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 Cobb and Alexander H. Stephens 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.

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

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