Robert and Martha Julianna Dubose Toombs purchased this house in 1837 and lived here until their deaths. The front facade of the house is the most impressive part of the structure, with the colonnade added by Toombs being its defining feature. Robert Toombs was born near Washington on 2 July 1810 and was a child prodigy of sorts, enrolling in Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) at the age of 14. He was expelled from the institution for his indifference to its rules but appeared on campus during graduation ceremonies and made a rousing speech beneath a nearby oak tree, drawing out students from the commencement ceremony. Toombs furthered his education at Union College in New York City and the University of Virginia Law School.
He began practicing law at the age of 18 and was elected to the Georgia House at age 28. Elected to Congress as a Whig in 1844, he later became a Democrat. From 1855-61 he served in the United States Senate. Early in the growing debate over states’ rights, he was a staunch Unionist but by the late 1850s was convinced that secession was eminent. Upon Lincoln’s election in 1860, he telegraphed Georgia leaders, urging that secession be “thundered forth from the ballot-box by the United voice of Georgia.” He soon resigned the Senate and returned to Georgia to participate in the Secession Convention. He had hoped to be chosen President of the Confederate States, but became their first Secretary of State instead.
He left the Confederate Cabinet in 1861 and on 19 July was named a brigadier general, serving in the Peninsula, Northern Virginia and Maryland campaigns. After successful service, he resigned his commission in 1863 and returned to Georgia. He would remain a vocal opponent of Jefferson Davis throughout the remainder of the war but served again as a brigadier general in General Gustavus W. Smith’s Georgia Militia. As the confederacy collapsed, Toombs fled to Havana and then to Paris with General P. G. T. Beauregard. Returning to Georgia in 1867, he remained an ardent supporter of states’ rights and never requested a pardon from the United States, therefore never regaining his right to vote. He was one of the leaders of Georgia’s Constitutional Convention of 1876.
Robert Toombs died on 15 December 1885, an unreconstructed rebel until the end. The home is open for tours and is among Georgia’s most important Civil War historic sites. 216 E Robert Toombs Ave, Washington, GA 30673
Courtesy Library of Congress, Brady-Handy Collection
National Historic Landmark