John Buchanan Floyd - Facts

June 1, 1806 - August 23, 1863

Key facts about Brigadier General John B. Floyd who is most remembered for abandoning Fort Donelson in 1861 to avoid being captured by Federal soldiers.

Portrait of John B. Floyd

On March 11, 1862, President Jefferson Davis summarily dismissed John B. Floyd from the Confederate Army for his role in the surrender of Fort Donelson. [Wikimedia Commons]

Full Name:

  • John Buchanan Floyd

Birth Date:

  • June 1, 1806

Birth Location:

  • Family plantation Montgomery County, near Blacksburg, Virginia


  • John and Letitia (Preston) Floyd


  • South Carolina College (1829)


  • Lawyer
  • Politician

Career Summary:

  • Virginia Governor
  • U.S. Secretary of War
  • Brigadier General (CSA)
  • Major General (Virginia Militia)


  • Sally Buchanan Preston (1830)

Place of Death:

  • Abingdon, Virginia

Date of Death:

  • August 23, 1863

Place of Burial:

  • Sinking Spring Cemetery, Abingdon, Virginia


  • John B. Floyd was the first son and second of nine children of John and Letitia Preston Floyd.
  • John B. Floyd’s father was a wealthy planter who also served as Virginia’s governor during the Nat Turner Rebellion (August 21–22, 1831).
  • John B. Floyd studied law at South Carolina College in Columbia, South Carolina (now South Carolina University) and graduated in 1829.
  • On June 1, 1830, John B. Floyd married his cousin, Sally Buchanan Preston, sister of future U.S. Senator William C. Preston of South Carolina. The marriage produced no children.
  • In 1834, enticed by the cotton boom, John B. Floyd and moved to Arkansas where he practiced law and invested heavily in a plantation named Swan Lake.
  • After being ruined financially by the Panic of 1837, John B. Floyd returned to Abigdon, Virginia, and resumed his law practice in 1839.
  • In 1847 voters in the Abigdon area elected John B. Floyd as a member of the Virginia General Assembly.
  • In 1849 the Virginia General Assembly selected John B. Floyd to serve a three-year term as Virginia’s thirty-first governor.
  • John B. Floyd was Governor of Virginia from January 1, 1849, until January 16, 1852.
  • In 1855, John B. Floyd was elected to a second term in the general assembly. He served in that position from December 1855 to March 1856.
  • After James Buchanan assumed the presidency in March 1857, he appointed John B. Floyd as his Secretary of War.
  • John B. Floyd’s tenure as Secretary of War was marked by corruption and controversy.
  • President James Buchanan requested John B. Floyd’s resignation as Secretary of War on December 23, 1860.
  • John B. Floyd resigned as Secretary of War on December 29, 1860. Buchanan accepted Floyd’s resignation on December 31.
  • On January 27, 1861, the grand jury of the District of Columbia indicted John B. Floyd for conspiracy and fraud. Floyd escaped prosecution, and possibly prison when the court threw out the indictment because of a legal technicality.
  • On April 17, 1861, John B. Floyd was commissioned as a brigadier-general in the Confederate army on May 23, 1861.
  • John B. Floyd’s withdrawal from the Battle of Carnifex Ferry weakened the Confederacy’s influence in western Virginia, paving the way for the creation of the State of West Virginia.
  • John B. Floyd assumed control of Fort Donelson on February 13, 1862.
  • John B. Floyd abandoned Fort Donelson during the night of February 15-16.
  • On March 11, 1862, President Jefferson Davis summarily dismissed John B. Floyd from the Confederate Army for his role in the surrender of Fort Donelson.
  • On April 16, 1862, at the urging of Governor Letcher, the Virginia Assembly appointed John B. Floyd as a major-general in the state militia.
  • John B. Floyd died at his adopted daughter’s home in Abingdon, Virginia on August 23, 1863.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title John Buchanan Floyd - Facts
  • Date June 1, 1806 - August 23, 1863
  • Author
  • Keywords John Buchanan Floyd
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 20, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 17, 2024