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This Day in Georgia History

December 15, 1885

Robert Toombs Died

To view letters of Robert Toombs, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Politician and lawyer Robert Toombs died at his home in Washington, Georgia. Born July 2, 1810 in Wilkes County, Georgia, he was product of a well to do family. Toombs attended the University of Georgia, but was expelled for numerous rules violations his senior year and ended up completing his education at the University of Virginia. Returning to Georgia, he was admitted to the bar at age 20 and began practicing law in Washington, Georgia. Here, Toombs developed a very successful law practice, which supplemented by an inheritance allowed him to invest in plantations in Georgia, Arkansas, and later in Texas. Toombs became active in politics and was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives (1837-43), the U.S. House (1846-1851), and the U.S. Senate (1851-1861). Perhaps the most ardent proponent of Georgia’s secession, Toombs was named Confederate Secretary of State - a post he soon resigned. In July 1861, he was named brigadier general and commander of Toombs’ Brigade - a Confederate unit in the Army of Northern Virginia - and fought in battles of Seven Days, Second Manassas, and Sharpsburg. However, Toombs wanted the Confederacy to take the war to the North rather than fight a defensive war. Also, he had a volatile personality that led him to challenge officers of higher rank. After failing to obtain a promotion he felt he deserved, Toombs resigned his commission and returned to Georgia, where he became a vocal opponent of Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis’s policies. In 1864, Gov. Joseph E. Brown gave Toombs command of a unit of the Georgia State Guard, which had limited action during Sherman’s March to the Sea. At the end of the war, Toombs fled to Europe. Returning two years later, the “unreconstructed rebel” refused to apply for a pardon. During Reconstruction, he fought Republican control of Georgia and proved to be the most influential member of Georgia’s “Redeemer” convention that framed the Constitution of 1877.

Image of Robert Toombs Died View large image
Source: Photo: Ed Jackson