If it hadn’t been for the war, John C. Breckinridge might have been president of the United States. He served as vice president under James Buchanan, campaigned for president in 1860, and in 1861 was appointed a Kentucky senator. After Kentucky sided with the Union, Breckinridge fled to the South.
In November 1861, he took command of the “Orphan Brigade,” made up mostly of Kentuckians who felt abandoned after that state declared for the Union.
The Orphan Brigade lost nearly a third of their men at Shiloh. On the first day of fighting, they caged General Prentiss up at the Hornet’s Nest so he’d be forced to surrender. The next day they stood firm near Shiloh Church so that the others could make good on their escape. “This was hard duty,” said Colonel R. P. Trabue, “exposed as the command had been and wasted as they were by the loss of half their numbers.”