Georgia Genealogy Trails

"Where your Journey Begins"

Floyd County, Georgia
Biography for General John Floyd

. By Mrs. J. L. Walker.

John Floyd was born in Beaufort, S. C, October 3, 1769, six years before the memorable June 5, 1775. He came into the world at the time when the marked displeasure of the British was centered upon Massachusetts. The mother-country and the colonies had reached the point of open rebellion and the cruel hand of Tarleton was felt by Sumpter's men.

Gen. Charles Floyd, the father of John Floyd, was a planter, whose agricultural pursuits would have been crowned with success had not the Revolutionary war with its annihilating effects diverted his efforts. He enrolled himself in a volunteer company known as the "Liberty Boys," and while Savannah was in possession of the British he was captured and carried on board an English vessel. The commander of the ship thought from the prisoner's appearance that he was a fellow-countryman and asked him: "Mr. Floyd, are you not an Englishman?" "No sir, I am an American by birth, a native of the State of Virginia and an enemy of King George." The commander said: "I see that you are a, good seaman; renounce your country, receive your bounty money that I offer you and you shall be put in immediate command of a sixteen gun ship-of-war." Mr. Floyd replied fearlessly: "Sir, were I in command of this vessel I would instantly pull down the colors now flying at her mast, nail those of the United States flog in their place, and turn her guns against you."

John Floyd having parents who knew no fear and whose patriotism was deep and genuine, it is little wonder that he became a successful leader of men. At the early age of fourteen years he served one year in the Continental army. After the close of the Revolution he, although a mere lad, felt the necessity of providing for his own wants and at this period of his life he laid the foundation for his greatness by persistent and invincible determination to succeed in doing well whatever task was assigned him. Amid the forests of the pioneers his perseverance laid the foundation of power, learning, bravery and progression.

His educational advantages were limited to the old field schools. Later he was much aided in the acquirement of some necessary branches of education which he could not acquire in his school days, by Mr. Barnard Elliott, who kindly gave him instruction at night, when his day's task was .ended, in arithmetic, plane geometry and other useful knowledge. He embraced every opportunity to improve himself and his efforts were crowned with success.

After the close of the Revolutionary war John Floyd's parents were ruined in fortune, and he felt the necessity of providing for his own wants; and at the age of sixteen he, "with the approbation of his father, apprenticed himself to a house-carpenter for the period of five years. Having served four, his employer offered to release the services of the fifth year; but the apprentice gave proof of that conscientious estimate of moral obligations and high-toned self-denial which shone so conspicuously through the subsequent scenes of his life. When a boy he had promised the service of five years and nothing short of a plenary fulfillment could satisfy the requirements of his own buoyant and honest heart."

The ancestral home of John Floyd was burned with a torch in the hands of the Tories, and he and his mother, Mary Fendin Floyd, barely escaped with their lives. They fled to the woods, where they remained for several days, and while there were fed by a faithful servant, "Old Hazzard," who' displayed wonderful bravery protecting them in those perilous times.

He married Miss Isabella Marie Hazzard of Beaufort, S. C, December 12th, 1793, and in 1795 they, with his father and mother, Charles and Mary Floyd, moved to Mcintosh county, Georgia, and settled on adjoining farms. In 1800 they moved to Camden county and acquired a large estate. They built their homes in sight of each other's. John Floyd's home was called "Fairfield" and his father's "Bellevue." John Floyd was surrounded with the usual difficulties of an early pioneer settler of Georgia, but hardships inspired him, to triumph over difficulties. He accumulated a fortune as a planter and he worked for the wealth that he enjoyed and was not dependent upon the sagacity of others to keep it from leaving him.

His slaves cleared many acres of fine land in Camden county and the wonderful cotton producing quality of the soil made "Fairfield" one of the most progressive plantations in the "Lower Country."

In the course of the Revolutionary war, Georgia received rough treatment from the British, and although peace had been declared, the conflict continued not only in this state but throughout the union. The military companies were almost continuously on duty to repel the incursions of the Indians. Massacres frequently occurred on the frontiers, and especially in the southern part of the state, and predatory bands of Indians became more aggressive. The United States government was slow to act in furnishing the necessary protection to the people on the frontiers and one of John Floyd's letters, yellow with the age of a hundred years, tells of conditions that existed at that time. "Instead of offering a reward for live Indians the Government should have inserted the strong clause 'dead or alive,' and then three months would have been sufficient to clear the country of them. There are many poor wiregrass fellows in Camden who own but one wife, twelve children, six acres of cleared pine land, a rifle, a raccoon skin pouch and a powder horn. Their whole 'crap' seldom does more. than to give bread to their little ones. They depend largely on their rifles to add an occasional turkey or haunch of venison to their bill of fare. These poor fellows regard an Indian as occupying the same scale in humanity that a wolf does, and they go about their daily labor in the fear of their lives."

When the War of 1812 was declared between the United States and Great Britain, John Floyd was put in command of six hundred men. The troops were first stationed at Point Peter, five miles from St. Marys, but were later ordered to rendezvous at Camp Hope, near Fort Hawkins. The forces consisted of one company of artillery, one squadron of dragoons, one battalion and two regiments of infantry, a majority of whom were volunteers. Floyd's men constructed a line of forts and block houses extending from the Ocmulgee river to the waters of the Alabama.

The Indians were never reconciled to the cession of their lands to the white settlers. They were continuously on the war-path and soon war raged among the Indians and the white settlers of Georgia. The war with Great Britain for a time was forgotten by Floyd and his men, but fortunately, the British did not attempt an invasion of the state, and so his military activities were devoted almost exclusively to quelling the Indians. The Indians at Autossee and Callibee were especially aggressive and two decisive battles of the War of 1812 were fought at these two Indian towns.

Floyd's attack on Autossee was made at daylight and few realized that a great battle was fought by the gallant commander and that a great victory was won on that cold morning, the 28th day of November, 1814. The fierce volume of musketry was turned loose on the town, but the Indians returned the charge and seemed for awhile quite ready for battle. With equal defiance they not only used firearms, but sent a flight of deadly arrows through the opposing lines. The battle lasted for over an hour. General Floyd and his men won a complete victory, but not without great loss to the detachment. The town was burned and the women and children vanished like withered leaves before an autumn gale. The Indians who were not killed or wounded fled in terror through the woods, leaving their unfortunate brothers on the battlefield.

At Callibee, Floyd's last battle with the Indians, he received a wound in his knee in the early part of the fight, but though enduring much pain, he never left his saddle until the battle was over. The ball in his knee was never extracted and he was threatened with lockjaw. Major Joel Crawford's horse was shot under him and killed in this battle.

"Within a few days after the battle of Callibee the term for which the army had been called into service expired, and the several corps, after due inspection, received an honorable discharge. But the war continuing, new levies were made and another brigade was placed under command of General Floyd for the purpose of repelling an apprehended assault on Savannah. This, however, turned out to be a bloodless campaign. The British troops never appeared in that vicinity until the President's proclamation announced the treaty of peace."

John Floyd represented Camden county in the Georgia legislature for two terms and in 1826 he was elected a representative in Congress. A few months prior to his election to Congress he received a commission as Brigadier-General in the militia service of Georgia, and on the occurrence of a vacancy he was advanced to the grade of Major-General of the first division. While in command of troops at Savannah he and his family occupied the Telfair House on the west corner of Bay street. They received "much kindness and attention from the people of Savannah and distinguished politeness from the Jewish branch of the population."

In some of General Floyd's old letters he tells of having seen "Nat" (Nathaniel) Green on the streets of Savannah, and writes also in a quaint way of Captain DuBignon and his ship load of foreign slaves who were never seen to land. He also tells of having the pleasure of meeting George Washington in Savannah in 1791. In 1802 he was one of the committee appointed to welcome Aaron Burr to the city. The fifth president, James Monroe, together with Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, were guests of the Savannah people and at a dinner given on this occasion Gen. Floyd made a toast—"Our Country, may its prosperity be as lasting as the government is free."

The boundary line of Georgia and Florida was long in dispute. Some contended that they were not run agreeable to the true intent of the treaty. Generals Floyd, Blackshear and Thompson were appointed by Governor Troupe to look into the matter. The engineers made a careful reconnaissance of the country through which the state line passed. The straight line prescribed in the treaties had its beginning at the head of the St. Marys river at the point where it issues from the Okefenokee swamp. They found the head of the river to agree with the report made by Mr. Ellicott, who had built a mound of earth to mark the place. The result of the investigation was reported to the Executive Committee at Washington and the report made by Gen. Floyd as chairman of the committee ended for a time the claim on the part of Georgia to have the eastern terminus of the boundary line changed.

John Floyd was not only a civil engineer, but a ship builder by trade, and many Georgia boats were constructed by him. - Some time before Robert Fulton had perfected his steam vessel, John Floyd's sail boats were plying the streams of Southern Georgia and supplying the modes of travel and transportation to the pioneers who lived along the river fronts. In 1838 Savannah had her first boat race and Gen. Floyd was the inspiration of the races. He gives the following account of the approaching occasion in a letter to his wife:

"Much excitements exists as to a pending boat race to take place in Savannah about the last part of this month or the early part of next. I presume you will be anxious to know the result, as some near and I hope dear to you are deeply concerned, namely, myself. You may recall the Aquatic Club of Camden had given a general challenge to the Ragattas of Savannah, New York and elsewhere. A boat has been rapidly built in New York—a specimen of their best workmanship—to beat the Lizzard of Camden. Five hundred dollars a side, boat against boat. Half interest in the Lizzard has been sold for three hundred and fifty dollar", and they are to be rowed by white men entirely. The Star of New York by the Pilots of Savannah and the Lizzard by the Marivehans of St. Augustine, Georgia against New York. May the Devil take the hindmost. Tell my grand-son to be there. It will be one of the greatest boat races that has or perhaps ever will be in the South. Thousand of people will be there and thousands of dollars will exchange pockets.
 " April 6th, 1828. JOHN FLOYD."

The quaintly, written will of John Floyd is recorded in the clerk's office of Camden county. He directed that his estate, which consisted of a large tract of land and many Negroes, be divided between his wife and children. He also bequeaths "To my driver, Ansel, for^ his faithful services and fidelity during the late war, from the proceeds of my estate an extra suit of cheap broadcloth, a hat, and a pair of shoes and ten dollars per annum and his provision so long as he lives." His will was recorded August 5th, 1839, and his executors were two of his distinguished sons, Charles Rinaldo Floyd (the father of the brilliant and accomplished Mary Faith Floyd McAdoo) and Richard Floyd (who with great bravery and courage served on the "Alabama" with Admiral Semmes). Others of his children were: Mary Hazzard Floyd (Hamilton), Sarah Catherine Floyd (deLaRoche), John Fender Floyd, Susan Dixon Lodoraka Floyd (Hopkins), Caroline Eliza Louisa Floyd (Blackshear), Malina Isabella Floyd (Hopkins), Samuel Augusta Floyd and Henry Hamilton Floyd.

Rich in romance and picturesque beauty there are few places throughout the Southland with which nature has been more lavish than "Fairfield," the home of General Floyd. It has an historic past that dates back to the Colonial period. The "mansion" was a typical Southern home whose latch string hung outside and around whose festive 'bode often gathered the Greens, Shaws, Butlers, Pages, Mclntoshes and many other people of note. The stately live oaks that were planted by the Floyds are still standing with a distinction of age, but the "mansion," like many Southern homes, was burned in the early part of the nineteenth century. A singular coincidence is connected with Fairfield. It was not only General Floyd's abiding place in life, but his remains were interred on the site where his old home stood—a privilege that is not often accorded one.

The sound of the rippling waters of the Satilla (St. Ilia) river, that once filled the air with music for the living, flows by this old place as of yore, and the summer sun shines just as softly through the trees, casting the same mosaic shadows as when life, not death, guarded the portal. Beneath the trees of his beloved home, the hero of the Autossee is sleeping

The Southern Georgia Historical and Genealogical Quarterly 1922
Transcribed and Submitted by Friends For Free Genealogy

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