The Museum of Southern History
Preserving the History, Ideals and Chivalry of the South.
4304 Herschel St., Jacksonville, Florida 32210
Florida's 15 General Officers
Brigader General Joseph Finegan
Florida provided fifteen general officers to the Confederacy. Some of these men had been professional soldiers but most were not. Some were born in Florida and others came to Florida from the states to the north; one even coming from Ireland. Florida's generals fought in all of the theaters of the war, from Virginia to Arkansas and Kentucky to Florida. One was the fifth highest ranking officer in the Confederte Army and one received his general's commission just days before Lee's surrender at Appomattox. We will begin to list all of Florida's generals with a short biography on each.
Finegan wears the collar insignia of a colonel, though he was directly commissioned a brigadier.
"Finegan, me bye, ye know ye are yur mither's darlin'." Thus is recorded just one example of the colorful dialect of this native Irishman, born November 17, 1814 at Clones, Ireland. Like thousands of other sons of Eire, he immigrated to the United States in the 1830s, settling in Florida near Jacksonville, where he quickly became a prominent member of the community, operating first a small plantation and later a sawmill. A few years later he removed to Fernandina and began a long and useful association with the influential politician David Yulee, later senator from Florida. Together they commenced construction of a railroad, and Finegan's own importance rose in tandem with Yulee's.
Thus when the state secession crisis loomed, Finegan served as a member of the 1861 state convention that on January 10 voted to withdraw from the Union. For reasons that are unclear, given Finegan's complete lack of military training or experience, Governor John Milton put him in charge of the state's efforts to get onto a war footing. This, plus the political necessities of appointing a sufficient number of brigadiers from Florida, induced President Davis to tender Finegan a commission on April 5, 1862, to take rank immediately. The Senate confirmed the appointment the same day, and Finegan himself accepted it on April 17, thereby becoming one of the senior officers to be appointed from his state.
On April 8, 1862, Finegan took command of the Department of Middle and Eastern Florida, which he held for the next two years. It was a backwater command, largely of importance only for protecting the long coastline, and raising troops, often for service elsewhere. Soon after Finegan took command, R. E. Lee complimented him on his zeal and productivity at organizing Floridians into companies. Lee was also encouraged by Finegan's very realistic-and all-too-unusual-attitude that only as many state troops as necessary should be kept in Florida, while the majority should go to the main army in Virginia. Finegan's suggestion may have been prompted by a desire that he himself should be reassigned to the main theater of operations, but Lee believed that he could not be spared from Florida.
Finegan would start to see action in his own front later in 1862, as Federal incursions into Florida brought the war to him. While keeping his headquarters at Tallahassee, he oversaw the defense of Tampa in the summer and in September took and occupied Saint John's Bluff. In March 1863 he captured Jacksonville and held it briefly. His great moment, however, came at the Battle of Olustee, when Federals under Truman Seymour made a landing at Jacksonville and moved inland. Finegan assembled hastily the troops of his department and on February 20, 1864, delivered a telling attack that halted the enemy advance and sent Seymour back in retreat.
It was possibly the success at Olustee, combined with the confidence that Lee had expressed earlier in Finegan that led the Virginia chieftain on May 16 to ask the War Department to have a brigade made up of available Florida troops and sent to him, with the Irishman in command. Gathering forces from all points to resist Grant's advance, Lee needed the man from Florida.
"Marse Robert" was not to be disappointed. Finegan arrived in time to hold a critical point in the line at Cold Harbor on June 3. When the Federals briefly broke through, Finegan's brigade rushed into the gap, and quickly plugged it once more, winning compliments from many quarters. Thereafter he remained with the Army of Northern Virginia, his brigade soon being reassigned to Mahone's Division of the III Corps. Throughout the remainder of 1864 Finegan led the 2d, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Florida in the trenches around Petersburg.
In January 1865 prominent Floridians petitioned the government to have him returned to their state. Finegan himself, weary after almost four years of continual service without a rest, also asked that he be reassigned, though as always he revealed a spirit of cooperation when he did not request that his brigade be sent with him, knowing that Lee needed it more. On March 20, 1865, he was reassigned to command in Florida. There in May he rendered his final services to the Confederacy when he assisted Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge and Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin in successfully escaping through Florida to Cuba and the Bahamas, respectively.
Following the war, General Finegan lived in Jacksonville for a time, and then moved to Rutledge, working for a time as a cotton broker, as well as practicing law. He served a term in the state senate, 1865-66, and finally died on October 29, 1885, at Rutledge, and was buried in the Old City Cemetery at Jacksonville. He had shown himself to be one of that class of men who led by raw native good sense. His potential may never have been truly challenged in the Florida command or in his limited field experience in battle, but wherever he served he won the approval of those above and below him.
Brigader General Jesse Johnson Finley
Finley appears older and heavier in this later war image. It shows stars of rank affixed to what is a simple broadcloth suit. It is possible that they are an artist's addition.
The son of a wealthy planter, Finley was born in Wilson County, Tennessee, on November 18, 1812. He was educated at an academy in Lebanon before he read law in Nashville. After being admitted to the bar, he opened a law office in Lebanon. During the Seminole War of 1836, Finley organized a company of mounted volunteers and was appointed captain. He served in Florida for two years, returning to Tennessee in 1838.
Moving often over the next few years, Finley continued to practice law and became very active in politics. In 1841 he was elected state senator from Mississippi County, Arkansas, but resigned his seat in 1842 and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he was elected mayor in 1845, but in 1846 moved again to Marianna, Florida. Finley was elected a Florida state senator in 1850 and in 1852 served as a Whig presidential elector. From 1853 to 1861 he served as a judge for Florida's western circuit.
After Florida seceded in 1861, Finley became a Confederate district judge but resigned that post in March 1862 to enlist as a private in the 6th Florida Infantry. Probably because of his political prominence, Finley quickly rose to captain and then to colonel of the regiment. Attached to COL W. G. M. Davis' Florida brigade in eastern Tennessee, the regiment invaded Kentucky with Florida General Edmond Kirby-Smith's column during the late summer of 1862. Following the invasion, Finley oversaw the department's court-martial at Knoxville, Tennessee.
Finley's first real combat experience came at Chickamauga, where his regiment was in Colonel Robert C. Trigg's brigade. On the afternoon of September 19, 1863, the brigade was ordered to support an attack by John Bell Hood. The order to advance somehow miscarried, and Finley soon found himself several hundred yards ahead of the rest of the brigade. Nonetheless, the 6th Florida broke through one Union line and captured a battery of artillery. However, being unsupported, Finley was forced to withdraw after suffering the loss of 165 men. Trigg wrote of Finley's command, “Thefortune of war threw the Sixth Florida Regiment into the post of danger and uponthem the heaviest loss, and proved them veterans in their
first fight.On the next day Finley again drew praise when he led the 6th Florida and 54th Virginia in a charge against a Union position and captured five hundred prisoners.
On November 8, 1863, Finley was promoted to brigadier general, to rank from November 16, and given command of all the Florida infantry in the Army of Tennessee. He apparently was taken aback by the promotion and wrote Jefferson Davis to assure the president he did not seek the rank. Davis wrote Finley on December 16, "The fact that you did not seek the appointment conferred upon you, and your diffidence in assuming its responsibilities, is to me additional evidence of your fitness to command. I shall but the more confidently rely on one who, ready to serve, does not aspire to command."
Finley's new brigade was placed in line with Braxton Bragg's army near Chattanooga. When the Federals broke through the Confederate line at Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863, Finley's Florida brigade performed admirably in rear guard action while the army escaped. Bragg said, "I cannot, in justice to the generous and brave, consistently close this without expressing my thanks to Brigadier General Finley for his gallant bearing and prompt assistance in every emergency."
The winter was a severe hardship for Finley's men. In February 1864 the officers of the Florida brigade forwarded a petition to Finley to be sent to Congress. The officers attached a list showing the outrageous prices they were forced to pay for food and clothing and declared they could not survive on the meager pay allotted them. Finley supported his officers, endorsed the petition, and forwarded it to his superiors, but apparently no action was taken on it by Congress.
During the Atlanta Campaign, Finley's brigade was still in Bate's Division of William Hardee's Corps. Finley saw heavy fighting in the campaign, but there is little official documentation of it. At Resaca he was badly wounded and put out of action until the army reached Atlanta. Then at Jonesborough shell fragments killed his horse and severely wounded him again, but he refused to be evacuated to Atlanta until all of his wounded men had been removed. Because of this sense of duty, he missed the last evacuation train, and was finally slipped through roving bands of Yankees and back to the hospital in a wagon.
Finley was separated from his brigade for the rest of the war. He tried to rejoin his unit in North Carolina after recovering from the second wound, but Federal troops blocked his way. He therefore reported for duty to Howell Cobb at Columbus, Georgia, and surrendered there with Cobb in April 1865.
Finley settled in Lake City, Florida, after the war and resumed his law practice. He later moved to Jacksonville in the 1870s. Finley reentered politics and served in Congress from 1875 to 1879 before losing his seat in 1879 in a contested election. In 1887 he was appointed to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy but was refused the seat because of a technicality. Returning to the legal profession, Finley served as a Florida circuit court judge from 1887 to 1903. He died in Lake City on November 6, 1904, and is buried in Gainesville.
Other Florida Generals
Click on Image for MORE informaion on Florida Generals
General Edmond Kirby-Smith
was born in St. Augustine and graduated from West Point, fought in the Mexican War and with the 2nd Cavalry in Texas against the Indians. He was at First Manassas and in Tennessee and Kentucky. He commanded the Trans-Mississippi Department after the fall of Vicksburg. We will expand on General Kirby-Smith as we progress in the construction of the site.
The other Florida generals were:
· GEN Edmond Kirby-Smith
MGEN William H. Chase
· MGEN William W. Loring
· MGEN Martin L. Smith
· MGEN James P. Anderson
· BGEN James M. McIntosh
· BGEN Edward A. Perry
· BGEN William S. Walker
· BGEN G. M. Davis
· BGEN Francis A. Shoup
· BGEN William Miller
· BGEN Robert Bullock
· BGEN Theodore W. Brevard