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John W. A. Sanford was born near Milledgeville, Baldwin County, GA, August 28, 1798. He attended Baldwin County schools and Yale College. Along with engaging in many agricultural pursuits, he was elected as a Jacksonian to the 24th Congress where he served from March 4, 1835 to July 25, 1835. He resigned before the convening of Congress to command the Georgia troops in the Cherokee War in 1836 and assist in the removal of the Cherokee, where he earned the rank of major general. Although he was elected to the state senate in 1837, he resigned before taking his seat. He later served as Secretary of State of Georgia from 1841 to 1843, and became a member of the state convention of 1850.
Prior to the commencement of the Civil War, he served as ambassador to Alabama and Texas, but resigned this position to instead fight as a member of the Baldwin Blues, which formed a part of the 4th Georgia infantry regiment. Sanford died in Milledgeville, GA, September 12, 1870 and is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery.