Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.
The Uniqueness of Georgia
If you've ever spend much time in Georgia, or even driven through it, you may know that its landscape is pretty diverse. It has mountains, sandy beaches, and if you've driven through Atlanta on I-85, you know it has major urban areas. It also has a unique history. Conflict has raged throughout Georgia's history. Native American groups, the British, the Spanish, American settlers, Confederate soldiers, Union solders, African American slaves, and free blacks at varying points in time have played crucial roles in Georgian history. Let's learn more about this Southern state by first looking at its geography and then briefly tracing its history. Here we go!
Geography of Georgia
Georgia's geography is diverse. Much of the state is rural, with major cities like Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah, and Macon spread throughout the state. The northern region of Georgia is mountainous. In the central part of the state lies an area commonly called the Piedmont. Farther south the Atlantic Coastal Plain extends across the state.
The Ridge and Valley Appalachians are a division of the Appalachian Mountains and are located in the the northwest section of the state, while the Blue Ridge Mountains are found in the northeast corner of the state. The highest point in the state is Brasstown Bald, located within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its height is 4,784 feet. Just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, across the border into Georgia, lies Lookout Mountain. At 2,389 feet, this mountain offers a delightful panoramic view of Chattanooga and the surrounding area. Nearby is the popular tourist attraction Rock City. Perhaps some of you may have seen roadside signs for this famous attraction.
Georgia's eastern boundary is the Atlantic Ocean, of course. As you can imagine, Georgia's beaches are a popular vacation destination, with Cumberland Island National Seashore, Tybee Island Beach, and Jekyll Island among the most popular. Savannah, Georgia, is located along the northern part of the Atlantic coastline and is home to rich history and beautiful architecture.
A number of major rivers run through the state, including the Chattahoochee, Savannah, and Suwannee. The largest lake in the state is Lake Lanier, a man-made lake created by the Buford Dam along the Chattahoochee River.
Early History of Georgia
Before being settled by Europeans, Georgia was home to diverse group of Native American tribes, notably the Cherokee and Creek. The British colony of Georgia received its charter in 1732. It was named after King George II. The driving force behind the establishment of the colony was British General James Oglethorpe, who can be considered Georgia's ''Founding Father.'' Oglethorpe originally intended for the colony to be a haven for debtors, but this plan was never fully implemented. Conflict between the Spanish (who controlled Florida) and the British was on-going in Georgia, and both sides frequently raided one another's outposts along their disputed (and often fluid) boundary.
During the American Revolution, Georgia was home to a significant Loyalist population. Loyalists, also known as Tories, were those Americans who did not want independence from Great Britain, but rather remained ''loyal'' to King George III.
Being a southern state, Georgia had an economy that developed largely based on agriculture. After the invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin in 1793, slavery continued to expand in the state. Georgia was home to many large plantations where African slaves were forced to endure terrible suffering.
The Cherokee and Creek Native Americans of Georgia did not fare much better. Under the Indian Removal Act, signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, these tribes were forcibly evicted from their homelands and made to relocate to lands further west. Their journey westward became known as the ''Trail of Tears'' due to the hardships encountered along the way.
Georgia was among the states that seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The state was devastated during the Civil War, particularly by Union General William T. Sherman, who claimed he would ''make Georgia howl.'' Sherman became famous for his ''March to the Sea,'' in which he and his men cut a path of destruction sixty miles wide across the state to the coastal city of Savannah. In the process, he burned down the city of Atlanta.
Of course, Atlanta was rebuilt and went on to thrive as a commercial and industrial center in the South, but racial tensions plagued Georgia for the next 100 years. But of course, this is another lesson for another time.
We've learned a lot about Georgia. Now let's review.
- Blue Ridge Mountains - Eastern mountain chain that can be found in the northeast corner of the state.
- Lookout Mountain - Mountain that offers a panoramic view of Chattanooga, TN and the surrounding area.
- Atlantic Ocean - Provides the eastern border of Georgia and miles of sandy beaches.
- James Oglethorpe - British General who can be considered Georgia's ''Founding Father.''
- Indian Removal Act - Signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830; forcibly evicted the Cherokee and Creek tribes from their homelands and made them relocate to lands further west.
- William T. Sherman - Union General who claimed he would ''make Georgia howl''; became famous for his ''March to the Sea.''
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