John B. Floyd

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John B. Floyd bigraphy, stories - American politician

John B. Floyd : biography

June 1, 1806 – August 26, 1863

John Buchanan Floyd (June 1, 1806 – August 26, 1863) was the 31st Governor of Virginia, U.S. Secretary of War, and the Confederate general in the American Civil War who lost the crucial Battle of Fort Donelson.

Civil War

After the secession of Virginia, Floyd was commissioned a major general in the Provisional Army of Virginia, but on May 23, 1861, he was appointed a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. He was first employed in some unsuccessful operations in the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia under Robert E. Lee, where he was both defeated and wounded in the arm at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry on September 10. In January 1862, he was dispatched to the Western Theater to report to General Albert Sidney Johnston and was given command of a division. Johnston sent Floyd to reinforce Fort Donelson and assume command of the post there. Floyd assumed command of Fort Donelson on February 13 just two days after the Union army had arrived at that spot, also becoming the third post commander within a week.

Fort Donelson protected the crucial Cumberland River and, indirectly, the manufacturing city of Nashville and Confederate control of Middle Tennessee. It was the companion to Fort Henry on the nearby Tennessee River, which, on February 6, 1862, was captured by Union Army Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and river gunboats. Floyd was not an appropriate choice to defend such a vital point, having political influence, but virtually no military experience. General Johnston had other experienced, more senior, generals (P.G.T. Beauregard and William J. Hardee) available and made a serious error in selecting Floyd. Floyd had little military influence on the Battle of Fort Donelson itself, deferring to his more experienced subordinates, Brigadier Generals Gideon J. Pillow and Simon Bolivar Buckner. As the Union forces surrounded the fort and the town of Dover, the Confederates launched an assault on February 15 in an attempt to open an escape route. Although successful at first, indecision on General Pillow’s part left the Confederates in their trenches, facing growing reinforcements for Grant.

Early in the morning of February 16, at a council of war, the generals and field officers decided to surrender their army. Floyd, concerned that he would be arrested for treason if captured by the Union Army, turned his command over to Pillow, who immediately turned it over to Buckner. Colonel N. B. Forest and his entire Tennessee Cavalry Regiment escaped. Pillow escaped on a small boat across the Cumberland and the next morning Floyd escaped by steamboat with the 20th Mississippi Regiment, the 51st, 56th, 36th, and 50th Virginia regiments, and two Virginia batteries from his old Virginia command, just before Buckner surrendered to Grant, one of the great strategic defeats of the Civil War. A short time before daylight the two steamboats arrived. Without loss of time the general (Floyd) hastened to the river, embarked with his Virginians, and at an early hour cast loose from the shore, and in good time, and safely, he reached Nashville. He never satisfactorily explained upon what principles he appropriated all the transportation on to the use of his particular command". Floyd was relieved of his command by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, without a court of inquiry, on March 11, 1862. He resumed his commission as a major general of Virginia Militia, but his health soon failed and he died a year later at Abingdon, Virginia, where he is buried in Sinking Spring Cemetery.

In memoriam

Floyd County in northwest Georgia, home to the cities of Rome and Cave Spring, is named for his ancestor, United States Congressman John Floyd.

Camp Floyd, a U.S. Army post near Fairfield, Utah from July 1858 to July 1861, was originally named after Floyd.

Secretary of War

In March 1857, Floyd became Secretary of War in the cabinet of President James Buchanan, where his lack of administrative ability was soon apparent, including the poor execution of the Utah Expedition. In December 1860, on ascertaining that Floyd had honored heavy drafts made by government contractors in anticipation of their earnings, the president requested his resignation. Several days later Floyd was indicted for malversation in office, although the indictment was overruled in 1861 on technical grounds. There is no proof that he profited by these irregular transactions; in fact, he went out of the office financially embarrassed.