Toombs, Robert

Toombs, Robert,

1810–85, American statesman, Confederate leader, b. Wilkes co., Ga. A successful lawyer in Georgia, he entered politics as a Whig, serving in the state legislature and in Congress (1845–53). He favored the Compromise of 1850 and with Howell CobbCobb, Howell,
1815–68, American politican, b. Jefferson co., Ga. In 1837 he became solicitor general of the western judicial circuit of Georgia, a district populated largely by small farmers of Unionist sentiments.
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 and Alexander H. StephensStephens, Alexander Hamilton,
1812–83, American political leader, Confederate vice president (1861–65), b. Taliaferro co. (then part of Wilkes co.), Ga. He was admitted to the bar in 1834, served six terms in the Georgia legislature, and was a Whig (later a
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 canvassed Georgia to have it ratified. With them also he organized the short-lived Constitutional Union party, which elected him (1852) to the U.S. Senate, in which he served until 1861. A brilliant orator, Toombs was a firm supporter of Southern measures but did not become an avowed secessionist until after the election of Abraham Lincoln. Thereafter he played a leading role in the Georgia secession and in the organization of the Confederacy. Made secretary of state in the new government, he soon resigned to become a brigadier general commanding Georgia troops in Virginia. He fought in the Peninsular campaign, the second battle of Bull Run, and the Antietam campaign in the Civil War, resigning when he was refused promotion. Toombs, who had coveted the Confederate presidency, belonged to the faction that opposed the policies of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. After the war he fled to Europe, returning in 1867. He continued to be important in Georgia politics, especially after Reconstruction. He himself remained "unreconstructed," refusing to the end to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

Bibliography

See biographies by U. B. Phillips (1913, repr. 1968) and W. Y. Thompson (1966).

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Toombs, Robert (Augustus)

(1810–85) U.S. representative/senator, Confederate cabinet member, soldier; born in Washington, Ga. A lawyer and wealthy plantation owner, he served Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives (Whig, 1845–53) and in the U.S. Senate (Dem., 1853–61), and was one of the more active and outspoken proponents of preserving slavery and states' rights. He led Georgia to secession, then became the Confederate secretary of state, but he soon became impatient for action and resigned in July 1861 to take on a brigadier general's commission. Seriously wounded at Antietam in 1862, he resigned from the army for many of the same reasons he resigned his cabinet post and attacked Davis's administration: Toombs was ambitious and argumentative and above all was impatient with the caution of other Confederate leaders. He volunteered with the Georgia militia when Sherman was advancing on Atlanta (1864) and fled to Cuba and then England when the Confederacy collapsed. He returned to Georgia and prospered as a lawyer, but his life ended sadly when his wife died insane and he became blind and turned to drink.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.