Henry's Top Matches
About Henry Cornelius Burnett
Henry Cornelius Burnett (October 5, 1825 – September 28, 1866) was a U.S. Representative from the state of Kentucky and a Confederate States senator. A lawyer by profession, Burnett had held only one public office—circuit court clerk—before being elected to Congress. He represented Kentucky's 1st congressional district immediately prior to the Civil War. This district contained the entire Jackson Purchase region of the state, which was more sympathetic to the Confederate cause than any other area of Kentucky. Burnett promised the voters of his district that he would have President Abraham Lincoln arraigned for treason. Unionist newspaper editor George D. Prentice described Burnett as "a big, burly, loud-mouthed fellow who is forever raising points of order and objections, to embarrass the Republicans in the House".
Besides championing the Southern cause in Congress, Burnett also worked within Kentucky to bolster the state's support of the Confederacy. He presided over a sovereignty convention in Russellville in 1861 that formed a Confederate government for the state. The delegates to this convention chose Burnett to travel to Richmond, Virginia to secure Kentucky's admission to the Confederacy. Burnett also raised a Confederate regiment at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and briefly served in the Confederate States Army. Camp Burnett, a Confederate recruiting post two miles west of Clinton in Hickman County, Kentucky, was named after him.
Burnett's actions were deemed treasonable by his colleagues in Congress, and he was expelled from the House in 1861. He is one of only five members of the House of Representatives ever to be expelled. Following his expulsion, Burnett served in the Provisional Confederate Congress and the First and Second Confederate Senates. He was indicted for treason after the war, but never tried. He returned to the practice of law, and died of cholera in 1866 at the age of 40.
Henry Cornelius Burnett was born to Dr. Isaac and Martha F. (Garrett) Burnett on October 5, 1825, in Essex County, Virginia. In his early childhood, he moved to Cadiz, Kentucky, with his family. He was educated in the common schools of the area and at an academy in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Following this, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1847, and commenced practice at Cadiz. He was a member of the Cadiz Christian Church.
On April 13, 1847, Burnett married Mary A. Terry, the daughter of a prominent Cadiz merchant. They had four children: John, Emeline, Henry, and Terry (who died shortly after birth). The younger Henry Burnett became a successful lawyer in Paducah and, later, Louisville.
In the first election following the ratification of the Kentucky Constitution of 1850, Burnett was elected clerk of the circuit court of Trigg County, Kentucky, defeating James E. Thompson. He resigned in 1853 to run for Congress. Later that year, he was elected as a Democrat to the 34th Congress, succeeding Speaker of the House Linn Boyd. He was re-elected to the three succeeding Congresses; during the 35th Congress, he chaired the Committee of Enquiry regarding the sale of Fort Snelling and served on the Committee on the District of Columbia.