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Floyd, John B. - Brig. Gen.
Brigadier-General John B. Floyd, of Virginia, was bom at Blacksburg, Pulaski county, June 1, 1806. He was the son of Hon. John Floyd, a Democratic statesman of the old school, who served in Congress for several terms, was governor of the State, and in 1832 was a candidate for the presidency of the United States. Young Floyd was educated at the college of South Carolina, with graduation in 1826, after which he studied law and was admitted to practice. Turning to the West for a field of effort, he removed to Arkansas, but three years later again made his home in Virginia. He resumed the practice of his profession in Washington county, and took an active and prominent part in the political affairs of the day. After serving three terms in the legislature he was elected governor of Virginia in 1850. In 1853 he was again elected to the legislature, and in 1856 he was a delegate to the national Democratic convention. In the ensuing campaign he supported Buchanan, and when that gentleman was inaugurated president he called Floyd to his cabinet as secretary of war, where he served until the latter part of December, 1860. After the secession movement had begun in the South it was charged by Floyd's political opponents in the North that he had been secretly aiding in advance the Confederate cause by dispersing the army to distant points on the frontier, by shipping an undue proportion of arms and munitions to Southern posts, and that he was privy to the abstraction of $870,000 in bonds from the department of the interior. He was indicted accordingly at Washington, but he promptly met the charges, appeared in court and gave bail, and demanded trial. In January, 1861, the charges were investigated by a committee of congress, and he was completely exonerated. After leaving Washington he returned home and remained there until the spring of 1861, when he was commissioned brigadier-general in the Confederate army, May 23d. In command of his brigade he participated in the West Virginia campaign, joining General Wise in the Kanawha valley and taking command in that district August 12th. On the 26th he defeated Colonel Tyler, of Rosecrans' command, at Carnifax Ferry, but from lack of co-operation was unable to follow up his success. Here he fought a battle with Rosecrans in September, and at Gauley Bridge had another engagement in October. He was subsequently assigned to the army under Albert Sidney Johnston, in command of a brigade of Virginia troops, the Thirty-sixth, Fiftieth, Fifty-first and Fifty-sixth and Virginia artillery. In the organization of the Central army of Kentucky he commanded one of the three divisions. When Grant advanced from Cairo, Johnston intrusted the defense of Fort Donelson to Generals Floyd, Pillow and Buckner, Floyd taking general command by virtue of seniority. He withstood an assault by both the land and naval forces of the enemy on February 13th and 14th, and on the next day, believing his position untenable, ordered an attack in the hope of cutting a path of retreat through the investing lines. A fierce and stub- born battle followed, in which Pillow was successful in gaining possession of the Charlotte road and Buckner was equally successful on the Wynn's Ferry road. Floyd then started for the right of his command to see that all was secure there," his intention being to hold the positions gained and immediately move out the entire army. During his absence a change was made in the disposition of the troops by General Pillow, and the enemy pressed forward, and with the help of reinforcements regained so much of their lost ground that it became necessary to withdraw to the original Confederate position. A council of war followed, in which the generals were united that resistance was useless against the great investing force, but both Pillow and Floyd declared that they would not surrender, and General Buckner assumed that responsibility. Forrest took out his cavalry through the submerged river road, and General Floyd, with a large part of his brigade, embarked on the river transportation and reached Nashville in safety. He subsequently had command of the "Virginia State Line," operating in southwestern Virginia, finally retiring to his home at Abingdon, Va., where he died August 26, 1863.
Confederate Military History, Vol. III.