Think of Georgia and all sorts of images come to mind. Stately antebellum homes on magnolia-lined streets. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Peachtree Lane. The Georgia Bulldogs. Slavery and Reconstruction. Booming Atlanta. Gracious Savannah. It is a state with a varied topography, from mountains in the north to coastal islands on the east. And it is a place many come to for retirement.
Georgia was established as the 13th colony and named after King George III in 1733. Prior to that, the area had been home to several American Indian tribes, including the Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw. When British general James Edward Oglethorpe settled the area above Savannah, he declared that the colony would be slave-free, and it was for 16 years until economic priorities became the overriding concern. In 1776, the colony joined the other twelve and declared independence from Britain. By 1779, however, Georgia had fallen to the British, and it took years for the colony to recover. When Eli Whitney invented the cotton machine in 1793, Georgia’s economic prospects greatly improved and cotton became king. Unfortunately, slaves were soon doomed to back breaking labor as a result.
By 1861, Georgia’s economy rested on the back of slave labor. Without it, Georgia and much of the South could not survive. The Civil War left a lasting scar on Georgia, still seen today in preserved battle sites and at the chilling Anderson Prison site cemetery. When General W.T. Sherman arrived in Atlanta in 1864, much of the city was already decimated. Yet, Sherman destroyed 4,000 buildings, and then he and 60,000 troops marched the Sea, burning and looting nearly everything in their path. In a way, there are two Georgias, the one destroyed by the Civil War and that rebuilt and the one spared by his wrath where glimmers of a bygone era still exist.
Today, Georgia’s capital of Atlanta is booming, sprawling and re-born. Other areas seem to have never recovered from the War. Yet others, such as Savannah, have built a strong tourism base and are the envy of the state.
As far as climate, Georgia is considered mild, but that can be misleading. Summers are hot and muggy, except in the mountains and on the shore. Winters are mild, but that doesn’t meant that it doesn’t get cold once in awhile, particularly up north. Springs are balmy, and falls are lovely, indeed.