Geography & Early History of Georgia

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

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.

In this lesson we will look at the geography of Georgia and examine its key geographical features. We will also learn about the early history of Georgia and highlight key themes and developments.

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.

This map shows the elevation of Georgia, with the purple and red areas being the highest.

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.

General James Oglethorpe.

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.

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