John Buchanan Floyd

JOHN BUCHANAN FLOYD was born in Smithfield, Virginia, on 1 June 1806; was educated by gifted parents, was probably a student at Georgetown College, Washington, D.C., before transferring to South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1829; married Sally Preston in 1830; entered the practice of law at Wytheville, Virginia; moved to Arkansas to take up cotton planting and practice law at Helena; was stricken along with many of his slaves by malignant fever; returned to Virginia to recuperate and resume his law practice, 1837; was elected to the state legislature in 1847 and 1848; was governor of Virginia, 1849–1852; resumed the practice of law at Abingdon, Virginia; was again elected to the General Assembly, 1855; served as Secretary of War, 6 March 1857–29 December 1860; disagreed with the government’s decision to sustain Major Anderson’s occupation of Fort Sumter; was asked to resign for accepting drafts by government contractors against future services; departed office amid complaints he had transferred arms to Southern arsenals in anticipation of approaching war; was investigated by a congressional committee but no action resulted, 1861; was appointed brigadier general in the Confederate Army; participated in actions with Lee’s Army in West Virginia; was removed from command by Jefferson Davis for his conduct at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, 1862; was promoted to major general by the Virginia legislature; died at Abingdon, Virginia, on 26 August 1863; was later held (1868) by a divided Supreme Court to have been in violation of the law for the contractor acceptances honored in advance during his administration of the War Department.

The Artist

Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) was not only a National Academician and twice president of the National Academy of Design, but also a founder of the Century Club and its president for sixteen years, and a vice president and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A self-portrait hangs in the Century Club, and his work is represented in public and private collections around the country, including the White House (President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, President Chester A. Arthur, Mrs. Benjamin Harrison) and the Capitol (Speaker Robert C. Winthrop). His portrait of Secretary Floyd was executed more than a decade after the subject’s death.


Portrait, John Buchanan Floyd

Buchanan Administration
By Daniel Huntington
Oil on canvas, 29½" x 24½", 1874

page created 2 March 2001

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