Charles Rinaldo Floyd

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Charles Rinaldo Floyd was an American military leader most famous for his Okefenokee Campaign during the Second Seminole War. He wrote one of the first published accounts of the Okefenokee Swamp. He is also a well-known diarist, and his accounts serve as a picture of elite planter life on the Georgia frontier.

Early Life and Military Career[edit]

Charles Rinaldo Floyd was born October 14, 1797 at "The Thickets" near Darien in McIntosh County, Georgia to General John Floyd and Isabella Maria Hazzard.[1] His grandfather was Captain Charles Floyd of Revolutionary War fame.[1] His father, General John Floyd, served during the War of 1812 and the Creek Indian War.[2] When he was three years old the family moved to Camden County where they purchased large tracts of land located south of the Satilla River, north of the Crooked River and west of the marshes and the Cumberland River to what is now I-95.[3] This area became known as Floyd's Neck. General John Floyd built Bellevue Plantation within view of the marshes leading to Todd's Creek for his father, Charles.[3] Bellevue was built in the shape of an anchor to symbolize their fortunes provided by the sea. One mile distant, he built Fairfield Plantation overlooking Floyd's Basin and Floyd's Creek for himself.[3] After Charles Floyd died, John moved into Bellevue, enlarging it to three levels.[3] In 1830, the Fairfield tract was surveyed by the Camden County Surveyor. In 1831, John gave Fairfield Plantation to his eldest son, Charles Rinaldo Floyd.[4] Both plantations were destroyed during the Civil War. Fairfield was burned to the ground and not a trace can be seen. Today, all that remains of Bellevue are the tabby ruins. Combined land holdings owned by the Floyds amounted to untold hundreds of acres. They cultivated rice, indigo and cotton. The Floyd family eventually became one of the largest planting families in the county.[5]

Charles Rinaldo Floyd spent his early childhood years in Camden County. He was educated at home by tutors and later went to boarding school in Beaufort, South Carolina. He attended Sunbury Academy in Sunbury, Georgia.[4] At age sixteen, he left Sunbury Academy to serve as a military aide to his father, General John Floyd, whose army at that time was entrenched at Fort Mitchell.[4] During the Creek Indian War, he saw combat in the Battles of Tallassee, Chalibee and Autossee.[6] Autossee was an Indian town of the Creek Nation on the Tallapoosa River.[7] Over 200 Indians were slain and the town was burned and completely destroyed by the Georgia troops under General John Floyd.[7] It was at Autossee that teenaged Charles Rinaldo Floyd first participated in a battle. According to his Journal descriptions of this war, in the frenzy of battle, a rifle ball grazed his forehead and one passed through his coat sleeve.[4]

Floyd attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He was dismissed in 1817 for insubordination over what he considered "a point of honor." Floyd's high regard for honor and his early training as a soldier resulted in a penchant for dueling, a practice he engaged in throughout his lifetime. After his dismissal from West Point, Floyd received a commission as lieutenant in the marines. In 1820, Lieutenant Floyd was arrested for caning a naval store keeper who had insulted a sentinel. He was tried before a Marine Military Court and was suspended from duty for twelve months with full pay and emoluments.[4] In his Journal he wrote, "I wish to see the Old World in my youth, the best time for observation and improvement".[4] He decided to travel to England and the Napoleonic battlefields of Europe. He returned to marine duty in 1821.[4]

On May 22, 1823 Charles Rinaldo Floyd married Catharine Sophia Powell in Boston.[1] She moved to Camden County to live with her Floyd in-laws. In 1824, Floyd served as Commander of the Marine Honor Guard whose primary goal was to protect the Marquis de Lafayette when he arrived in New York City to tour the United States.[1][4] In 1825, Floyd resigned his commission in the Marine Corps and returned to Camden County to take up life as a gentleman planter.[1] He and his wife had two daughters, both born in Camden County. Catharine Sophia missed her friends and relatives in Boston. In 1828, she, along with her servant and her fourteen-month-old baby, sailed for Boston. On leaving the vessel at Boston Harbor, the servant who was carrying the baby, slid off of the dock and fell into the water. A gentleman passenger jumped into the cold water and rescued both, but the child did not do well and died.[1] Charles was not told of his little daughter's demise. Catharine Sophia went into a severe mental decline and lost her desire to live. When informed of the rapid downhill slide of his wife’s condition, Charles ignored the pleas of both Catharine Sophia's sister and her grandmother, who urged him to travel to Boston and see about her. He reluctantly gave in to their appeals and sailed to Boston only to discover that both his wife and his daughter had died.[4]

In 1829, he served as a Georgia Legislator in the House of Representatives at Milledgeville in Baldwin County, Georgia, and was elected brigadier general for the Georgia Militia's 1st Brigade of the 1st Division.[8]

Charles Rinaldo Floyd attended a friend’s wedding in St. Marys and at the reception held afterward in a garden setting, he met Julia Ross Boog. He described her as tall, lithe, with dark brown eyes and with thick dark, cascading hair.[4] He became immediately smitten. They were married on September 9, 1831 at Bellevue Plantation.[1] This couple had seven children. Julia Ross Boog was born April 16, 1815 at King's Bay Plantation near St. Marys, Georgia, the daughter of John Boog and Isabella Kelly~King Turner.[3] Charles and Julia and their children lived at Fairfield, a traditional two-story Southern style home. An armory was added to house the array of weapons collected by Charles: swords, lances, daggers, knives, double barrel guns, dueling and long-shot rifles, carbines, pistols, dueling pistols, bows and arrows.[4] The stately home contained a library and a sketching room where Charles painted miniatures of family members as well as his now famous horse sketches.[9]

In 1837, an altercation arose over cattle. A neighbor, Edward Stevens Hopkins, allowed his slaves to capture and kill Floyd cows that had roamed onto his property and trampled his patches of peas. In his Journal, Charles Rinaldo Floyd described Edward S. Hopkins as "the cow-thief" and "the enemy".[4] The true reason for the confrontation was that Charles Rinaldo Floyd became disgusted when Edward S. Hopkins announced his name for election as Major of the 8th Battalion, First Regiment, Georgia Militia.[4] Floyd felt, that as Brigadier-General, he alone had the right to order such an election and he challenged Hopkins to a duel. Hopkins accepted under the Code Duello.[4] In October 1837 a "battle" was fought on Amelia Island Beach. Hopkins fell at the first fire, shot in the upper leg near the hip. He survived the brutal assault but thereafter walked with a severe limp.[3] Long after the duel, Floyd continued to refer to Hopkins in derogatory terms.[4]

In May 1838, under orders from Governor Gilmer, Charles Rinaldo Floyd commanded troops effecting removal of Cherokee Indians from northern Georgia.[4] Indian families were rounded up and placed in internment camps before their forced march out West – clearly written about in textbooks today and well-documented as The Trail of Tears. At his headquarters at New Echota he wrote to troops under his command, "A truly good soldier is known chiefly by his ready compliance with the orders of his superior – his valor in battle, and his humanity to the vanquished".[10]

Second Seminole War and Okefenokee Campaign[edit]

Floyd was appointed brigadier general of the Georgia militia in October 1838 and ordered to meet five companies and chase a party of Seminoles out of the Okefenokee Swamp. The Indians were part of the refugees who had been forced north during the Second Seminole Wars, and their presence in south Georgia was a cause of anxiety and conflict in the area.

He wrote letters detailing his Okefenokee campaign to regional newspapers. His first letter was printed in the Savannah Georgian and reprinted in multiple newspapers. He wrote that it was “a satisfaction to me to have performed what all other men have deemed impossible; to cross the Okefenokee with an army.”[11]

Retirement[edit]

In April 1843 he sold 2,000 acres of land to fund his hobbies. He was the founder of the Camden County Hunting Club, and his racing boats were famous in the area. Canoes especially were a travel and sporting boat of choice in the area and they were manned by crews of strong slaves in races. He was a secretary of the Aquatic Club of Georgia, and in 1837 challenged New York boating clubs to a race.[12] Floyd was also an avid collector of rare and antique weapons, and sometimes hunted with a medieval-style lance.[13]

The Charles Rinaldo Floyd Monument is located at the site of the former Fairfield Plantation on Floyd's Neck in Camden County, Georgia

Charles Rinaldo Floyd died on March 22, 1845 at his beloved Fairfield Plantation.[1] After suffering for hours with excruciating pain in his right side, he died at 2:00 o'clock in the morning with his wife sitting beside him.[4] According to his Journal, at his request, his body was wrapped in an American Flag and he was buried under a pine tree at Fairfield Plantation.[4] Soldiers who had served under him erected a marble monument in his honor.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hamilton, Mary Hazzard Floyd (1908). A Little Family History. Savannah: The Morning News. 
  2. ^ Reddick, Marguerite Godley (1976; Reprint 2006). Camden's Challenge - A History of Camden County, Georgia. Camden County Historical Commission. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Thompson, Eloise Bailey (2008). Wandering in Camden. St. Marys: River City Printing. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Floyd, Charles Rinaldo (1816–1845). "Charles Rinaldo Floyd Papers and Journal". Journal 1816-1845. MS 257, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia. 
  5. ^ a b James Vocelle. History of Camden County Georgia, 1914
  6. ^ Northen, William J. (1974). Men of Mark in Georgia. Spartanburg: The Reprint Company. 
  7. ^ a b Bunn, Mike, and Clay Williams (2008). Battle for the Southern Frontier -- The Creek War and The War of 1812. Charleston: History Press. ISBN 1596293713. 
  8. ^ Smith, Gordon Burns, History of the Georgia Militia, 1783-1861, Volume One, Campaigns and Generals, Boyd Publishing, 2000, p 289
  9. ^ Chris T. Trowell. Exploring the Okefenokee: Letters and Diaries from the Indian Wars, 1836-1842 (Douglas, Ga.: privately printed, 1992).
  10. ^ Trowell, C. T. (September 1996). "General Charles R. Floyd and the Second Seminole War in the Okefenokee Swamp". Huxford Genealogical Society Magazine 23 (3). Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  11. ^ Megan Kate Nelson. Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp. University of Georgia Press, 2005.
  12. ^ E. Merton Coulter. “Boating as a Sport in the Old South.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 3. September, 1943.
  13. ^ Gordon Burns Smith. History of the Georgia Militia, 1783-1861. Volume III. Boyd Publishing Company, 2000.