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  • Writer's pictureDerrick

A Media Tempest: John C. Breckinridge, Amnesty, and the Press

Nearly four years after the Civil War ended at the expense of over half a million lives, John C. Breckinridge finally arrived home to Kentucky. The last time he set foot in his native state was February 1862, the war having taken him everywhere but Kentucky after that point. Crowds swarmed his train as it arrived at the station in Lexington, a trek that began weeks before as he crossed the Canadian border to New York in March 1869. Throngs of people hoped to see the former Vice President of the United States, and Confederate war hero, with the possibility of hearing him speak. Unfortunately, for the multitude braving the cold, rainy weather, Breckinridge did not speak. Instead, he shook a few hands then boarded a waiting carriage that took him to the house of his cousin, his temporary home. The weather did not keep the admiring crowd from following him to the house and performing a serenade in the middle of the night. The former general appeared for a brief instant, addressed the crowd for a short amount of time, and attempted to extinguish any hope of his pursuing political office by referring to himself as an “extinct volcano.” [1] Breckinridge meant to honor the amnesty granted to him by President Andrew Johnson on Christmas Day 1868 and live a quiet life practicing law.[2] Breckinridge’s announcement came to the relief of Radical Republicans, fearing his return to Kentucky might mean a return to politics.

This homecoming story of John C. Breckinridge clearly shows how some, especially in the Bluegrass State, viewed his return to the United States and Kentucky. However, this was not the norm in all areas, especially in neighboring states. Regional biases, still fresh from the war and current Reconstruction policies, influenced these reactions. Breckinridge, generally hailed as a hero to those south of the Mason-Dixon Line and arch traitor to those north of the line, found the response about the same in 1869 as the response in 1861. But how did these opinions, held by many newspaper writers, editors, and owners, influence the reporting of the newspapers in their respective regions when it came to President Johnson’s 1868 pardon of the Kentuckian and his return from exile? Some newspapers were jubilant at the return of an American icon, such as Kentucky’s Louisville Daily Courier and Louisville Courier Journal, and surprisingly, the Cincinnati Enquirer. Others, like the Chicago Tribune and Evansville Daily Journal, seethed with anger that such a traitor might return home without consequence and reenter politics. These five papers highlight the public opinion of these Mid-Western areas due to their large audiences, and are best for study.

Why did these papers report on the events of Breckinridge in the way that they did, and how did they vent their frustration or express their joy? Why did this matter to the Reconstruction era? Breckinridge biographer, William C. Davis, writes that upon his amnesty, “speculation sprang up almost immediately…” that the Confederate in exile would return to public life and political office, throwing himself into the arena of Reconstruction politics.[3] If a man of Breckinridge’s popularity and political experience returned to the public stage, the possibility of a more Southern friendly Reconstruction policy was very possible. To those in the North, this was unacceptable. However, the opinion differed further south. Lucille Williams wrote that the opinion of many Kentuckians echoed the sentiments of those in Lexington, who argued that, “Kentucky, the South, the Democratic Party, the whole country, sadly needs the aid of his eloquence and counsel.”[4] Even General Ulysses S. Grant held the opinion that, for the good of the country and the Union, Breckinridge ought to receive a pardon. Though the General-in-chief of the army in 1865, Grant met stiff resistance from Republicans, and the act never materialized in the immediate aftermath of hostilities.[5]

Breckinridge found himself in a unique situation. He was not some average citizen that took up arms in rebellion in one of the seceded states. He was the former Vice President, US Senator, and he was from the loyal state of Kentucky. Jefferson Davis, in his trial, could at least make the claim that he was from the seceded state of Mississippi, and so was no longer a citizen of the United States in 1861. Nor did Davis leave his senate seat after the beginning of hostilities like Breckinridge, as he resigned his seat in January 1861. This unique situation fertilized the Reconstruction debate among the Midwestern states, and this directly correlated to the way it was reported in their newspapers in the tense Reconstruction era. These newspapers attempted to gain a victory for their side in the war of public opinion that raged in the years following the conflict. During President Johnson’s administration, the shaky peace of the postwar years threatened to unravel, especially in the upper south. Public opinion proved a vital weapon, especially if Breckinridge faced punishment or returned to politics.

John C. Breckinridge in retirement.

Over the years, countless historians have analyzed the life of John C. Breckinridge, most notably the excellent biography by William C. Davis in 1974, and a more brief biography by Frank Heck in 1976. Several scholarly journal articles exist, but many of them date to last century, including the excellent article by Lucille Williams written in 1934, featured in several issues of The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. Several books and articles exist that pertain to some aspect of his life, whether that be his political years, or wartime service. Very few have taken the pains to actually look into his postwar life, and study his pardon and return to the United States, especially the reaction of the press towards these events. To date, there has yet to be any serious inquiry into this specific topic. This paper will attempt to change that.[6]

After losing the Election of 1860, Kentucky’s legislature chose John C. Breckinridge to be the next United States Senator for the state, and to replace Kentucky’s elder statesman, John J. Crittenden. His tenure as a US Senator was brief. He served throughout the secession crisis and the beginning of the war, a vocal critic of President Lincoln’s war policy. Shortly thereafter, he cast his lot with the Southern states by joining the Confederate army then in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Due to his swift departure to the rebels, the Senate passed a resolution on December 2, 1861 to remove Breckinridge from his Senate seat, declaring him a traitor. He remains one of the few sitting members of the Senate expelled from the body.[7]

Breckinridge rose quickly through the ranks, eventually attaining the rank of major general. Though lacking a military education at West Point like so many other general officers, Breckinridge’s leadership experience translated to the battlefield. In 1865, weeks before the collapse of the Confederacy, President Jefferson Davis named Breckinridge the Secretary of War in his cabinet. As the inevitable Union victory manifested itself with the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Breckinridge embedded himself with the remnants of Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, currently in North Carolina. He was present when that army also surrendered, but fled immediately to escape the United States and the very probably consequences of treason. John H. Heck wrote, “As a member of the Confederate cabinet under indictment for treason in several jurisdictions, as a former vice president who had resigned his seat in the Senate of the United States and offered his military services to the Confederate States, he was one of the most sought-for Confederates.” Eventually he made it to Cuba, when he then spent the next several years travelling throughout the Holy Land, touring Europe, and residing in Canada with his family.[8]

The story of John C. Breckinridge’s reluctance to return home to Kentucky and the United States after the war is connected to the treason trial of Jefferson Davis. Breckinridge, like Davis, was under indictment for treason against the United States, due to his role in the Confederate government during the Civil War. William C. Davis writes that “many in the Confederacy were speaking of him as a successor to Jefferson Davis should the infant nation live long enough to elect another president.” Davis also explains in the biography that the North held a vicious attitude toward Breckinridge, during and after the war, and “people throughout the North expected him to receive the most severe punishment.”[9]

Due to Breckinridge’s high standing, the Jefferson Davis treason trial was of great concern to him. If the Davis case ended in a favorable outcome, he could assume that his homecoming would not result in imprisonment, or more importantly, execution.[10] Cynthia Nicoletti writes in Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis that many in the North saw the trial as a continuation of the war. If Davis received an acquittal, then it “would be devastating for Americans, because it would mean that the government waged war against those whom the courts would have justified in their actions.”[11] This included Breckinridge. Even after the end of the trial, and the proclamation of amnesty, Breckinridge still hesitated to return immediately, the thoughts of the public on his mind. Returning so quickly after the amnesty proclamation might “cause an uproar” and “stir up the radicals.” Breckinridge wanted neither.[12]

His case was also unique. Under several of the previous amnesty proclamations, those rebels from states loyal to the Union were exempt from amnesty unless they directly appealed to the president for a pardon. At the initial close of hostilities in 1865, President Johnson communicated a determination to prosecute and harshly punish Southern traitors, but the trials of rebel leaders waited for the conclusion of what was supposed to have been the trial of the century, the treason trial of Jefferson Davis. In the trial of the former president of the Confederacy, Davis’ defense lawyer, Charles O’Conor, argued that the executive branch wanted to execute a “policy to prosecute only well known officials for their participation in the war.” [13] General Grant told a confidant later in life that President Johnson “resolved to make all treason odious.”[14] The Davis trial dragged on for several years, allowing Johnson to soften his stance on former Confederate soldiers, officers, and government officials, including Breckinridge.

President Andrew Johnson

Since the end of the war, President Johnson issued several proclamations of varying affect, to pardon former Confederate sympathizers, soldiers, officers, and government officials. Even President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of amnesty during the war that proved quite lenient except towards six categories of Confederates, but even they were still eligible to apply for an individual pardon.[15] Though every one of these proclamations peeled back the number of Southerners facing punishment, they had yet to reach the officials at the top. With Breckinridge acting as the Confederate Secretary of War in 1865, he was excluded from any of the previous amnesty proclamations.[16] Even with these restrictions, a delegation of the Kentucky General Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor signed a petition to President Andrew Johnson asking for his pardon. They implored, “In this hour of triumph, does not wisdom, and magnanimity require us to be gracious and merciful to a conquered foe? Will you not then, Sir, pardon John C. Breckinridge and restore him to his State?”[17] Johnson never acted on the petition regarding his old colleague, but the sentiment remained two years later for the final amnesty proclamation.[18]

Christmas Day 1868 resulted in one of the greatest holiday gifts ever conceived for those high-ranking Confederate officials under indictment for treason. President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of general amnesty, his fourth and final amnesty act as President of the United States. This amnesty expanded on his previous amnesty in July, which excluded men like Breckinridge and Jefferson Davis. For many citizens north and south, this amnesty proclamation was long awaited, and seen as a way to further reunite the two portions of the country and maybe smooth the process of Reconstruction.[19] The proclamation stated:

"I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States… do hereby proclaim and declare unconditionally…to every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion, a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof."[20]

President Johnson's Chirstmas Day Proclamation

This proclamation lifted the possibility of prosecution and punishment for all former Confederate officials forever.[21] Jonathon T. Dorris writes, “President Andrew Johnson’s universal amnesty…rescinded that indictment and placed Breckinridge’s offenses against the United States government in oblivion.”[22] Now that Breckinridge had the legal security to return home, he began making plans to do so, but Breckinridge did not return to the United States until two and a half months following the proclamation, as the country’s reaction was not certain.[23]

The Chicago Tribune reported on the Breckinridge saga in an expectant manner. Illinois provided one of the highest numbers of soldiers to the Union army in the Western Theater, and the Tribune earned a reputation for advocating for the abolition of slaves and Unionism. The paper’s editor in 1869, Horace White, was a well-known supporter of the abolition movement in Bleeding Kansas the previous decade. In that mini-civil war, White smuggled weapons and money to Kansas and John Brown’s sons. His position in the Tribune also brought him into frequent contact with Abraham Lincoln, who White considered a close, personal friend. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that The Chicago Tribune reported on the events of Breckinridge’s pardon and return in a negative manner.[24]

White, like many Republicans, believed that Andrew Johnson was soft on former Confederates as the administration took steps toward pardoning high-level military officers and government officials in the post war years. He lamented the lack of Southern Union men in control of the former Confederate states and boldly charged Johnson with treason himself. Needless to say, White and his Tribune did not favor the “soft” Reconstruction policies of President Johnson, and instead favored the more strict policies set forth by the Radical Republican Congress. In a February 1868 article, 10 months before Johnson’s amnesty proclamation, he wrote, “It is needless to recount the history of Mr. Johnson’s treason; to show how traitors have taken front seats; how the true and faithful men of the South have been denied control of reconstruction; how the rich traitor has been favored, while the poor Unionist has stood out in the cold.”[25]

Horace White

When the contents of Johnson’s Christmas Day amnesty existed only as a rumor, the Tribune wasted not a moment to remind its readers of Breckinridge and his conduct the previous eight years. If Breckinridge gained a pardon, then there was the possibility that the influential Democrat might re-enter politics and stymie the work of the Radical Republicans. In a completely unrelated report covering former Georgia governor Howell Cobb’s anti-reconstruction and anti-Unionist speech, White added the story of an abusive husband writing to his wife in New York City. In the letter, the man says he forgives his wife for anything he may have done to upset her. White went on to say that the man must have been friends with “Breckinridge, the Kentucky traitor.” White also never missed an opportunity to not only antagonize Breckinridge, but also the publications that supported him. In the same article, White takes a shot at The Louisville Courier, a Kentucky newspaper that sympathized with Breckinridge and the South, and favored more lenient Reconstruction policies. He wrote mockingly, “The Louisville Courier is filled with humility, shame and indignation, at the conduct of a young Kentuckian, who, in a speech in that city, said he was ‘prouder in the thought that he is an American than in the thought that he is a Kentuckian.’ It cannot understand such a lack of state pride.”[26]

White, a staunch Republican and supporter of General Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1868, decried the amnesty proclaimed by President Johnson, a lame duck, on Christmas day 1868. The Tribune reported, “His Accidency [President Johnson] to-day issued a proclamation of general amnesty for all political offences…It will embrace Jeff. Davis, Breckinridge…and other arch-traitors, who should all have been hung three years ago.”[27] Just weeks after the proclamation, the paper questioned the legality of the President Johnson’s order. The Tribune recognized Johnson’s power to grant pardons, but questioned his ability to do so in masse, and that the certainty of the order was “not so clear.” It further remarked, “Chief Justice Marshall once held that a pardon must be written out and delivered to the offender before it could be pleaded in court…”[28] The Tribune made a fair point that it would be hard to pardon Breckinridge while he was in exile. White again reported on the questionable legality of Johnson’s proclamation in February 1869, informing readers of the Senate judiciary committee’s resolution declaring the act unconstitutional. White lamented and conceded that such a resolution was not binding and could only “express the opinion of the Congress on the question raised.”[29]

The Chicago newspaper continued to press its dissatisfaction with Breckinridge’s pardon by attempting to not only cast the man in a negative light, but also his native state of Kentucky. Kentucky, a Border State that actually held a Unionist majority, was conveniently mislabeled as a Rebel haven to attack Johnson’s policies and Breckinridge’s possible return to politics, as exhibited in a February 1869 editorial. White presented Kentucky as full of conspiring former Confederates that wanted to reverse the Southern losses from the war by electing Breckinridge to the governorship. In a scathing argument, The Tribune contended,

"No man in Kentucky more faithfully embodies the prevailing sentiment of that State than Breckinridge. His election for Governor would simply exhibit a fact already well known that Kentucky is controlled by unrepentant rebels. There are some good white men in Kentucky, but the vast majority of the white population were secessionists of the rankest breed, and nothing but the Sturdy Unionists of the Northwest prevented that State from declaring itself out of the Union. No rebels were more malignant, and few Southern States furnished more defenders of the “Lost Cause than Kentucky."[30]

Before Breckinridge returned to Kentucky and the United States, most people knew that it would be an unforgettable media event. This was not lost on the Tribune. In contrast, Breckinridge feared a media circus and the pressure to return to politics. Somehow, White procured an outline for how some planned to welcome Breckinridge home, fully two months before he did so, and again reminded readers the depth of Breckinridge’s treason. White wrote, “Colonel J. Stoddard Johnston, who was on Breckinridge’s staff during the war, forbids all Union men a share in the grand event...” White asked sarcastically, “Why should any one [sic] who wears, or ever wore, the uniform of a Union soldier, be permitted to welcome Breckinridge to Kentucky or to any part of the country?” He also refreshed his readers’ memories with a brief description of Breckinridge’s treachery, “Traitor as Vice President, and traitor as Senator-with his official oath fresh upon his lips, he put on the garb of a traitor, and raise his arm against the Union, which had done so much for him. Thenceforth he declared himself an enemy of this country,” and, “there will be no place at the ‘welcome home’ for those who stood by their country in the war and were the enemies of Breckinridge.”[31]

Breckinridge while in Paris.

In March 1869, when Breckinridge made his long awaited return back to Kentucky after stopping in various cities, The Tribune continued to run negative editorials on the former Vice President as rumors continued to swirl that the former vice-president longed to re-enter politics. In relaying the story of his return, it reminded readers that Breckinridge spent four years “fighting his country and dodging the officers of justice.” When the former Confederate secretary of war actually travelled back to the United States and spent some time in Washington, the Tribune, again took the paper space and ink to disparage him, never passing on an opportunity to do so. It bluntly wrote of him in the capital city, “nobody paid any attention to him when he appeared in the street.”[32]

In the Tribune’s version of events, Union men were not present at the Lexington train station, but only “ex-rebels and unreconstructed rebels.” White mocked Breckinridge’s statement of refusing a future in public office and politics by describing himself as an extinct volcano by using the headline “AN EXTINCT VOLCANO” and closed the article with a paragraph that fully displayed the unappeasable attitude of the Chicago Tribune. It reported, “There is nothing that will become of this arch-traitor so well as to remain an ‘extinct volcano’…He should be content that his forfeited life has been spared and his horrid crime against his country pardoned, and never again undertake to erupt sulphurous [sic] smoke and ‘Lost Cause’ lava.”[33] However, the Chicago paper seemed unaware that there was a “disability” on Breckinridge’s political rights that could only be waived by an act of Congress. Under the 14th Amendment, Breckinridge lost the right to hold elected office.[34]

In Illinois, the Chicago Tribune attempted to sway the public opinion on Reconstruction by completely opposing President Johnson’s amnesty, especially toward Breckinridge. The paper reminded readers that the former vice-president faced no punishment of consequence in helping begin and fight in a war that cost Illinois thousands of her sons. This forgiving policy of amnesty toward traitors by the president proved too soft. The outcome of the war may be for naught if the Reconstruction did not return to a more harsh approach, and if Breckinridge once again entered national politics. The Chicago Tribune failed to sway the right people in keeping Breckinridge in exile, but it is uncertain as to whether its voice played a part in confining Breckinridge to private life.

For Indiana, it possessed a complicated relationship with Kentucky. Rebel Kentuckians raided and briefly captured Newburgh, Indiana, the first northern town captured by Confederates, and it was the Kentucky Confederate General John Hunt Morgan who led the famous “Morgan’s Raid” through southeastern Indiana and Ohio in 1863. Governor Oliver Morton frequently sent the Indiana Legion into western Kentucky to hunt for rebel guerrillas, and even deployed a picket line along the entire Indiana side of the Ohio River to guard against guerrilla attacks on Indiana soil. Many Hoosiers viewed Kentucky Unionists as only half-hearted loyalists who needed Indianans to protect them from Confederate guerrillas.[35]

John W. Foster in a wartime image.

One Indiana newspaper, The Evansville Daily Journal, being just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, frequently sent correspondents to the field, and filled their pages with countless editorials decrying secessionists and Kentucky Confederates from 1860-1865. No friend to some of the Democratic newspapers in the region, the Daily Journal lambasted those publications that took a softer stance on Kentuckians. By 1866, the future Secretary of State under President Benjamin Harrison, John W. Foster, managed and edited the paper. Foster, an officer in the Union army during the war, was a veteran of some of the early Civil War battles such as Fort Donelson and Shiloh. In 1862, he returned to the Evansville area where he was thrust into the guerrilla war in western Kentucky. Foster, took a harsh stance against the rebels operating in that part of the state, a feeling of animosity that he kept throughout the post war years.[36] As a staunch Republican, Foster continued the Republican sentiment of the paper, and that in turn reflected the way the Evansville Daily Journal reported on Johnson’s 1868 Christmas Day amnesty proclamation and John C. Breckinridge. Like the Chicago Tribune, the Evansville paper sought stiff penalties for traitors in the Reconstruction era, and loathed the possibility of John C. Breckinridge as politician.

While Breckinridge visited the Holy Land, word of his travels unsurprisingly made it back to the United States. Horace Greely, the editor of the New York Tribune, was later a surprising supporter of Breckinridge’s amnesty, reported frequently on his comings and goings with the occasional jeer. However, the Daily Journal was not impressed with Breckinridge’s historical interest and religious wanderings, and concurred with Greely on his reporting of “poor Breckinridge.” The New York Tribune reported that Breckinridge told anyone that would listen that only the United States could ever be his home, but he would not return to it until he could do so with amnesty. The Daily Journal, known for its witty, and sometimes derogatory, name-calling of Confederates during the war, evidently found itself impressed with the Tribune’s likewise ability. Foster reprinted Greely’s mock, “John had better come home at once, and stop making a wandering Jew of himself. He runs no danger in the United States except of being forgotten.” Foster followed up this astonishingly vile remark with, “This is what we call kicking a corpse.”[37]

As rumors began to circulate that President Johnson considered a sweeping and general amnesty for former rebels, the Daily Journal quickly pounced. Breckinridge deserved punishment for his part in the war. In an editorial, the paper compared Davis and Breckinridge to Lucifer, and stated that the ignorant masses could at least remain loyal to the country. It wrote, “The masses of mankind…have no ‘book larnin’…but the masses of mankind…love their country…fight for it, die for it…Lucifer was not wanting in intelligence…and he rebelled. Davis and Breckinridge were not wanting in intelligence, and they committed treasons against their country.”[38]

The Evansville Daily Journal could not understand why Kentuckians were so enthralled with Breckinridge, especially former Union officers who might rightly blame him for their hardships during the war. Frank Wolford, a prominent Kentucky Union officer and cavalry commander was one of these men. When he publicly stated that Breckinridge should be allowed to return to “his native soil” and that “Kentucky ought to raise her voice to restore him to his home and make him equal with any man in Kentucky,” the Daily Journal would have none of it. Foster countered Wolford’s remarks with, “Breckinridge is self-exiled. If he don’t like ‘foreign parts,’ why don’t he come home? There is no law which prevents his return.” The future Secretary of State was well aware that Breckinridge could come back, but in February 1868, the trial of Jefferson Davis continued, and the issue against treason remained unsettled. Could Breckinridge come back to Kentucky without fear of punishment or persecution? Foster sarcastically answered his own question, “We can’t see why they much such a fuss over him. Certainly these gentlemen don’t think he committed any act worthy of punishment during the ‘late unpleasantness.’”[39] The Evansville paper wanted to Breckinridge to return, not for a peaceful homecoming, but postwar justice that had yet to materialize.

When President Johnson declared the general amnesty on Christmas Day 1868, the Evansville Daily Journal strangely reported only what the wire contained from Washington without any commentary. In a search of the December 1868 and January 1869 issues of the paper, articles containing any information on the amnesty resulted in only eight issues covering the manner in any way, with only one article in December 1868. The remaining seven being from January 1869, and several of those only have the reports wired in from other newspapers, with one of those from London. This is very strange indeed, considering subscribers of the Daily Journal included Kentuckians in the several communities above and below Evansville on the Ohio River.[40]

After several months of silence in regards to Breckinridge and his return after the President’s amnesty, the Evansville Daily Journal returned to its former Breckinridge loathing form of editorial journalism. With some clear antipathy for its southern neighbor, the paper reported, “Kentucky is preparing to receive the traitor Breckinridge with open arms.” It continued with a quote from the Louisville based Courier, which insinuated that Breckinridge would immediately be nominated and elected to the governorship without any say from the Republicans of the state.[41] A Kentucky controlled by Democrats, especially those of Breckinridge’s influence, might very well change the course of Reconstruction. If this were to happen, why did the nation fight itself for four years if the same southern leaders could simply return to politics and return the nation to its former debates? Like the Chicago Tribune, the Evansville paper also seemed unaware of the prohibition on Breckinridge’s ability to do the thing they feared, run for office.

When John C. Breckinridge did return to Kentucky, the Evansville Daily Journal remained mostly quiet on the subject, keeping its reports brief and to the point, with a dash of hostility. Upon his arrival in Lexington in March 1869, the Daily Journal reported, “John C. Breckinridge, the traitor, arrive in Lexington, Kentucky, Tuesday morning. He will, it is said, practice law and eschew politics.”[42] Two months later, the paper again reported on Breckinridge’s travels, this time as he visited Cincinnati, hardly news worthy. In its one sentence report, the paper mentioned, “Lieut. Gen. Phil. Sheridan and the arch-traitor John C. Breckinridge were in Cincinnati on Tuesday.”[43] For the most part, the Evansville Daily Journal no longer thought Breckinridge or his presidential pardon were news worthy after the summer of 1869 when it was clear that the former general meant to live a quiet life.

The Evansville paper’s arguments on the Reconstruction and amnesty policies, like Illinois, attempted to convince the public that traitors, especially Breckinridge, deserved some sort of punishment and remain voiceless in national politics. It too failed in the endeavor, as the new President Ulysses S. Grant did nothing to stop Breckinridge’s return, nor were there any lawsuits brought before the courts to try to stop it. It seems as if those in power wanted to end anything resembling the Jefferson Davis treason trial, and let the nation heal. Breckinridge kept himself from re-entering politics.

Ohio, like Indiana and Illinois, possessed a complicated relationship with Kentucky due to the war. Thousands of Ohioans fought and died for the Union, some of them against Confederate soldiers commanded by John C. Breckinridge on southern battlefields. So how did one of their major newspapers, the Cincinnati Enquirer report on President Johnson’s Christmas Day amnesty that allowed John C. Breckinridge to return home, or on Breckinridge’s possible return to politics? The Enquirer, never a friend of the Republican Party and a loud dissenter during the war against President Lincoln’s administration, supported Breckinridge’s cause. Its owner, Washington McLean can be considered a “copperhead,” those northern Democrats who sought peace with the Confederacy and generally argued against emancipation. After President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, “Washington McLean became a caustic critic of the war and gained a reputation as a dissenter.”[44] Throughout the war years, and into Reconstruction, McLean used the Inquirer as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the paper “was late with the story.”[45] In fact, when Breckinridge returned to the United States, he stayed several days in Cincinnati before his return to Kentucky. His host, Washington McLean.[46]

The Cincinnati Enquirer believed Andrew Johnson issued the July 4, 1868 pardons, not as a true act of mercy toward the former Confederates, but as a way to garner the Democratic nomination for the 1868 presidential election. In reporting the July 4th amnesty, the Enquirer wrote, “President Johnson and his friends have been busy for a few days, and A.J. is not without a big hope of success for himself. He actually believes that the lightning will strike him, and his baring his bosom to receive the stroke with the heroism of a martyr.” Like many Democrats, the Enquirer lost hope with Andrew Johnson after his less than stellar performance as President, and surmised that Johnson stood a better chance of lightning striking him than winning the Democratic nomination. It continued, “Democrats are not unmindful of the good he has done, neither are they forgetful of the good he has left undone…and he thinks this will secure him the nomination. He will find himself grievously mistaken.”[47]

The paper’s tune changed when the president issued his final amnesty proclamation on Christmas Day 1868, calling Johnson’s action a “blessed deed on a blessed day.” After repeated calls for such amnesty, the paper was finally satisfied. For the Enquirer, the general amnesty of all Confederate officials, including Jefferson Davis and John C. Breckinridge, was exactly what they country needed to finally heal the “wounds of the late terrible war.” The paper added that this last act of amnesty by Johnson might improve his remembrance by future generations for showing such mercy. The Enquirer closed the article with the simple statement, “All hail the act of general amnesty!”[48]

As the paper reported on Breckinridge’s pardon, and his eventual return to the United States and Kentucky, it took it upon itself to not only cheer the amnesty, but also defend the former Confederate Secretary of War in correcting supposed false stories circulating the nation. After all, he might soon be one of the leading Democrats once again. On one occasion, Breckinridge attended a dinner in New York City, with wide reports of his speaking on politics and running for the governorship of Kentucky. The Enquirer sought to correct the claims of Breckinridge returning to the political arena, stating that such rumors are “positively denied. The General did not speak on the occasion.”[49] The paper argued that the story was false, but even if it were true, it was hypocritical to criticize the occasion when Ulysses S. Grant dined with former Confederates in Washington. The paper wrote, “we are to have peace.”[50]

In regards to Breckinridge’s post exile career, the Cincinnati Enquirer seemed to promote the former general in that regard as well. With the announcement that Breckinridge would most likely accept the positon of president over a railroad company, the Enquirer predicted that the line proposed through Kentucky “will be urged forward to completion with all the ability possessed by that great man.”[51] If Breckinridge ever decided to return to politics, surely the Cincinnati Enquirer might quickly endorse him.

Before he entered his native state, Breckinridge made one last stop in Cincinnati before crossing the Ohio River for a train ride to Lexington. The Enquirer was ecstatic that he decided to stop for a day in the paper’s city. It led the article with the headline, “DISTINGUISHED ARRIVAL.” To any casual observer ignorant of the last several years, it would seem as if Breckinridge was a hero for the Union or that Cincinnati was former Confederate territory.

Once Breckinridge returned home to Lexington, the Enquirer continued to report on the minor movements of the former vice president. When he was one of the “distinguished men” speaking at a monument dedication to Confederate dead, the paper made sure its readers were well aware.[52] The paper’s special correspondent to the occasion, J.H.L, wrote glowingly of Breckinridge at the ceremony,

"Among the leaders of the ‘Lost Cause’ who will be seen on that occasion will be John C, Breckinridge, the most talented and the most popular man in the State, and if it is treason to for Kentuckians to love a man who has never politically erred, we are the greatest traitors on earth, and if it is treason to love him, thank God that we are privileged [sic] to be traitors, for undoubtedly there never was a man in the State who could wield it as Breckinridge can."[53]

Printing such correspondence into their paper clearly shows that the Cincinnati Enquirer did not share the same views on the pardoning of John C. Breckinridge as the Chicago Tribune or the Evansville Daily Journal. But what about the rest of the state? Was the Enquirer typical or an anomaly? A brief analysis will show that the opinion of the Enquirer was anything but typical.

Several smaller newspapers read throughout the state, may give a more “typical” response for Ohio. The Belmont Chronicle of Saint Clairsville reported, on the announcement that Breckinridge would receive amnesty, wrote, “John C. Breckinridge is expected to return to Kentucky in a few days. The praises of Johnson are on rebel lips for pardoning him.”[54] In March 1869, the Chronicle lambasted Breckinridge with scathing remarks such as, “Breckinridge who was doubly a traitor—first traitor to his party by disrupting it, and second, traitor to his government by attempting to subvert it. Democrats have not been wont to forgive treason to their party, but in this case pardon for the first treason was expiated and forgiven, we suppose, in the eyes of the Democracy, by long and faithful service in the rebel cause, sympathy for which blinds Democratic eyes to all sins against the party.”[55] Clearly, the Belmont Chronicle had yet to come around to the same merciful conclusion as the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Another Ohio publication that dissented to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s position is the Bucyrus Journal. This small paper reprinted an anti-Breckinridge article originally in the Cincinnati Commercial. This article predicted that Breckinridge would almost immediately become the next US Senator for Kentucky as, “He has the general Kentucky itch for official position and influence, and that disease is incurable. NO Kentuckian was ever known to voluntarily quit public life.”[56] With such a bold reprinting, it is surprising that the Bucyrus Journal never mentioned John C. Breckinridge again, especially after he settled into private life without the “itch” to return to the political arena.

The Highland Weekly News of Hillsboro, Ohio took a decidedly neutral view on the subject. Upon Breckinridge’s return to Kentucky, it, like other anti-Confederate papers, reminder readers that Breckinridge remained a former rebel, yet subtly praised him if he found a way to stay out of politics. In reporting on his arrival in Lexington, the paper wrote, “the great Kentucky rebel, reached his home in Lexington…In his speech he had the good sense to say that he was done with politics…It will be to his credit if he adheres to this course.”[57] Republicans could only hope.

One paper that printed angry vitriol toward the amnesty and Breckinridge was the Weekly Maysville Tribune. This paper, on the announcement of the extent of President Johnson’s pardon printed its frustration two weeks after the announcement of the proclamation. “…in Kentucky Mr. Breckinridge has already been proposed for Governor. The crushed head of the serpent yet has power to hiss,” hissed the Weekly Maysville Tribune.[58] Later, the paper printed the one sentence report, “A party of flunkeys gave John C. Breckinridge a dinner at the Manhattan Club in New York the other evening.”[59]

Kentucky Governor Thomas Bramlette

The situation in Kentucky, following the war, was vastly different from the postwar situations in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. In those three states, soldiers returned home and life went back to normal, or as normal as could be expected. In Kentucky, this was not the case. The state remained bitterly divided as Union and Confederate soldiers returned home to a war ravaged land. Because Kentucky remained a loyal state, Kentucky Confederates were at first exempted from the initial amnesty to other Confederate soldiers. The soldiers first swore allegiance to the United States and forfeited certain rights, like the right to run for office.[60] In his December 1865 address, Governor Thomas Bramlette, former Union officer, made the case for reunion. In an attempt to bring his divided state together he wrote, “The passions and prejudices evoked by the conflict should be cast away…” He urged a restoration of rights to those former Confederates in his address when he said, “This mode of restoration will at once open the door to all who, in good faith, have returned to their allegiance, and their homes…”[61]

Other Kentucky Confederates, those who held the rank of colonel or higher in the military or government positions, had to appeal directly to President Johnson for a special pardon according to the 1865 amnesty proclamation. Men like Colonel William Preston Johnston, former aid to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, found themselves asking for amnesty. He implored Johnson, “I now apply to you for the pardon, required to reinvest with full rights of citizenship. I am excluded from the amnesty only by the fact of having left a loyal state, — Kentucky — to join the Confederate army.”[62] Others like Robert Martin, a colonel in the Confederate army, suddenly found himself imprisoned in Louisville after returning home. He petitioned President Johnson and explained, “To my profound surprise immediately after my return to my Father’s house (a devoted Union man.) I was suddenly arrested …& am held now in prison, shackled, and enfeebled… which seems to exclude me from the benefit of Executive clemency as granted in the Proclamation aforesaid.”[63]

Due to the varied nature of loyalty and amnesty for Kentuckians, the Kentucky newspapers took a decidedly pro amnesty and pro Breckinridge stance early on. The two leading papers, the Louisville Daily Courier and the Louisville Courier Journal, both supported Breckinridge’s pardon and return to Kentucky. Though the two papers found themselves at odds in the presidential election of 1860, with the Daily Courier supported Breckinridge and the Southern Democrats and the Courier Journal supported John Bell and the Constitutional Union Party, they found something to agree on in postwar Kentucky.[64] The political environment in the state allowed both to easily support Breckinridge, even at their own expense in the eyes of other newspapers in the country.

The Daily Courier ceased to exist by the time President Johnson issued his Christmas Day amnesty. However, it provides plenty of information to aid in the clarification of the press’, if not Kentucky’s, general thoughts on the events. From covering Breckinridge’s escape to his exile, and then arguing for his pardon before the amnesty, the Daily Courier provides much needed insight toward its once endorsed presidential candidate.

In August 1866, more than two years before his pardon, the Daily Courier ran an article hoping for Breckinridge’s quick return. Disappointed, they found that he had left Canada for Europe. It wrote, “Gen. Breckinridge with his family, has sailed from Quebec for Europe. We trust it will not be many months before we will be able to welcome Gen. Breckinridge to his Kentucky home.”[65]

That same year, the Daily Courier, defended its political leanings against another local newspaper, the Louisville Democrat. That paper argued that those who supported Breckinridge in the 1860 election were avid secessionists, and should not be trusted to hold political office. The Daily Courier responded, “President Johnson was one of the men who did that thing, and he made speeches advocating his election. Does the Democrat consider him worthy to be trusted?”[66] Not only did the paper defend its politics when it came to John C. Breckinridge, but it also sought to quash rumors of other papers. Several papers ran stories of plans to elect Breckinridge back to the United States Senate, and Robert E. Lee to the governorship of Virginia. None of this was possible in 1866, and the Daily Courier commented that if this was true, then Kentuckians had “not yet heard of it.” The paper attributed the rumor to the Cincinnati Commercial, and that its Washington correspondent created the idea as a form of satire for Kentucky politics.[67] In another issue, the paper again attempted to silence any falsehoods concerning Kentucky’s politics and Breckinridge in the Cincinnati paper. The Daily Courier retorted, “What could be more absurd than to elect a man to represent us in the United States Senate, who is an exile in a foreign land and who would be arrested the moment he placed himself with the jurisdiction of the United States?”[68]

Apparently, to others around the nation, the satire was close to reality.

The Daily Courier also took care to report favorably of Breckinridge whenever possible. In relaying a reference from another source, the paper reported in May 1866, that Breckinridge was living quietly in Toronto, was in good health, and treated well by the Canadians. The paper continued, “In fact, he is a man that will command the respect and confidence of his fellow men wherever he goes…He speaks hopefully of the future, and were he at home, would be an ardent supporter of the President’s policy of reconstruction.”[69] Later that year, the paper again printed positively toward Breckinridge in matters hardly newsworthy and without much information except to sing the former vice president’s praises and that “this great man be permitted to return to his home.”[70]

In 1868, as the calls for general amnesty grew louder, retiring Kentucky Senator James Guthrie spoke of Breckinridge for a large portion of his speech, of which the Daily Courier printed every word. After several paragraphs speaking to the merits of Breckinridge, the speech concluded, “I say Kentucky ought to raise her voice to restore him to his home and make him equal to any man in Kentucky.” Later in the article it mentions that there were loud cheers from Guthrie’s crowd, and that a former Confederate soldier said, “I love to hear you speak more than I use to love to fight you.” There were also cheers for Frank Wolford, the Union officer advocating for Breckinridge’s return.[71]

Both Louisville papers were strong advocates for the return of John C. Breckinridge, the one thing on which they could clearly agree. In April 1866, the Daily Courier quoted the Courier Journal’s piece. It asked, “Why, in the name of equal justice and Heaven, is he kept in banishment? What officer ever carried on war in a loftier spirit of chivalry and courtesy than he…Who is that has poisoned the mind of the administration against him?” In a rare act of agreement, the Daily Courier responded, “The Journal is not alone in its surprise and regret that Mr. Breckinridge is not permitted to return to his home…Others as guilty and less noble and magnanimous than him, have received full and complete pardons…” The Daily Courier continued with a subtle message to the President when it wrote, “We trust that the day is not distant when a more generous policy will be pursued, and when he will receive permission to return. Scarcely anything the President could do would win for him so much of public favor and support.”[72]

George D. Prentice

The Louisville Courier Journal printed its first article in 1868, after the merger of the Louisville Daily Journal and the Louisville Morning Courier. For simplicity and to avoid confusion, the shortened name, “Journal” will be used when discussing the Courier Journal and the Daily Journal’s importance before and after the merger from 1866-1869. The roots of this paper and its editor, George D. Prentice, held strong Unionist and anti-abolition views before 1865, and that carried over to strong support for the Democratic Party after the war.[73]

In 1866, the Journal found itself at odds with the Cincinnati Commercial for supposedly misquoting former Union General Thomas L. Crittenden while at a soldiers’ convention in Louisville. In the quoted report, the Cincinnati Commercial wrote, “He declared himself for general Amnesty; particularly presenting the claims of Jefferson Davis and John C. Breckinridge.” According to the Journal, this was “not a correct representation,” and explained that Crittenden instead believed that Breckinridge should not be singled out for punishment. It continued, “With their bad politics knocked out of them, he knew nothing against them, but some good things which he as generous enough to name in his own glowing and eloquent language.” It scolded the Commercial, “If some writers would take half as much pains to be just as they do to be unjust, it would be all the better for their customers.”[74] Though not the paper’s choice for president in 1860, it appears that the Journal at least attempted to report fairly when it came to John C. Breckinridge.

In one instance of this balanced approach, the Journal reported on a speaking event featuring the infamous wartime Copperhead, Clement Vallandigham. The paper was outraged at the “Treason—fuming, foaming, raging treason” of the event. The cheering and shouting for Jefferson Davis and John C. Breckinridge, while the mention of Grant and Sherman “was loudly hissed!” The Journal rebuked its fellow Kentuckians with, “Shame! Deep shame! Eternal shame to the Kentucky audience that hisses Grant and Sherman! Fellow citizens! Thunder abroad today your terrible rebuke of the infamous outrage!”[75] For the writers and editors of the Journal, seeking the pardon of Breckinridge was one thing, but continuing treasonous thought and speech was quite another, something the paper could and would not tolerate.

The Journal, in 1867, asked why President Johnson had not yet pardoned Breckinridge, especially after numerous please by the paper. In hoping to see Breckinridge speak once again for Kentucky in the political arena, the paper reasoned,

"The President no doubt thinks that there are good reasons why he should withhold pardon for the present, but we cannot understand their goodness. The President is a wise man and a patriot, but wise men and patriots do not always judge aright. Gen. B. is ready, if permitted to come back, to take the oath of allegiance to the Union, and no man, who knows him or knows anything about him, doubts that his oath would be kept inviolate. His influence in the United States would be great, and the whole of it would be given to the support of the policy which is now the only hope of our most unfortunate country."[76]

In April 1868, the Journal again questioned why there had yet to be a general amnesty. When it seemed as if President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was imminent, the paper remarked, “If he really desires to do this, as we sincerely believe he does, why does he, in such a crisis as this, delay for a single moment? Is he afraid that Congress might do something terrible to him beyond what it is now determined to do?”[77]

As rumors began to spread of a general amnesty issued to all Confederates in the summer of 1868, the Journal attempted to make several arguments in favor of such a move and to allow former Confederates the right to vote. Allowing these men the right to vote could help pave the way to a Breckinridge candidacy and victory in some office in the future, something the Northern publications greatly feared. On the right to vote the paper argued, “Why are not these confederates legal voters? But have they been tried for treason and convicted of it? They have not; and punishment cannot lawfully precede trial and conviction…They are included in the President’s proclamation of amnesty…Amnesty extinguishes the offence.”[78]

The paper was also adamant about the issuance of a sweeping amnesty. In a June 1868 editorial, the Journal issued a long article regarding the possibility of amnesty, and argued why it should be implement by President Johnson. The paper assumed that if such a plan went through Congress, then the body would most likely reject it. There was also doubt whether President Johnson would even “take this step,” though the paper believed he should do so. It continued to argue for amnesty as it did for voting rights, that amnesty as “those who participated in the rebellion have…shown…a disposition to do their duty honestly and faithfully as American citizens.”[79] In one editorial, the Journal kept its hopes toward the President low when it wrote, “We hope that this is true, though of course we doubt it. If Johnson shall take the course in question he will thereby do much, very much, to redeem himself in the estimation of those who are not at present believers in his possession of the nerve necessary to be brave…”[80]

On July 4, 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued another proclamation of amnesty, including more of the formerly exempted groups of Confederate officers and government officials. Initially, the Journal beamed with excitement and hope. The paper wrote on that Saturday morning, “We publish this morning the long expected proclamation of amnesty. It is a good document as far as it goes…It is certainly very appropriate, very simple and truthful, and cannot fail to be of service to the Southern people.”[81] The Journal sang a different tune just a few days later when the proclamation of July 4 did not live up to expectations. The paper explained, “the proclamation is not only more narrow that it appears to be at first blush, but more narrow that is should be.” Later in the same article the writer lamented, “It is to be regretted, we think, for the sake both of the President’s reputation and of the country’s good, that the amnesty was not all-embracing.” The article closed, in a statement that seems show the paper’s utter exhaustion of President Johnson, a man they once so eagerly supported, with the remark, “President Johnson seems to us to be singularly boggling and mealy-mouthed in this matter. He makes too many bites of the amnesty cherry.”[82]

Fortunately, for the Journal the long awaited “all-embracing” amnesty arrived on Christmas 1868. On December 29, 1868, the paper began its defense of John C. Breckinridge’s homecoming. The nemesis of the Louisville papers, the Cincinnati Commercial, immediately began sensational reporting that Breckinridge was already on his way to Kentucky to enable his return to the United States Senate. The Journal immediately attempted to debunk these claims. In a rather curt statement, the Louisville paper commented, “We do not quote the balance of the Commercial’s article. The foregoing is sufficiently ungenerous.” The Journal ended its tirade with a brusque closing, stating, “The Commercial’s article is a wretched bit of clap-trap…It starts a cock-and-bull story in order to spur the enmity which it has created and would continue to kindle against Kentucky. It is hardly worthy our while to reply to its general taunt.” To press their point further, the Journal compared Breckinridge to George Washington. It wrote, “The only American we remember who had not an itch for office and who voluntarily withdrew from public life was George Washington, and our impression is that he was not a citizen of Ohio.”[83]

Breckinridge with friends and family in Canada.

In 1869, as Breckinridge made plans to leave Canada and finally return to the United States, the Journal brushed off the negativity coming from the “Radical” press, especially the Cincinnati Commercial. Of Breckinridge’s political future, the Journal speculated that he would take no office, but “All of this is none of their business…That question, the Kentucky Democracy, consulting General B., will settle for themselves.”[84] When it came to postwar politics, as before the war, the Journal was proving that Kentuckians were fiercely independent in their political thought, pulled neither North nor South.

Just as he was before the Civil War and the Secession Crisis, John C. Breckinridge continued to cause disagreement among the people of the Midwestern states. Their politics, prejudices, biases, and, to a degree, loyalties, all showed through the regional newspapers. From 1865-1869, the Midwestern press varied in its reporting of Breckinridge and his presidential amnesty and possible return to politics, which might greatly curtail Radical Republican Reconstruction policy. Papers like the Chicago Tribune and Evansville Daily Journal, tended to view Breckinridge as a traitor of the worst kind who avoided justice for his hand in the Civil War, though their Republican sensibilities most likely influenced this belief. The same can be said for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Though a newspaper from a Union state, the publication was strongly Democratic, which influenced the more positive reporting of John C. Breckinridge. This stands in stark contrast with some of the other Ohio newspapers, who would have agreed more with the Chicago Tribune and Evansville Daily Journal. The two Louisville newspapers, the Louisville Daily Courier and the Louisville Courier Journal, though rarely agreeing on much before the Civil War, found themselves in agreement over the fate of their fellow Kentuckian. Kentucky loved John C. Breckinridge, and even the Unionists, such as the Courier Journal, wished him to return to the United States and Kentucky.

In a 1926 study on newspapers and public opinion, George Lundberg wrote, “the great body of readers take the paper seriously and its influence goes a long way in making public opinion for them.” [85] After analyzing these five major newspapers from the era, it is clear that these publications sought to influence public opinion on John C. Breckinridge, to first, prevent his return and advocate for his punishment, and second, to keep him from entering national politics. If the press truly swayed public opinion, then it appears that the Kentucky newspapers convinced the right people for his amnesty, while Breckinridge decided himself to remain an “extinct volcano.”


Bramlette, Thomas E., Message of Governor Thomas E. Bramlette to the General Assembly of Kentucky, December Session, 1865.

Crooks, John W., Report of John W. Crooks to Governor Oliver P. Morton (This book is in my classroom and so I will need to get back in the building to get the correct info)

Davis, William C., The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.

---------- Breckinridge: Statesmen, Soldier, Symbol, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1974.

---------- “John C. Breckinridge,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Society 85, no. 3 (1987): 197-212. Accessed March 12, 2020.

Dorris, Johnathan T., “Pardoning John Cabell Breckinridge,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

---------- “Pardoning the Leaders of the Confederacy." The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 15, no. 1 (1928): 3-21. Accessed March 22, 2020.

Finck, James W., Divided Loyalties: Kentucky’s Struggle for Armed Neutrality in the Civil War. California: Savas Beatie, 2012.

Foster, John W., War Stories for my Grandchildren. Washington, D.C.: The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1918.

Hanna, A. J. "The Escape of Confederate Secretary of War John Cabell Breckinridge as Revealed by his Diary." Register of Kentucky State Historical Society 37, no. 121 (1939): 322-33. Accessed May 1, 2020.

Heck, Frank H., Proud Kentuckian: John C. Breckinridge: 1821-1875. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1976.

“Horace White,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 9, no. 3 (1916): 388-98. Accessed February 27, 2020.

Johnson, Andrew, Proclamation by President Andrew Johnson, December 25, 1868.

Johnston, William Preston, William Preston Johnston to President Andrew Johnson, November 25, 1865. In Office of the Governor, Thomas E. Bramlette: Governor's official correspondence file, petitions for pardons, remissions, and respites 1863-1867, BR16-429 to BR16-431, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, KY. Accessed via the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition,, (accessed March 6, 2020).

Klement, Frank L., “Sound and Fury: Civil War Dissent in the Cincinnati Area,” Cincinnati Historical Society, 1975.

Lundberg, George A., "The Newspaper and Public Opinion." Social Forces 4, no. 4 (1926): 709-15. Accessed April 1, 2020. doi:10.2307/3004449.

Martin, Robert M, R. M. Martin to President Andrew Johnson, Oath, 12 October 1865, Office of the Governor, Thomas E. Bramlette: Governor's official correspondence file, petitions for pardons, remissions, and respites 1863-1867, BR16-171 to BR16-173, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, KY. Accessed via the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition,, (accessed March 6, 2020).

McCaslin, Richard B., "Reconstructing a Frontier Oligarchy: Andrew Johnson's Amnesty Proclamation and Arkansas." The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 49, no. 4 (1990): 313-29. Accessed March 1, 2020. doi:10.2307/40038173.

Nicoletti, Cynthia, Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Seuss, Jeff, “Our History: Enquirer has adapted over its long history since 1841,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 9, 2019.

Williams, Lucille Stilwell, “John Cabell Breckinridge,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 33, No. 102 (1934), 30. Accessed April 10, 2020.

Wolfson, Andrew, “For 150 years, the Courier Journal has fought for justice and fairness,” Courier-Journal, November 8, 2018.

Young, John Russsell, Around the World with General Grant: a narrative of the visit of General U. S. Grant, ex-President of the United States, to various countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, in 1877, 1878, 1879: to which are added certain conversations with General Grant on questions connected with American politics and history. New York: Subscription Book Department American News Co., 1879.

[1] William C. Davis, Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol. (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press) 593-594. [2] Davis, Breckinridge, 593-594. [3] Davis, Breckinridge, 588. [4] Lucille Stilwell Williams, “John Cabell Breckinridge,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 33, No. 102, 30. [5] John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant: a narrative of the visit of General U. S. Grant, ex-President of the United States, to various countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, in 1877, 1878, 1879: to which are added certain conversations with General Grant on questions connected with American politics and history, (New York: Subscription Book Department American News Co.), 460. [6] For a detailed study on the life of John C. Breckinridge, consult William C. Davis’ Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, the perennial biography on the subject. For a more brief account, see Proud Kentuckian: John C. Breckinridge by Frank H. Heck, a biography that focuses on Breckinridge’s early life, political career, and wartime experiences. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society has published several articles on John C. Breckinridge, most notably by Lucille Williams, William C. Davis, A.J. Hanna, and Johnathan Dorris. William C. Davis, also chronicles the history of the Kentucky Orphan Brigade by using Breckinridge as a centerpiece in the military study of this Confederate organization in The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home. [7] Davis, Breckinridge, 269-271, 294-296.; Dorris, Jonathon T. Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, “Pardoning John Cabell Breckinridge,” 320. [8] Frank H. Heck, Proud Kentuckian: John C. Breckinridge: 1821-1875, 139-140, 142-147.; Williams, John Cabell Breckinridge, 27-30. [9] William C. Davis, “John C. Breckinridge,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 85, No. 3, 209-210.; Davis, Breckinridge, 586. [10] Davis, “John C. Breckinridge,” 209-210. [11] Cynthia Nicoletti, Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis, (New York: Cambridge University Press), 155. [12] Davis, Breckinridge, 589. [13] Nicoletti, Secession on Trial, 21, 24, 299. [14] Young, Around the World with General Grant, 460. [15] President Abraham issued a proclamation of amnesty in December 1863 which said, “all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath, and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation...” The proclamation excluded those Confederate “civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the so-called Confederate government; all who have left judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; all who are, or shall have been, military or naval officers of said so-called Confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army or of lieutenant in the navy; all who left seats in the United States congress to aid the rebellion; all who resigned commissions in the army or navy of the United States and afterwards aided the rebellion; and all who have engaged in any way in treating colored persons, or white persons in charge of such, otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war, and which persons may have been found in the United States service as soldiers, seamen, or in any other capacity.” [16] Richard B. McCaslin, “Reconstructing a Frontier Oligarchy: Andrew Johnson's Amnesty Proclamation and Arkansas." The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 49, no. 4 (1990), 315. [17] Petition of the Kentucky General Assembly to President Andrew Johnson, June 18, 1866. [18] Petition of the Kentucky General Assembly to President Andrew Johnson, June 18, 1866. [19] Dorris, J. T. "Pardoning the Leaders of the Confederacy." The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 15, no. 1 (1928), 3. [20] U. S. President. Andrew Johnson. .- Granting full pardon and amnesty to all persons engaged in the late rebellion. By the President of the United States of America. A proclamation ... Done at the City of Washington, the twenty-fifth day of December, in the ye. Washington, 1868. Pdf. [21] Nicoletti, Secession on Trial, 7. [22] Johnathan T. Dorris, “Pardoning John C. Breckinridge,” 319.; A.J. Hanna, The Escape of Confederate Secretary of War John Cabell Breckinridge as Revealed by his Diary.” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 37, no. 121 (1939), 333. [23] Davis, Breckinridge, 589. [24] "Horace White." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 9, no. 3 (1916): 388-98. Accessed February 27, 2020. [25] Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1868, 2. [26] Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1868, 2. [27] Chicago Tribune, December 25, 1868, 2. [28] Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1869, 2. [29] Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1869, 2. [30] Chicago Tribune, February 20, 1869, 2. [31] Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1869, 2. [32] Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1869, 1.; Davis, Breckinridge, 590-591. [33] Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1869, 2. [34] Davis, Breckinridge, 613. [35] Report of Colonel John W. Crooks to Governor Oliver Morton. [36] John W. Foster, War Stories for my Grandchildren, (Washington, D.C.: The Riverside Press Cambridge) 95. [37] Davis, Breckinridge, 552.; Evansville Daily Journal, February 20, 1868, 4. [38] Evansville Daily Journal, February 20, 1868, 4. [39] Evansville Daily Journal, February 26, 1868, 4. [40] Evansville Daily Journal, December 1868 to January 1869. [41] Evansville Daily Journal, February 25, 1869, 2. [42] Evansville Daily Journal, March 10, 1869, 1. [43] Evansville Daily Journal, May 27, 1869, 1. [44] Frank L. Klement, “Sound and Fury: Civil War Dissent in the Cincinnati Area,” Cincinnati Historical Society, 104. [45] Jeff Seuss, Cincinnati Enquirer, “Our History: Enquirer has adapted over its long history since 1841,” April 9, 2019. [46] Davis, Breckinridge, 591. [47] Cincinnati Enquirer, July 2, 1868, 2. [48] Cincinnati Enquirer, December 26, 1868, 4. [49] Cincinnati Enquirer, February 26, 1869, 1. [50] Cincinnati Enquirer, March 4, 1869, 2. [51] Cincinnati Enquirer, February 24, 1869, 4. [52] Cincinnati Enquirer, May 15, 1869, 4. [53] Cincinnati Enquirer, May 25, 1869, 7. [54] Belmont Chronicle, December 31, 1868, 2. [55] Belmont Chronicle, March 11, 1869, 2. [56] Bucyrus Journal, January 1, 1869, 1. [57] Highland Weekly News, March 25, 1869, 2. [58] Weekly Maysville Tribune, January 13, 1869, 2. [59] Weekly Maysville Tribune, March 10, 1869, 1. [60] William C. Davis, The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1980, 259-261. [61] Message of Governor Thomas E. Bramlette to the General Assembly of Kentucky, December Session, 1865. [62] William Preston Johnston to Andrew Johnson, 25 November 1865, Office of the Governor, Thomas E. Bramlette: Governor's official correspondence file, petitions for pardons, remissions, and respites 1863-1867, BR16-429 to BR16-431, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, KY. Accessed via the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition,, (accessed March 6, 2020). [63] Robert Martin to President Andrew Johnson, October 12, 1865, in Office of the Governor, Thomas E. Bramlette: Governor's official correspondence file, petitions for pardons, remissions, and respites 1863-1867, BR16-171 to BR16-173, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, KY. Accessed via the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, [64] James W. Finck, Divided Loyalties: Kentucky’s Struggle for Armed Neutrality in the Civil War, (California: Savas Beatie), 20-28. [65] Louisville Daily Courier, August 17, 1866, 2. [66] Louisville Daily Courier, May 12, 1866, 1. [67] Louisville Daily Courier, January 26, 1866, 2. [68] Louisville Daily Courier, February 10, 1866, 2. [69] Louisville Daily Courier, May 5, 1866, 1. [70] Louisville Daily Courier, August 9, 1866, 1. [71] Louisville Daily Courier, February 22, 1868, 1. [72] Louisville Daily Courier, April 21, 1866, 1. 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