JOHN BUCHANAN FLOYD was born at Smithfield in Blacksburg, Virginia. He graduated from the College of South Carolina in 1826 and began to practice law in 1828. He lived for a time in Arkansas but returned to Virginia, where he continued the practice of law in Washington County. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates at various times between 1847 and 1849 before being elected governor by the state legislature. Floyd then served again briefly in the House of Delegates and became Secretary of War under President James Buchanan in 1857. After being cleared of charges that he had aided the secession movement, he resigned his cabinet post at the outbreak of the Civil War, and was appointed Brigadier General in the Confederate Army in 1861. Relieved of his command when he fell out of favor with Jefferson Davis, he was made a Major General in the Virginia Militia by the state legislature. He died in 1863 as a result of exposure and poor health suffered in military service.
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