Floyd, John Buchanan, 1807–63, U.S. Secretary of War (1857–60) and Confederate general, b. Smithfield, Va. After failing as a lawyer and cotton planter in Arkansas, he returned to Virginia and practiced law at Abingdon. He served (1847–48, 1855) in the state assembly and was governor (1849–52). His cabinet post was a reward for aiding in James Buchanan's successful campaign for the presidency. Though a states' rights man, Floyd opposed secession. He maintained that Major Robert Anderson's removal from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor was contrary to his orders. When President Buchanan refused to allow him to order Anderson back, Floyd resigned and became an ardent secessionist. The President, meanwhile, had requested his resignation because of irregular and unauthorized practices in the War Dept., which involved an apparent loss of $870,000. Feeling was bitter against Floyd in the North, although the belief that before he resigned he had conveniently transferred large quantities of arms to Southern arsenals has since been discounted. However, his inefficient administration of the War Dept. certainly was no help to the Union later. As a Confederate brigadier general in the Civil War, serving first under Lee in the western section of Virginia, Floyd was equally incompetent. After his defeat at Fort Donelson, Jefferson Davis, who nursed an old quarrel with Floyd, removed him from command.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.