1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Floyd, John Buchanan

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FLOYD, JOHN BUCHANAN (1807–1863), American politician, was born at Blacksburg, Virginia, on the 1st of June 1807. He was the son of John Floyd (1770–1837), a representative in Congress from 1817 to 1829 and governor of Virginia from 1830 to 1834. After graduating at South Carolina College in 1826, the son practised law in his native state and at Helena, Arkansas, and in 1839 settled in Washington county, Virginia, which in 1847–1849 and again in 1853 he represented in the state legislature. Meanwhile, from 1849 to 1852, he was governor of Virginia, in which position he recommended to the legislature the enactment of a law laying an import tax on the products of such states as refused to surrender fugitive slaves owned by Virginia masters. In March 1857 he became secretary of war in President Buchanan’s cabinet, where his lack of administrative ability was soon apparent. In December 1860, on ascertaining that Floyd had honoured 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, but the indictment was overruled on technical grounds. There is no proof that he profited by these irregular transactions; in fact he went out of the office financially embarrassed. Though he had openly opposed secession before the election of Lincoln, his conduct after that event, especially after his breach with Buchanan, fell under suspicion, and he was accused of having sent large stores of government arms to Southern arsenals in anticipation of the Civil War. In the last days of his term he apparently had such an intention, but during the year 1860 the Southern States actually received less than their full quota of arms. After the secession of Virginia he was commissioned a brigadier-general in the Confederate service. He was first employed in some unsuccessful operations in western Virginia, and in February 1862 became commander of the Confederate forces at Fort Donelson, from which he fled with his second in command, General Gideon J. Pillow, on the night of February 18, leaving General Simon B. Buckner to surrender to General Grant. A fortnight later President Davis relieved him of his command. He died at Abingdon, Virginia, on the 26th of August 1863.