Skip to main content

Robert C. Towles Papers

Identifier: Mss. MsV D28

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of a typescript of the diary of Sgt. Robert C. Towles, Company A, 4th Virginia Cavalry, Confederate Army, from August 5, 1863-June 20, 1864. It was kept while Towles was a prisoner of the Union Army in Warrenton, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The diary also details his escape from Carroll Prision, an annex to the Old Capitol Prison, in Washington D.C.

The collection also includes a typed copy of his furlough, dated November 14, 1863, which was signed by Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart. There is also undated correspondence from Towles' father John and mother Sophronia that inform Towles of the deaths of his brothers John H. Towles (d. May 9, 1864) and John Vivian Towles. John Vivian Towles' eulogy, written by a "Comrade" for a "Richmond paper," is also included. Robert C. Towles' wounding and death is described in correspondence to "Mrs. Towles" from Sallie Y. Conner dated 13 June 1864, and Mrs. Towles' nephew "Jno Wm" dated 16 June 16, 1864. The three Towles brothers were interred at Oakland Cemetery in Louisa County, Virginia.


  • Creation: 1863-1864

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

Robert C. Towles was born September 6, 1843. He enlisted in Co. A, 4th Cavalry and was detached as a scout for Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart from May to June 1863. He was captured August 3, 1863, but escaped from Old Capitol Prison. He was mortally wounded at Louisa Courthouse around June 13, 1864.


1.00 Linear Feet

Related Materials

These typscript copies could not be compared to the original diary for veracity. According to a handwritten note attached to the copies, they were made from the original "loaned by James Wharton of Weems, Virginia." Weems was a regional historian.

This diary typescript does not track with the version reprinted in Keith Kehlbeck's 2013 book, Gone to God: A Civil War Family's Ultimate Sacrifice. Kehlbeck states that Towles' mother Sophronia made "several handwritten copies of Robert's diary ... for each surviving sibling. The original diary survives, as do three copies in [her] handwriting." Kehlbeck notes Sophronia Towles edited out "a few of the more exuberant escapades..." (192). Per Kehlbeck's Acknowledgements, he obtained an "original transcription" of the diary at auction.

Physical Description

46 p.

Processing Information

Description enchancement by Robert Browne, SCRC volunteer, November 13, 2019

Guide to the Robert C. Towles Diary
SCRC staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository