Davess”

    • witless chum

      I’ve often wished Calhoun County, Michigan would have changed its name back in the day. That area of Michigan was full of antislavery pockets in the pre-Civil War days, up to and including mobs threatening federal marshals and slave catchers with tar and feathers unless they quickly headed elsewhere, while hustling their targets out the back door and along the Underground Railroad towards Canada.

      But it is the county that features the obtusely-named Battle Creek River.

      • rea

        Calhoun County is an artifact of Michigan’s border war with Ohio back in the early 1830’s. Ten Counties–Barry, Berrien, Branch, Cass, Eaton, Ingham, Jackson, Livingston and Van Buren–were named after prominent members of the Jackson administration in an unsuccesful attempt to curry favor with the fedeal government. The war did not go well for Michigan, and it was eventually compelled to give up its claims to Toledo in exchange for the Upper Penninsula.

        • witless chum

          Which turned out to be a pretty good deal for Michigan when the U.P. became a mining district.

          Note that the “war” may have not included a single shot fired in anger. The militias were encamped on either side of the Maumee River and may or may not have exchanged a few shots, according to the accounts I’ve read.

          The loser of the Toledo War? Toledo.

  • rea

    Breckinridge turned out to be a better general than Franz Siegel, but his generalling while intoxicatd on other occasions (e.g. Missionary Ridge) did the South more harm than good. You can see from looking at that postwar picture (see the nose) that Breckinridge was something of a drinker.

  • cackalacka

    As a mustachioed person, I have to say: no, this guy’s too wispy.

    • rea

      Breckinridge did a better job of keeping up the mustache back when he had slaves to take care of such things.

      Oddly enough, he was clean shaven before the War. Apart from a few sideburn-wearers (J. Q. Adams, every major party presidential and vice presidential candidate before Lincoln’s second term was clean shaven.

  • Joe

    “A Constitutional Unionist to his bones” until he fought for those who broke up the union.

    “a lone voice of dissent” … yeah, no.

    “It wasn’t long before Breckinridge’s loyalties began to give way.” Sounds like a CU skin deep.

    “In a manifesto published in October 1861, Breckinridge explained that Lincoln’s despotism had forced him to abandon the Union.”

    Wonder what he thought of the South after it started to draft people, seize property, have martial law et. al.

    • witless chum

      The CSA central government wasn’t for states rights when that state right in question interfered with anything they wanted to do. The governor of North Carolina was famously elected on a platform of “Fight the Yankees and fuss with the Confederacy”

      • Joe

        The South as a whole wasn’t for state rights when it interfered with anything they wanted to do.

        They rejected Douglas for not being supportive enough of a national law protecting slavery. The rights of non-slave states not to have to help them get slaves back (or even to have minimum protections before doing so) also wasn’t really kosher to them.

    • Scott Lemieux

      “A Constitutional Unionist to his bones” until he fought for those who broke up the union.

      That line nearly made me laugh out loud. I don’t think that phrase means what she thinks it means.

      • rea

        Particularly as the Constitutional Unionists nominated John Bell in the 1861 election–Breckinridge ran as a Democrat.

  • Thrax

    The Smithsonian has a contest for best Civil War Facial Hair going. Breckinridge didn’t make the cut, and given the competition, I can see why.


    • rea

      Ambrose Burnside is the obvious winner–the only Civil War general to have a style of facial hair named after him.

      (In marked contrast to his successor, the clean-shaven Joseph Hooker–we all know what he got named after him).

    • Belle Waring

      Burnside in a walk over there.

  • You know, I just happened upon this site, and see what I had always secretly known was true. That Kentuckians spend way too much time on politicians instead of businesses and businessmen (and women, lest I “offend” some liberal idiot) We can’t even TALK about business without bringing POLITICS into it.

    Why this is REALLY a problem, as proven by this article on the Honourable John C. Breckinridge proves the point that a LOT of Kentuckians know so little about their own history to dare think themselves “qualifed” to have a valid opinion on the subject. Governor Breckinridge was NO traitor no more than the Cause for Southern Independence was “for the preservation of perpetuation of slavery” — as this IDIOT suggests. Was the South’s Cause “for slavery” any more so than that of the War for American Independence that was waged between 1776 and 1781?? After all the British too, attempted the use of emancipation to pit Black against White in that war as well (the same TRICK the genuinely racist Lincoln was using with his Emancipation Proclamation — a mere political PLOY to keep Britain out of the war and taking up the Southern Cause)

    The writer is the traitor, to his own heritage, and to his own history. Or do I offend the idiot?

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