A Civil War Biography

Jesse Johnson Finley

Finley was born 18 November 1812 near Lebanon in Wilson County, Tennessee. After serving as a captain of mounted volunteers during the Seminole War in 1836, he studied the law and was admitted to the bar in 1838. He moved to Mississippi County, Arkansas in 1840 and established a law practice. He served in the Arkansas state senate in 1841 then moved his law practice to Memphis, Tennessee in 1842. He was elected mayor of Memphis in 1845. In November 1846 he moved to Mariana, Florida. He was elected to the Florida state senate in 1850. He was a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1852. He was appointed judge of the Florida western circuit court in 1853 and held this position until Florida left the Union.

After Florida joined the Confederate States Finley was appointed judge of the Confederate States court for the district of Florida. He resigned his seat on the bench in March 1862 to volunteer for military service. He enlisted as a private in the 6th Florida. A month later he was a colonel. He saw action during the Kentucky campaign and at Chickamauga. On 16 November 1863 he was promoted to brigadier general. He commanded a brigade at Missionary Ridge and during the Atlanta campaign. He was wounded at Resaca and Jonesboro. No longer fit for active duty Finley was named president of the court martial board.

Following the war Finley settled in Lake City, Florida and resumed the practice of law. He moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1871. He successfully contested the election of Josiah J. Walls to the US Congress representing Florida's 1st district and took the seat on 19 April 1876 serving until 3 March 1877. Finley again successfully contested a Congressional election in 1876. This time taking the 2nd district seat of Horatio Bisbee on 20 February 1879. Finley served out that term until 3 March 1879. He was himself elected to the US Congress from Florida's 2nd district in 1880 and served from 4 March 1881 until 1 June 1882, when he was succeeded by Bisbee who contested the election. Finley presented credentials on 5 December 1887, as a Senator-designate to the US Senate for the term that commenced the previous March 4th. He was denied the seat on the technicality that his appointment was made before the vacancy actually existed. Finley died 6 November 1904 in Lake City.

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