Robert Toombs House & Grave - Washington, Georgia
|Robert Toombs House
The home of Robert Toombs is now a museum and
historic site in Washington, Georgia. He was a
Confederate general and Secretary of State.
Photo by Martha A. Bailey
Robert Toombs House
The main part of the house
was built in 1794-1801 by Dr.
Joel Abbott. Robert Toombs
purchased it in 1837.
Classic Southern Charm
The colonnade that fronts the
house was added by Toombs
after he bought the property. It
updated the original structure.
ROBERT TOOMBS HOUSE & GRAVE
"Let discord reign forever!"
|Copyright 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: May 15, 2014
Homes of Southern Heroes
Grave of Robert Toombs
The Confederate Secretary of
State died in 1885 and rests
at Resthaven Cemetery in
Grave of a Southern Hero
An imposing monument rises
over the grave of Robert
Toombs and his wife, Martha
Julianna DuBose Toombs.
Robert Toombs was one of the firebrands
that led the Southern states out of the Union
in 1860-1861. His home and grave can be
seen in Washington, Georgia.
Born near Washington in Wilkes County on
July 2, 1810, Toombs enrolled at Franklin
College (today's University of Georgia) when
he was only 14 years old. He ran afoul of the
rules of the school, however, and was
expelled shortly before graduation.
Never one to quietly submit to an insult,
Robert Toobs showed up on campus during
commencement ceremonies. He took up a
position under an oak tree and launched into
an oratory so fiery that students left the
chapel where commencement was
underway to hear him.
University legend holds that the tree from
beneath which Toombs spoke was struck by
lightning on the day of his death. Members of
the Demosthenian Society - of which he had
been a member - cut a section of the tree's
stump and carried it into their hall.
It remains there to this day and students
seeking office in the society stand atop it to
deliver their speeches. Toombs himself may
still give a speech or two there. His ghost is
said to haunt Demosthenian Hall on the
University of Georgia campus.
Toombs went on to study at Union College in
New York and the University of Virginia Law
School in Charlottesville, Virginia. He began
his law practice when he was only 18 years
old and was elected to the Georgia House of
Representatives at the age of 28.
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
in 1844, he served in Congress alongside
his lifelong friend Alexander H. Stephens.The
two men then were members of the now
defunct Whig Party although they later
Tombs represented Georgia in the United
States Senate from 1853-1861. Initially a
Unionist who opposed the movement by
some Southern states to leave the Union, he
became convinced by the late 1850s that the
South had no other alternative.
A supporter of John C. Breckinridge in the
election of 1860, Toombs watched with
dismay as Abraham Lincoln was elected
President. A short time later he telegraphed
authorities in Georgia urging that secession
"be thundered forth from the ballot-box by the
United voice of Georgia."
He resigned from the Senate, delivering his
farewell speech on January 4, 1861. In it he
opposed the abolition of slavery and warned
Northerners that in the event of an invasion of
the South, the people "as one man would
meet you upon the border with the sword in
one hand and the torch in the other."
Returning to Georgia, Toombs was a major
advocate for immediate secession from the
Union. The delegates attending the state's
secession convention voted 208-89 to leave
the United States on January 19, 1861. The
ordinance of secession was signed two days
The former Senator from Georgia had hopes
of being selected as the first President of the
Confederate States of America. Toombs,
however, was passed over for the post by the
delegates meeting in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was elected
President and Toombs became the first
Secretary of State of the Confederacy.
As the Confederate Cabinet deliberated
whether to fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston,
South Carolina, Secretary Toombs spoke in
strong opposition to the move. "You will
wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends
from mountain to ocean," he said, "and
legions now quiet will swarm out and sting
us to death."
As Toombs had feared, the bombardment of
Fort Sumter ignited war between North and
South. Leaving the cabinet, he was named a
brigadier general on July 19, 1861. In this
capacity he fought in the Peninsula, Northern
Virginia and Maryland Campaigns in General
Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
At the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), the
task of defending what became known as the
Burnside Bridge fell to General Toombs. He
and his men waged a furious fight against
overwhelming numbers, slaughtering Union
troops under General Ambrose Burnside as
they repeatedly tried to force their way across
the narrow stone bridge when the river it
spanned could have been easily forded.
Toombs and his brigade participated in a
charge against Union troops later in the day.
Wounded at Antietam, he remained on the
field with his men until the end of the battle.
The general resigned his commission in
1863 and returned home to Georgia He
became a vocal opponent of the policies of
Jefferson Davis, particularly the conscription
(draft) and suspension of the right of habeas
Toombs continued his military service as a
brigadier general in General Gustavus W.
Smith's division of Georgia Militia. In this
capacity he served under fire one last time at
the Battle of Columbus, Georgia (or Girard,
Alabama), the last major engagement of the
War Between the States.
General Toombs left Georgia for Havana,
Cuba, on the collapse of the Confederacy. He
traveled from there to Paris, France, along
with General P.G.T. Beauregard.
Toombs was back in Georgia by 1867 and
again living in his house at Washington. He
never requested a pardon and remained a
states' rights advocate until the end. The U.S.
never restored his right to vote. A fierce
opponent of Reconstruction, he was a driving
force of Georgia's Constitutional Convention
Robert Toombs died on December 15, 1885,
and was buried at Resthaven Cemetery in
Washington, Georgia. He rests there with his
longtime wife, Martha Julianna Dubose
Toombs, beneath an imposing monument.
Their home from 1837 until their deaths is
preserved at Robert Toombs House Historic
Site in Washington, Georgia. A state park
facility, it is operated by Wilkes County.
The house is located at 262 East Robert
Toombs Avenue, Washington, Georgia, and
is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5
p.m. Admission is $5 for Adults, $3 for Youth
(6-12) and $1 for Youth (3-5). The museum is
wheelchair accessible, but the restrooms are
Please click here to visit the official website
for more information.
The grave site is at Resthaven Cemetery off
Whitehall Street (Highway 44) in Washington,
Georgia. The cemetery is open during
Robert Toombs in 1859
Photographed on the eve of
the War Between the States,
Toombs was one of the most
powerful men in the South.
Library of Congress
Rear of the House
The Robert Toombs House
was expanded a number of
times over the years to meet
the needs of the family.
A visit to the Robert Toombs House