If there were ever a United States vice president who looked haunted, it was John C. Breckinridge. Look at those otherworldly eyes. You might be forgiven for thinking that he was descended from a raccoon. And indeed, Breckinridge had a life that was high in drama that led him on a long and winding road. It's also his birthday today.
Breckinridge is America’s youngest ever vice president, where he was largely ignored by his boss James Buchanan. When Lincoln was elected, Breckinridge returned to being a senator for Kentucky until 1861 when he jumped ship for the Confederacy. The U.S. government was not happy about his decision. The U.S. Senate cast him out by a vote of 36-0 and charged him with treason. Breckinridge was made a Brigadier General for the South, and after distinguishing himself in battles like Shiloh and Chattanooga, he eventually was appointed the Secretary of War. So when General Lee’s army surrendered in 1865, he knew he had to get out of town or face his treason charges.
Breckinridge fled through the malarial, alligator-infested swamps of Florida, hi-jacked a sailing ship (which is a pretty piratey thing to do) and made for Cuba. Along the way, he fought off a pirate attack, survived two tropical storms and came close to starving before eventually making it to shore. From there he traveled to England. In 1868, President Andrew Johnson pardoned Breckinridge and all other Confederates.
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