Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Georgia (2.)
GEORGIA, one of the thirteen original States of the American Union, has Tennessee and North Carolina on the N., South Carolina and the Atlantic Ocean on the E., Florida S., and Alabama W. The Savannah river separates the State on the E. from South Carolina; the St Mary’s, on the S., divides it in part from Florida; the Chattahoochee, on the W., flows between Georgia and Alabama for nearly half its course. Georgia lies between 30° 21′ 39″ and 35° N. lat., and between 81° and 85° 53′ 38″ W. long. It is 320 miles long from N. to S., and 256 miles in its greatest breadth from E. to W., with an area of 58,000 square miles.
Surface.—Georgia has three distinctly marked zones, varying in soil, climate, and productions. Her sea-coast is similar to that of the Carolinas, being skirted by fertile islands, separated from the mainland by narrow lagoons or by sounds. This section is essentially tropical. Beginning at the sea-coast, a gradually ascending sandy plain extends northward and westward as far as the head of navigation on the Savannah, Ogeechee, Oconee, and Ocmulgee rivers, where it meets a Primary formation. Augusta, Milledgeville, and Macon indicate the northern limit of this tract. Here begins the hilly and finally mountainous region, the most, extensive, fertile, and salubrious of the State. A second plateau, 60 or 70 miles broad, stretches above the falls of the rivers until it meets the southernmost ranges of the great Appalachian chain of mountains which traverses Virginia, North Carolina, and northern Georgia under the name of the Blue Ridge, and is finally lost in Alabama. This picturesque district extends in Georgia from Rabun county in the north-east corner of the State to Dade in the extreme north-west, where the summit of Lookout Mountain dominates the valley of the Tennessee. Here are the sources of the two principal rivers of the State; here is the gold-producing region; and here is also the theatre of some of the most sanguinary battles of the civil war. The elevations of the Blue Ridge vary from 1200 to 4000 feet. In the south-east of the State is the extensive Okefinokee swamp, which has an estimated circumference of 180 miles, is filled with pools and islands, and is the congenial home of alligators, lizards, and other reptiles.
Rivers and Harbours.—There are many fine rivers in Georgia. A north and south line passing through Macon would nearly divide the streams flowing into the Atlantic from those discharging into the Gulf of Mexico. The Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha, Santilla, and St Mary’s fall into the Atlantic, and the Chattahoochee, Flint, and tributaries of the Suwanee flow to the Gulf coast. The rivers are generally navigable for steamboats to the falls which occur on the great central plateau of the State—that is to say, the Savannah to Augusta, the Oconee and Ocmulgee (confluents of the Altamaha) to Milledgeville and Macon, and the Chattahoochee to Columbus. Besides their ordinary purposes as avenues of travel and commerce, her rivers have given to Georgia the character of a manufacturing State, and she is developing and increasing their abundant water-powers with energy and success.
Georgia has about 128 miles of sea-coast, but has few good harbours, except within the rivers emptying upon it. St Mary’s, Brunswick, Darien, and Savannah are the principal. The chain of islands lying off the mainland produces the celebrated Sea-island cotton, but owing to the changes brought about by the secession war it is now little cultivated. These islands are flat, and generally little elevated above the sea. Cumberland island, one of the most attractive, is nearly 30 miles long. It is covered with magnificent forests of oak, and its shores are skirted with palms,palmettos, and tropical shrubbery. Other islands from S. to N. are Jykill, St Simon’s, Sapello, St Catharine’s, Ossabaw, and Cabbage. The Sea Islands, with the main shore, constitute a coast of 480 miles. St Andrew’s, St Simon’s, Altamaha, Doboy, Sapello, St Catharine’s, and Ossabaw are the principal sounds.
[Compiled according to Census of 1880 and latest surveys.]
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Climate, Soil, and Productions.—The central and southern portions of Georgia, including the seaboard, are subject to excessive heats in summer. At Savannah observations show the mean temperature for July to have sometimes reached 99° Fahr. In the northern district of the State the same season is cooler and less enervating. Indeed, the mountain region is becoming noted for its genial and healthful climate, and is attracting invalids and pleasure seekers from all parts of the Union. In the low marshy lands lying contiguous to or upon the coast, malarious fevers prevail in spring and summer. The belt of country stretching from Augusta across the State to Columbus, having a width of from 30 to 60 miles, is pronounced a very healthy district. At Augusta the mean summer temperature is about 79°, the winter 47°. At Atlanta careful observations give the average of summer heat as 75°, and winter 45°. Diseases of the respiratory organs are rare among natives of northern and central Georgia. The interior is comparatively free from the dreaded epidemics cholera and yellow fever, but Savannah and the coast are periodically scourged by them.
There is in Georgia as great diversity of soil as of climate. Beginning with the Sea Islands, which are composed of a sandy alluvium, intermixed with decomposed coral, we pass from the rich alluvions near the coast, in which the great rice plantations are, to the thinner soil of the Pine Belt, sometimes inaptly denominated Pine Barrens. These are at present valuable for their timber and naval stores, but are susceptible of cultivation. The middle region consists of a red loam, once productive, but from long cultivation impoverished. With the aid of fertilizers it produces cotton, tobacco, and the cereals. We now reach the so-called Cherokee country of the north, containing lands among the most fertile in the State, lands which, notwithstanding their tillage from an unknown period by the aboriginal inhabitants, grow wheat, corn, Irish potatoes, pease, beans, &c., abundantly. Cotton may also be successfully cultivated, but with less advantage than in other districts of the State. This fibre is chiefly produced along the fertile bottom-lands or contiguous uplands of the rivers. The same lands yield rice, Indian corn, and sugar. Middle and south-west Georgia are the most productive cotton areas. In the south-west the soil, though light and sandy, produces cotton. In southern Georgia there are millions of acres of magnificent yellow pine forests of great value for house or ship-building, and in these forests turpentine plantations have been opened. The live-oak, also valuable for ship-building purposes, abounds in the south-east of the State. The swamps afford cedar and cypress, the central region oak and hickory. Walnut, chestnut, ash, gum, magnolia, poplar, sycamore, beech, elm, maple, fir, and spruce trees are found in different localities; but in the older settled districts the original forests have disappeared.
It is frequently said that there is nothing grown in any of the States except Florida that Georgia cannot profitably produce. A few of the tropical fruits of Florida cannot be raised in Georgia, but all those of the temperate zone succeed well. Tobacco may be grown in any part of the State, although it is not extensively cultivated for export. Cotton is the great crop of Georgia. She ranks third among the eight cotton States, having exported or consumed in her own manufactures, for the year ending September 1878, 604,676 baless, worth at the point of export $30,000,000. Of this crop 3608 baless is classed as Sea island. Her crop for 1877 was 491,800 baless. The counties of Burke, Dougherty, Lee, Monroe, Stewart, Sumter, and Washington yield 25 per cent. of the whole product of the State.
The emancipation of the slaves in the Southern States has naturally produced great and important changes in the labour system of that section. The planter must now purchase the labour he formerly owned. The black is free to dispose of his labour to the best advantage. The contracts for labour are of three kinds,—for money wages by the month or year, for a share of the crop, or for specific rent in money or products. The first has been practised to a limited extent by the best and most prosperous planters. The share system has been the one generally adopted, because the blacks greatly affected quasi-proprietorship of the soil, and because the owners were inexperienced in the management of free labour, and not inclined to come personally in contact with it. The share varies in different localities, but usually one-third to half the crop goes to the labourers, the landlords furnishing the necessary tools. The readjustment of labour in the south is watched with the keenest interest in other sections of the Union as one of the difficult problems growing out of the suddenly changed relation between white and black; and though some traces of his original servitude remain a cause of irritation between North and South, the agreement between the enfranchised black and his late master is likely to be harmonious, where each is so dependent on the other as is the case in the cotton-growing States of the Union.
Objects of Interest.—Perhaps the most beautiful scenery in Georgia is to be found in the mountain region traversed by the Air Line railway. About 2 miles from the town of Toccoa the creek of that name falls 185 feet over a precipice. Fifteen miles beyond Toccoa are the cascades of Tallulah, where the river descends successive terraces of broken rock between the walls of a chasm 800 feet deep. In this vicinity are the charming valley of Nacoochee and Mount Yonah. In the extreme north-east is Rabun gap and the cascades of Eastatoia. Connected with this region, once the hunting-grounds of the warlike Cherokees, are many Indian legends. The country between Atlanta and Chattanooga is deeply interesting from having been the battle-ground of opposing armies in the civil war. Kenesaw mountain, itself the scene of a bloody encounter, commands a view of the country which for two months the Confederate commanders disputed foot by foot. Stone mountain, 9 miles from Decatur, is much visited. The Chattahoochee, in the neighbourhood of Columbus, is picturesque; and Savannah is one of the most attractive and idiosyncratic cities of the Union. There are numerous mineral springs scattered over the State, which are much resorted to by invalids.
History.—Before the arrival of Europeans the country now embraced in Georgia was inhabited by the Cherokee and Creek Indians. The Cherokees possessed the north, the Creeks the south. Both were very powerful and warlike, the Cherokees numbering 6000 warriors, and having 64 towns and villages. To be more precise, the Cherokee country extended from the 34th parallel north to the country of the Six Nations, and from the heads of the rivers emptying upon the South Carolina coast westward to the Mississippi. The whole course of the Tennessee was within this magnificent domain, now mostly embraced in the four States of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In 1729 this extensive territory was surrendered by treaty to the crown of Great Britain. The following year the Cherokees made formal submission to Sir A. Cuming, Bart.
Georgia was the only one of the original thirteen colonies that received any aid in its settlement from the Government of England. General James Oglethorpe conceived and executed the plan of founding an English colony in that portion of the Carolina proprietaries’ grant between the Savannah and Altamaha. His purpose was to create an asylum in the New World where insolvent debtors, and persons fleeing from religious persecution, might begin life anew or enjoy religious freedom. By royal letters-patent issued in June 1732 the proposed colony was called Georgia in honour of the reigning prince; and the House of Commons granted £10,000, which was soon increased by private subscription to £36,000. Under the charter the trustees had powers of legislation, but could receive no reward for their services. Even grants of land to themselves were forbidden.
With 116 emigrants Oglethorpe sailed from England in November 1732, arriving in the Savannah in February. He landed at the present site of Savannah, where he was soon after hospitably received by delegates from the Lower Creeks, who consented that the English might peaceably inhabit among them. The next year a small number of Bavarians came over, and were settled in what is now Effingham county. Oglethorpe also established settlements at Darien, at Augusta, and on St Simon’s island. In 1736 the colony received considerable accessions of emigrants, with whom came John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism. In 1738 the Rev. George Whitefield visited Georgia, founding the orphan-house at Bethseda, near Savannah, from funds chiefly collected on his tour in the northern colonies.
Anticipating invasion by the Spaniards of Florida, who claimed Georgia, Oglethorpe, on the renewal of war between England and Spain, led an expedition to St Augustine, Florida, which he besieged without success at the head of 2000 men. The Spaniards retaliated by landing in 1742 a small force on St Simon’s island, from which they were expelled by Oglethorpe. They then abandoned further attempts. Slavery was introduced into Georgia about 1750. In 1752 the trustees surrendered their privileges to the crown. A royal governor and council were appointed to administer, in conjunction with delegates of the people, the government of the province. During the French and Indian wars the remote settlements suffered somewhat from incursions of the Cherokees. The treaties of 1763 with France and Spain extended the boundaries of Georgia to the Mississippi on the W., and to St Mary’s on the S. After this the colony flourished greatly until the breakingout of war with England, at which time the colony was estimated to have a population of about 70,000 souls. In 1775 Sir James Wright, the crown governor, left the province. Delegates were sent to represent Georgia in the continental congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1778 a British land and naval force occupied Savannah and Augusta, but were subsequently compelled to abandon the latter place. In September of the same year a combined American and French force, under Lincoln and D'Estaing, unsuccessfully attempted the recovery of Savannah, losing nearly 1000 men in an assault. Augusta was reoccupied by the conquerors. Charleston being surrendered by General Lincoln in 1780, the patriots of South Carolina and Georgia were only able to maintain a partisan warfare, until the advance of General Greene from the north, at the head of considerable forces, resulted in the expulsion of the royal troops from those provinces. Georgia at the conclusion of peace ratified the several Acts constituting her one of the United States of America. She framed her first constitution in 1777, a second in 1789, and a third (which has been several times amended) in 1798.
In 1803 Georgia ceded to the general government all her territory west of the Chattahoochee, amounting to nearly 100,000 square miles, out of which the States of Alabama and Mississippi were subsequently formed. The cession of Louisiana to the United States was of great benefit to Georgia in ending hostilities which the Spaniards were continually inciting the Indians to commit upon the scattered settlements. By a treaty with the Creeks, Georgia became possessed of a large tract in the south-west of the State. The second war with England (1812–15) involved Georgia in hostilities with the Indians on her western border, who were finally subdued by General Andrew Jackson. In 1821 the cession of Florida to the United States relieved Georgia from the long series of Spanish aggressions beginning with her existence as a colony.
In 1825 a serious difficulty arose between the State and national authorities in consequence of proceedings by the Georgia executive to extinguish the title to lands in the State held by the Creeks and Cherokees. The head chief of the Creeks, M‘Intosh, was assassinated by his people for signing away these lands to the whites. By an Act of Congress passed in 1830, these Indians were subsequently removed to the Indian territory west of the Mississippi.
Georgia formally seceded from the Union in January 1861. The Government forts and arsenals were seized. The first military operations were on the coast. In April 1862 Fort Pulaski, one of the defences of Savannah, was recaptured by the Federal forces under Com. Du Pont. St Mary’s, Brunswick, Darien, and St Simon’s island were also occupied.
In the beginning of 1863 the Federal forces were in possession of middle and west Tennessee. In September they occupied Chattanooga in strong force, the Confederates falling back by the Western and Atlantic Railway to Lafayette, Ga. A further advance by General Rosecrans, the Federal commander, brought on the severely contested battle of Chickamauga, on the creek of that name (September 20). The Federals retreated to Chattanooga, which was soon threatened by the Confederates under Bragg. In November the Union army under General Grant drove Bragg from all his positions. In the spring of 1864 the southern army was at Dalton, Ga., on the railway to Atlanta, which it covered. In May General Sherman moved forward against this force a numerous and well-appointed Union army. Severe battles took place at Resaca, Kingston, and Allatoona Pass. A series of strategical movements, signalized by frequent bloody conflicts between the rival armies, resulted in the possession of Atlanta by the Union forces, September 2. From this point Sherman began in November his memorable march across Georgia to the sea. On December 10th he arrived in the neighbourhood of Savannah, captured Fort M‘Allister by assault, and occupied the city on the 21st. A cavalry force under General Wilson entered Georgia from Alabama in April 1865, capturing Columbus, West Point, and Macon, and making Davis, the Confederate States president, prisoner. In June 1865 a provisional governor was appointed for the State by the president of the United States. A convention assembled in October at Milledgeville, which repealed the ordinance of secession, abolished slavery, and declared the war debt void. A new constitution was framed and ratified in 1868, and Rufus B. Bullock inaugurated as governor. The restoration of civil government under the new forms was not effected in Georgia without complications which retarded its re-establishment on a solid foundation, but the amendments to the national constitution were at length adopted, and her senators and representatives were admitted to seats in Congress in December 1870. During the war Georgia furnished about 80,000 soldiers for the Confederate armies. She emerged from it with her industries prostrated, her treasury empty, her social and political system revolutionized, her most flourishing cities in ruins. Her great natural resources are fast advancing her to a commanding position among her sister States; and these resources are developing in the hands of a free people with greater rapidity and advantage than when half the population was enslaved. Texas possibly excepted, no southern State has a greater future than Georgia.