Georgia is a state in the Southern United States and was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. It was the last of the Thirteen Colonies to be established as a colony. It was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on 2 January 1788. It seceded from the Union on 21 January 1861 and was one of the original seven Confederate states. It was readmitted to the Union on 15 July 1870. Georgia is one of the fastest-growing states in the United States, with its population increasing from 8,186,453 in 2000 to an estimated 9,072,576 people in 2005. Georgia is also known as the Peach State and the Empire State of the South. The largest city, and capital, is Atlanta.
The local moundbuilder culture, described by Hernando de Soto in 1540, completely disappeared by 1560. Early on, in the course of European exploration of the area, a number of Spanish explorers visited the inland region of Georgia.
The conflict between Spain and England over control of Georgia began in earnest in about 1670, when the English founded the Carolina colony in present-day South Carolina. Nearly a century earlier, the Spanish of Spanish Florida had established the missionary provinces of Guale and Mocama on the coast and Sea Islands of present-day Georgia. After decades of fighting, the Carolinians and allied Indians permanently destroyed the Spanish mission system during the invasions of 1702 and 1704. After 1704, Spanish control was limited to Saint Augustine and Pensacola. The Florida peninsula was subjected to raids as far as the Florida Keys. The coast of Georgia was occupied by now British-allied Indians such as the Yamasee until the Yamasee War of 1715-1716, after which the region was depopulated, opening up the possibility of a new British colony. In 1724, it was first suggested the British colony there be called Province of Georgia in honor of King George II.
British interest in establishing a colony below South Carolina came from varied sources. Spanish Florida was a threat to South Carolina and a haven for runaway slaves. The French in the 1720s established a fort near present-day Montgomery, Alabama, also a threat to British interests in the region. Traders from Charleston, South Carolina, had established trading posts as far west as the Ocmulgee River, near present-day Macon, Georgia. The British trading network kept the Creek Indians allied with them; the French move threatened to wrest these Indians' trade away from the British. These strategic interests made the British government interested in establishing a new colony that would reinforce the British influence in the border country that had been open to Spanish and French penetration.
Meanwhile, many members of the British Parliament had become concerned about the plight of England's debtors. A parliamentary committee investigated and reported on conditions in Britain's debtor prisons. A group of philanthropists organized themselves to establish a colony where the "worthy poor" of England could reestablish themselves as productive citizens. This goal was seen as both philanthropic, helping these distressed people, and patriotic, simultaneously relieving Britain of the burden of the imprisoned debtors and augmenting Britain's vital mercantile empire by planting new, industrious subjects to strengthen her trade. This goal went unfulfilled as Georgia was ultimately not settled by debtors or convicts.
In 1732, a group of these philanthropists were granted a royal charter as the Trustees of the Province of Georgia. They carefully selected the first group of colonists to send to the new colony. On 12 February 1733, 113 settlers landed in the HMS Anne at what was to become the city of Savannah. This day is now known as Georgia Day, which is not a public holiday but is mainly observed in schools and by some local civic groups. James Edward Oglethorpe, one of the trustees of the colony, traveled with the first group of colonists, laid out the design of the town of Savannah, and acted as governor of the colony, although technically under the trustees there was no "governor." Oglethorpe acted as the only trustee present in the colony. When he returned to Britain, a series of disputes ended his tenure governing the colony; Georgia was then led by a series of presidents named by the trustees. In 1752, after the government failed to renew subsidies that had helped support the colony, the Trustees turned over control to the crown. Georgia became a royal colony, with a governor appointed by the British king.
Georgia was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution by signing the 1776 Declaration of Independence, despite a large population of people loyal to the crown. Following the war, it became the fourth state of the United States of America after ratifying the United States Constitution on 2 January 1788. Georgia established its first state constitution in 1777. The state established new constitutions in 1788, 1799, 1861, 1865, 1868, 1877, 1945, 1976, and 1983, for a total of 10 — more constitutions than any other state, except for Louisiana, which has had 11.
On 18 January 1861, Georgia joined the Confederacy and became a major theater of the American Civil War.
In December 1864, a large swath of the state from Atlanta to Savannah was destroyed during General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea. This event served as the historical background for the 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and the 1939 film of the same name.
On 15 July 1870, following Reconstruction, Georgia became the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.
Georgia has had five official state capitals: colonial Savannah, which later alternated with Augusta; then for a decade at Louisville (pronounced Lewis-ville), and from 1806 through the American Civil War, at Milledgeville. In 1868, Atlanta became the fifth capital of the state. The state's legislature also met at other temporary sites, including Macon, especially during the Civil War.