Timeline: Antebellum Era 1801-1860
When James Jackson was elected to the U.S. Senate, he resigned his position as governor. Assuming that role in March of 1801 was David Emanuel, who thus became the first Jewish governor of any state in the nation. He served for nine months, before the legislature elected Josiah Tattnall, Sr. as governor.
The first classes were held at the University of Georgia.
Abraham Baldwin was elected president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate.
Future Georgia governor George Washington Towns was born in Wilkes County.
Georgia ceded all of the lands west of its current boundary to the United States in exchange for $1,250,000 and the federal government assuming the responsibility of extinguishing all Indian claims to land in Georgia. Representing Georgia in these negotiations were Abraham Baldwin, John Milledge, and James Jackson.
The Treaty of Fort Wilkinson was signed with the Creek Indians, in which they ceded more land for money and goods.
John Milledge was elected governor of Georgia.
The General Assembly appointed a commission to find a site for a new state capital. The site would be located at the head of the navigation of the Oconee River, and would be named Milledgeville.
Former governor Josiah Tattnall, Sr. died in Nassau.
John Ridge, son of Major Ridge and a future Cherokee leader, was born in the Cherokee nation in what is now Gordon County.
One of Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence - George Walton - died in Augusta.
The first graduation ceremonies were held at the University of Georgia.
The Treaty of Tellico was signed with the Cherokee, in which they ceded more land in exchange for goods and money.
Milledgeville was approved as the site of the new state capital, though the official move would not take place until 1807.
Drawings for Georgia’s first land lottery were held.
Future Georgia governor Charles Jones Jenkins was born in South Carolina.
Future Georgia politician Augustus Holmes Kenan was born in Milledgeville.
Revolutionary era leader and doctor Noble Wimberly Jones died in Savannah.
The Treaty of Washington was signed with the Creek Indians; it extended Georgia land westward to the Ocmulgee River and gave the federal governemnt permission to build a road through Creek territory.
Former royal governor of Georgia Henry Ellis died in Italy.
Revolutionary War leader, former governor and U.S. Senator James Jackson died in Washington D.C.
Future actress and author Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble was born in London, England. She would marry a Georgia planter and spend some time living on a Georgia plantation, where she kept a journal. When the journal was published later, with its disturbing description of slave life, it would have a notable effect on British sentiment during the Civil War.
Stand Watie was born in the Cherokee Nation, near what is now Rome, Georgia. He would be unpopular with many Cherokees after supporting removal to Oklahoma later, but would then raise a group of Cherokee Rifles to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. He reached the rank of brigadier general, and was the final Confederate general to surrender.
Jared Irwin was elected governor of Georgia.
The fifth edition of George Washington the Great was printed in Augusta, Georgia. This was the first edition to contain the famous (although fictitious) “cherry tree” story.
The state capital was officially moved to Milledgeville.
Drawings began for Georgia’s second land lottery.
Negotiators for Georgia and North Carolina agreed on the official boundary between the two states.
A steam engine developed by William Longstreet and Isaac Brigs powered a boat five miles up the Savannah River. But a few days earlier, an engine developed by Robert Fulton powered a boat from New York up the Hudson River to Albany, so Fulton received credit for the invention.
Future Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston, who would play a major role in the Civil War in Georgia, was born in Virginia.
Georgia Senator, vital Constitutional Convention delegate, and founder of the University of Georgia Abraham Baldwin died in Washington D.C.
Famous African-American bridge builder Horace King was born in South Carolina.
Former Georgia governor Edward Telfair died in Savannah.
Former Georgia governor David Emanuel died in Burke County. He served as governor for nine months in 1801, making him the first Jewish governor in the nation’s history.
Future President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis was born in Kentucky. The Civil War would end for him when he was captured in Georgia.
David B. Mitchell was elected to and sworn in for the first of his three terms as Georgia governor.
John Milledge became president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate.
Politician and general Robert Toombs was born in Wilkes County. He would become one of the most ardent supporters of secession before the Civil War, would lead Georgia soldiers in several important battles during the war, and would oppose Reconstruction policies after the war.
Businessman, politician, and publisher Nelson Tift was born in Connecticut.
Future Supreme Court Justice and Confederate Assistant Secretary of War John Archibald Campbell was born in Wilkes County.
Future provisional Georgia governor James Johnson was born in North Carolina.
A fight between an American sailor working for the French, and some local sailors in Savannah, set off three days of riots and caused an international incident with France.
In June news reached Georgia that the United States had declared war on Great Britain, marking the official beginning of the War of 1812. David Blackshear was given the responsibility of defending Georgia’s southern and western borders, primarily from Indians allied with the British.
Former Georgia governor George Mathews died.
Future Georgia politician and Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens was born in Wilkes County.
Future politician and abolitionist Tunis Campbell was born in New Jersey.
Future politician, author, and publisher William Tappan Thompson was born in Ohio.
Future Georgia governor Herschel Johnson was born in Burke County.
Peter Early was elected governor.
Famous explorer, politician, and general John C. Fremont was born in Savannah.
Georgian William Harris Crawford was appointed as ambassador to France, an important position during the War of 1812.
War broke out among the Creek Indians, eventually leading to intervention by U.S. troops under the command of General Andrew Jackson. As part of this campaign, troops under the command of Georgian John Coffee destroyed a Creek village near Talledega in the Alabama Territory.
A U.S. force led by Andrew Jackson defeated a faction of the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend in what is now Alabama. The defeat led to the Creeks signing the Treaty of Fort Jackson, which included their largest land cession to the state of Georgia.
The United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. But news of the treaty signing did not reach the United States until after the Battle of New Orleans was fought, and an incident also occurred in Georgia - see 1815 entry.
Future prominent jurist and Civil War leader Henry Lewis Benning was born in Columbia County.
Noted educator and clergyman Patrick Hues Mell was born in Liberty County.
While this event did not happen in Georgia, it did have national significance. Before the signing of the treaty ending the War of 1812, the British attacked Fort McHenry in Maryland - an attack that lasted all night and included a huge bombardment. Witnessing the defense of the fort from a boat, and seeing the tattered American flag still flying the next morning, Francis Scott Key was inspired to pen a poem, which was later put to music and became the “Star Spangled Banner,” our national anthem.
Even though the War of 1812 had officially ended the previous December, word did not reach Georgia until after the final battle of the war had taken place in the state - when the British burned a fort at Point Peter.
Future physician, and the first one to successfully use anesthesia in performing surgery, Crawford Long was born in Danielsville, Georgia.
Revolutionary leader Stephen Heard died in Elbert County.
Future lawyer, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and Civil War politician Howell Cobb was born in Jefferson County.
Future Confederate general Paul Jones Semmes was born in Wilkes County.
Future U.S. Army test expert and Confederate general Henry C. Wayne was born in Savannah.
Future Confederate general William J. Hardee was born near Savannah.
Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins died in Crawford County.
The Cherokees signed two treaties, the Treaty of Washington, which established the northern boundary between Georgia and the Cherokee Nation, and the Treaty of Chickasaw Council House, which established the Cherokee Nation’s western boundary, and included a land cession in exchange for money.
Future politician and Civil War leader Francis S. Bartow was born in Savannah.
Future Union General George H. Thomas, who would play a pivotal role in the Civil War Battle of Chickamauga, was born in Virginia.
The Cherokees signed the Treaty of Cherokee Agency, which ceded more lands to the United States, in exchange for land along the Arkansas River.
William Rabun was elected governor.
Future Confederate general Philip Cook was born in Twiggs County.
Former Georgia governor Peter Early died in Greene County.
Seminole Indians, in retaliation for attacks on their settlements by whites, crossed the Georgia border and raided white settlements, setting off a series of events that led to the First Seminole War.
The Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Creek Agency, which ceded lands south of the Altamaha River, and between the Apalachee and Chattahoochee Rivers. Not long after the treaty signing, the Battle of Breakfast Branch took place between county militia and Creek Indians; it would be the last battle between whites and Creeks in these ceded lands.
Former governor Jared Irwin died in Washington County.
Future influential newspaperman, owner and editor of the Macon Telegraph, Joseph Clisby was born in Massachusetts.
Future Confederate general and Georgia businessman Jeremy Francis Gilmer was born in North Carolina.
In May, President James Monroe visited Savannah to take part in the christening ceremonies for the steamship SS Savannah; he also rode the ship on a round trip to Charleston, SC and back. Two weeks later the Savannah steamed from port, just under one month after that it steamed into port at Liverpool, England, thus becoming the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
The Cherokee Indians signed another Treaty of Washington, ceding even more land to the U.S.
Former Georgia governor John Milledge died near Augusta.
Former Georgia governor William Rabun died in Hancock County.
John Clark was elected governor.
A devastating fire in Savannah destroyed 463 buildings and left two out of every three residents of the city homeless.
Future Union general, infamous to most Georgians, William T. Sherman was born in Ohio.
Future jurist, ambassador, and Civil War leader Henry Rootes Jackson was born in Athens.
Drawings were held for a land lottery distributing lands ceded by the Cherokees in the Treaty of Washington in 1819.
The Sapelo Island lighthouse was constructed.
Sectionalism between the South and the North had been building, and became concentrated in the Missouri Territory, which was ready to be admitted to the Union as a state, but the question was - would it be a slave or free state? And would slavery be allowed in other states which would come from the Louisiana Purchase? This particular crisis was headed off by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, but the issues that divided the two sections of the country remained.
The Creeks signed the Treaty of the Indian Spring, ceding the lands between the Ocmulgee and Flint Rivers to Georgia. The land was distributed by a land lottery.
Future Civil War general James Longstreet, who would play a pivotal role in the Battle of Chickamauga, was born in South Carolina.
The man would be Georgia’s governor during the Civil War, Joseph E. Brown, was born in South Carolina.
New England lawyer Jeremiah Evarts traveled through Georgia in the spring of this year, keeping a diary. See In Their Own Words entries for March 30, Apr. 5, Apr. 10, Apr. 12, and Apr. 26 for his thoughts on Georgia that time.
Georgians began calling for election of the governor by popular vote, previously he had been elected by the legislature. A constitutional amendment granting this would be approved two years later.
Georgia witnessed a local example of the growing national sectionalism between the North and South, as Georgia Col. William Cumming (advocating states rights) engaged in a series of duels with South Carolina Senator George McDuffie (supporting a stronger national government).
Henry Wirz, who would be in charge of the notorious prison at Andersonville during the Civil War, was born in Switzerland.
The Cherokee Council passed a law declaring that they would not agree to any more land cessions.
Future legal author, education supporter, politician, and Confederate general Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb was born in Jefferson County.
George Troup was elected governor by the legislature.
Future scientist and educator Joseph LeConte was born in Liberty County.
Future politician Benjamin Hill was born in Jasper County.
Future Georgia governor James M. Smith was born in Twiggs County.
A state constitutional amendment was passed allowing for the election of the governor by popular vote; previously they had been chosen by the legislature.
Future Georgia governor, U.S. Representative, and U.S. Senator Alfred H. Colquitt was born in Walton County.
A hurricane hit the coast of Georgia, primarily at St. Simons Island, killing 83 people.
The national presidential election was turned over to the House of Representatives after none of the candidates won a majority of the electoral votes. Georgian William H. Crawford was a contender, though failing health limited his chances; John Quincy Adams was eventually chosen by the House.
In February a group of Creek Indians, led by William McIntosh, signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, which ceded the rest of the Creek lands within the boundaries of Georgia. Many other Creeks violently opposed the treaty, and attacked and killed McIntosh in reprisal. His wives wrote a letter (stained with their husband’s blood) to the U.S. Indian commissioners, asking for help. In June the Creeks adopted the Broken Arrow Resolution, in which they forgave McIntosh for signing the Treaty of Indian Springs, but asked the U.S. to return the land that had been ceded against their desire, but treaties in the next two years would finally cede all Creek lands in what is now Georgia.
Drawings were held for the land lottery of 1825.
Cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney died in Connecticut.
Future politician and Supreme Court justice Lucius Q.C. Lamar was born in Putnam County.
George Troup became the first Georgia governor elected by popular vote.
Revolutionary war hero the Marquis de Lafayette visited Georgia.
The Creeks signed another Treaty of Washington and a Supplementary Article to it, which (along with a treaty signed the following year) finally did cede all Creek lands within the borders of Georgia.
Georgia and Alabama commissioners met at Fort Mitchell, Alabama (near present day Columbus) to begin surveying the land to establish the Georgia-Alabama border where the line left the Chattahoochee River.
Lawyer and writer Charles Henry Smith, better known as humorist Bill Arp, was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
The Macon Telegraph began publication.
Future Confederate general Ambrose Ransom “Ranse” Wright was born in Louisville, Georgia.
The Cherokee Nation adopted a constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution, and made New Echota their capital.
The Creeks signed the second Treaty of the Creek Agency, which finally completed the ceding of all Creek lands in Georgia.
Former Georgia governor Matthew Talbot died.
John Forsyth was elected and sworn in as governor.
Five commissioners were appointed to select a site on the state-owned Coweta Reserve (near Coweta Falls on the Chattahoochee River) and to lay out a trading town to consist of half-acre town lots, plus a 10-acre square for construction of public buildings for official government purposes. The legislation incorporating the new town designated its name as Columbus.
Two men returning from Cherokee lands discovered gold near what is now Dahlonega, Georgia, triggering the nation’s first gold rush.
Revolutionary era leader, politician, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention William Few died in New York.
Another example of the growing sectionalism between the North and South was evidenced by the Georgia House of Representatives strongly opposing the national Tariff of 1828, which protected Northern textile manufacturers, but caused the cost of cotton to rise and make countries like England (the South’s best cotton customer) look elsewhere to buy.
The Cherokees signed yet another Treaty of Washington, which defined the boundaries of their western lands, and theoretically promised them perpetual ownership of those lands.
George Gilmer was elected governor. During his term the Georgia legislature tried to extend state law throughout the Cherokee Nation, which resulted in two Supreme Court cases, where it was ruled Georgia could not do this. Governor Gilmer would defy the rulings, however, and push for removal of all Cherokees from Georgia. All this was prompted as the press began to publish news of the discovery of gold in Cherokee territory, and whites wanting to move in and mine for it.
The Georgia legislature passed, and the governor signed, an act forbidding the teaching of slaves or free blacks to read and write. This was prompted by the appearance of some abolitionist literature in Savannah.
Cherokee leader Major Ridge, with the permission of the federal government, evicted whites illegally settling on Cherokee lands. The action angered Georgia politicians.
Georgia governor George Gilmer signed an act claiming for Georgia all the Cherokee territories within the boundaries of Georgia. The act further divided the territory into four sections, directed its surveying, and provided for a system of distributing the land by lottery.
James Augustine Healy, who would become the nation’s first African-American Catholic bishop, was born in Jones County, Georgia.
The previous year Georgia had passed an act claiming sovereignty over all Cherokee lands within the boundaries of Georgia. The Cherokees filed a protest against this act, and the case reached the U.S Supreme Court (Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia). But the high court ruled that the Cherokees were not a foreign nation as defined by the Constitution. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court, though sympathetic with their situation, could not exercise original jurisdiction over the Cherokees’ lawsuit.
Two missionaries to the Cherokees were tried in state court after being arrested for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to Georgia and its policy toward the Cherokees. The missionaries were sentenced to four years of hard labor in the state penitentiary, but governor George Gilmer offered a pardon if they would leave Georgia; they refused. The case of Worcester vs. Georgia went to the U.S. Supreme Court (the following year), which ruled against Georgia, freeing the missionaries to return to their work. However, Cherokee removal from Georgia eventually forced them to continue their missionary work with the Cherokees in the west.
Wilson Lumpkin was sworn in for the first of his two terms as Georgia governor.
Future Confederate general John Bell Hood was born in Kentucky; he would oppose General William T. Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign in the Civil War.
John Pemberton, who would develop the Coca-Cola formula, was born in Knoxville, Georgia.
The Supreme Court made its ruling in the Worcester vs. Georgia case. In the ruling the court said that the United States, not Georgia, had rights over the Cherokee Nation, but President Andrew Jackson did nothing to enforce the ruling, so efforts to get the Cherokees removed from Georgia continued.
Elias Boudinot resigned as editor of the Cherokee Phoenix. He had begun to see that the removal of the Cherokees to the west was inevitable, but principal chief John Ross and most Cherokees were adamantly opposed to leaving, and Ross would not allow Boudinot to discuss arguments for voluntarily leaving in the newspaper, so Boudinot resigned.
Even though the Cherokees had not ceded their land to Georgia, a land lottery was held in the state capital of Milledgeville to distribute the land to white settlers.
The Creek Indians did cede all of their remaining land east of the Mississippi River to the United States in the third Treaty of Washington.
Future Confederate general and Georgia governor John B. Gordon was born in Upson County.
Future Confederate general and noted historian Clement Anselm Evans was born in Stewart County.
The Georgia States Rights Party was founded by Mirabeau Lamar.
Mercer Institute began operation in Penfield, Georgia; it would eventually become Mercer University.
Future Georgia governor Rufus Bullock was born in New York.
William H. Crawford died near Elberton, Georgia; he had served as a U.S. Representative, Senator, ambassador, cabinet member, and was a presidential candidate in 1824.
Future Georgia governor Allen D. Candler was born in Auraria, Georgia.
British actress Frances Anne “Fanny” Kemble married Georgia plantation owner Pierce Butler. She would spend four months on his plantations in 1839, keeping a journal which, when published, would have a notable effect on British attitude and policy toward the South during the Civil War.
A group of Cherokees led by John Ridge signed the Treaty of Washington with the United States, ceding all Cherokee land in Georgia to the state of Georgia. But because the majority of Cherokees opposed the treaty, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify it. U.S. commissioners kept attempting to reach an agreement with the Cherokees though, and later in the year another minority group of Indians, led by John Ridge, Major Ridge, Elias Boudinot, and Stand Watie signed the Treaty of New Echota, which ceded all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. in exchange for five million dollars. Four years later in the western Indian terrotory, the Ridges and Boudinot would be killed by other Cherokees for agreeing to the treaty.
Georgian James M. Wayne was named associate justice of the United State Supreme Court.
Future Georgia governor William J. Northen was born in Jones County.
William Schley was elected and sworn in as governor.
A group of Seminole Indians ambushed a contingent of U.S. troops, killing 105 of them; this action precipitated the Second Seminole War.
The United States Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota, signed the previous year, ceding all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S.
The Georgia Legislature created the Western & Atlantic Railroad.
Future Georgia governor Henry McDaniel was born in Monroe, Georgia.
Future Confederate general Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler was born in Augusta, Georgia; he also served in Congress after the war and in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War.
The Georgia Female College in Macon became the nation’s first chartered college for women. It would develop into Wesleyan College.
A relatively small group of Cherokees voluntarily migrated to the Indian territory in the west, in what is now Oklahoma. Among them were Major Ridge, Elias Boudinot, and Stand Watie. Most Cherokees continued to resist the mounting pressure to leave their homelands.
George Gilmer was sworn in for his second term as Georgia governor.
Former governor David B. Mitchell died in Milledgeville.
In one of the most infamous episodes in Georgia history, U.S. troops and Georgia militia forcibly removed the Cherokee Indians from their homes, forcing them to march to the Indian territory in the west (in what is now Oklahoma). The removal began in the spring of the year, with the first group leaving in June. But drought conditions made navigating some of the rivers on the planned route very difficult, so many of the Cherokees did not leave until October. Leaving so late in the year meant they had to travel in cold weather and under other very harsh conditions. After leaving Georgia they traversed Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas before finally entering Indian territory. Cold and disease caused thousands of deaths on the journey, and the overall misery endured by the Cherokees led to them to call it the “Trail of Tears.” For first hand accounts of the Trail of Tears, see In Their Own Words for Feb. 12, March 6, Apr. 2, May 10, May 20, May 26, May 27, May 30, May 31, June 3, June 6, June 8, June 22, July 1, July 10, and July 13.
Georgia Governor George Gilmer signed the Cherokee Indian Citizenship Act, which granted full citizenship to twenty-two families of mixed Cherokee and white ancestry who had been exempted from the force removal earlier.
Fanny Kemble Butler, along with her husband and children, arrived on one of the plantations from which she would keep a journal recording her perceptions of slave live in Antebellum Georgia.
Fanny Kemble Butler lived for four months on plantations owned by her husband. She kept a journal of her experiences there, which was published in 1863 under the title Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation. Excerpts from the journal can be read in In Their Own Words entries for Jan. 21, Feb. 13, Feb. 14, Feb. 17, Feb. 18, Feb. 26, Feb. 28, March 1, March 2, March 4, March 8, March 20, March 24, March 31, and Apr. 17 (final entry).
John Ridge, Major Ridge, and Elias Boudinot were assassinated for their role in cooperating with the U.S. and Georgia governments before the Cherokee Removal of 1838, which resulted in the “Trail of Tears.” Stand Watie was also targeted, but was forewarned and escaped the assassins.
Later in the year Cherokees who had been removed from Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee formed the Cherokee Nation West.
Charles J. McDonald was sworn in as Georgia governor.
The Georgia Historical Society was chartered.
The Georgia Female College, the first chartered (in 1836) college for women in the nation, officially opened in Macon with ninety students.
Cherokees who had voluntarily migrated to the Indian territory before the removal and Trail of Tears joined the ones who had been forcibly removed in re-unifying as the Cherokee Nation West.
A class of eleven graduated from the Georgia Female College in Macon, becoming the first women in the U.S. to receive baccalaureate degrees.
Temperance leader and women’s suffrage pioneer Mary Latimer McLendon was born in DeKalb County.
Noted educator Moses Waddel died in Athens, Georgia.
The Georgia/Alabama boundary line, where it left the Chattahoochee River, was finally settled; surveying on it had begun in 1826.
Former Georgia governor, U.S. Representative and Senator John Forsyth died in Washington, D.C.
The Georgia Historical Society asked University of Georgia professor William Bacon Stevens to write a history of Georgia, which when published (six years later) would be the first scholarly treatment of the history of the state.
Wesley Connor, who would found what would become the Georgia School for the Deaf, was born in South Carolina.
Dr. Crawford W. Long became the first person to use anesthesia during surgery. He used sulfuric ether while painlessly removing two tumors from his patient’s neck. In an interesting side note, the fee for the entire procedure was two dollars!
Poet Sidney Lanier was born in Macon, Georgia.
Former Georgia governor Wilson Lumpkin had been very instrumental in the development of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. In this year a spot on the Chattahoochee River was chosen to be the southern end of the rail line; in railroad terminology this was its terminus. So Terminus was chosen for the name of the spot. A town quickly began to grow in the location, and the following year the name was changed to Marthasville, in honor of Lumpkin’s daughter. As more raiload lines reached the town it soon became a major crossroads for transportation within the state, and ultimately the entire state and nation. In 1845 Marthasville was renamed to what we all know it as today - the city of Atlanta!
The town of Terminus was incorporated and re-named Marthasville, after Wilson Lumpkin‘s daughter.
George W. Crawford was elected and sworn in as Georgia governor. He had been nominated when Georgia’s Whig Party held its first convention in Milledgeville.
Sequoyah, who had invented a Cherokee syllabary (means of converting spoken language to written), died in Mexico.
In January a young lieutenant in the U.S. Army was ordered to report to Marietta, Georgia. He arrived in February and for six weeks took depositions from militia members who had experienced personal losses during the Second Seminole War. Why is this significant to Georgia history? Because this would not be his only trip to Georgia. That young lieutenant was none other than William T. Sherman, who would return to the same area of Georgia twenty years later under vastly different circumstances, and with very destructive results.
Alexander Stephens, who would go on to be Vice-President of the Confederacy and who had just been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, gave his first speech to Congress. Ironically, one of Stephens’ friends in Congress was a young representative from Illinois - named Abraham Lincoln.
William Ambrose Wright, who would serve Georgia for fifty years as Comptroller General, was born.
By this time cotton production, and with it slavery, had become major economic forces in Georgia and many other parts of the South. So anything that was seen as a threat to slavery was seen as a threat to the Southern economy. Many Southern politicians had already expressed dissent when tariffs were passed to protect Northern manufacturers, but which hurt the ability of the South to sell cotton overseas. Now, as abolitionist sentiment began to grow in the North, the nation became more and more divided.
Marthasville was officially renamed Atlanta.
Dr. Crawford Long used anesthesia on his wife during child birth, the first time it had been used for that purpose.
The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia.
The Georgia legislature first approved a proposed constitutional amendment removing the property owner qualification (500 acres) for holding the office of governor. For this to become law it would have to be approved a second time, which it would be in 1847.
The Georgia Supreme Court held its first meeting (see 1845 entry for information on the first three justices).
Future Georgia governor Nathaniel E. Harris was born in Tennessee.
The Augusta Canal system began operation.
The Mexican War began. While this did not affect Georgia directly, many Georgians did participate in it. Plus the war was a training ground for many officers who served in both the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War. Finally the war led to the annexation of California to the United States - the 1850 debate over its status as a free or slave state would help initiate the debates that eventually led to secession.
George Towns was elected and sworn in as Georgia governor.
Jonathan Norcross suggested, at an Atlanta town meeting, that the General Assembly be encouraged to move the state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta.
The constitutional amendment removing the property qualification for holding the office of governor was signed into law; it had been approved originally in 1845, but required a second approval to become official.
The legislature voted, and the governor signed into law, an act authorizing the building of a state deaf and dumb school in Floyd County; that school would become the Georgia School for the Deaf.
A young army officer just recently graduated from West Point saw his first service at Fort Pulaski on the Georgia coast; that young officer would become the most noted of all Confederate generals - Robert E. Lee.
Ellen Craft and her husband William (both slaves) instigated an amazing escape, with Ellen (who was very light colored) posing as a slave owner, with her husband posing as her servant. Their adventure was chronicled in the book Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom.
Howell Cobb became the first Georgian elected as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Musical prodigy Thomas Greene “Blind Tom” Bethune (sometime called Wiggins) was born (into slavery) in Harris County.
Talk of secession really began to heat up in this decade, and it started early in 1850 with the prospect of California entering the Union as a free state, upsetting the balance of power between slave and free states. But Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced a bill which included admitting California into the Union as a free state, but also required free states to return escaped slaves and would allow the population of western territories to vote on whether to allow slavery when applying for statehood. Georgia Senators Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens, and Speaker of the House Howell Cobb all supported the legislation, which came to be called the Compromise of 1850.
In response to the Compromise of 1850 and the ongoing controversy over slavery, Georgia passed two acts - one defending the South’s position and the second authorizing the governor (George Towns) to call a convention to discuss all the controversies and Georgia’s possible responses to them. The convention was called and convened in Milledgeville in December. Here they adopted the Georgia Platform, which accepted the Compromise of 1850, contingent upon the northern states abiding by existing slave laws and the U.S. not attempting to restrict slavery in the western territories. The Georgia Platform was written primarily by Charles J. Jenkins, with help from and the support of Howell Cobb and Robert Toombs. For the full text of the Georgia Platform, see the GeorgiaInfo related articles.
Future architect John Wellborn Root was born in Lumpkin, Georgia.
Future journalist Henry Grady was born in Athens, Georgia.
Howell Cobb was elected and sworn in as governor of Georgia.
Future educator and writer Mildred Lewis Rutherford was born in Athens, Georgia.
Future governor Joseph M. Brown was born in Cherokee County.
The Digest of the Statute Laws of the State of Georgia, compiled by T.R.R. Cobb, was published.
A famous figure in western history, John Henry “Doc” Holliday, was born in Griffin, Georgia.
Noted Georgia educator David Crenshaw Barrow was born in Oglethorpe County.
Prominent philanthropist George Foster Peabody was born in Columbus, Georgia.
Frank H. Gaines, who would found Agnes Scott College, was born in Tennessee.
The Georgia legislature created the Georgia Academy for the Blind, to be located in Macon.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published; it sold over 300,000 copies within a year, and helped give voice to and strengthen the already growing abolitionist movement, thus furthering the division between the North and the South.
Herschel Johnson was elected and sworn in as Georgia governor.
John Archibald Campbell, who had been born in Georgia, was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Martha “Mittie” Bulloch, great-granddaughter of Revolutionary leader Archibald Bulloch , married Theodore Roosevelt in Roswell, Georgia. One of their sons, also named Theodore Roosevelt, would become president. Another, Elliott, was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt, who would marry her fifth cousin Franklin Roosevelt. Thus, Georgia-born Martha Bulloch would become mother of a U.S. president and grandmother of a first lady.
Harriet Tubman began the Underground Railroad, which would help many slaves, particularly in north Georgia, to escape.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress, with Alexander Stephens playing a key role. This act allowed for popular sovereignty to decide whether each of the two territories would be free or slave, effectively nullifying the Missouri Compromise of 1820 - which had prohibited slavery (except for Missouri) north of a certain latitude line; the Kansas and Nebraska territories were north of the line. One of the results of the passage of this act was the rapid growth of the anti-slavery Republican party. The Georgia legislature passed a resolution supporting the act.
African-American educator Lucy Craft Laney was born in Macon, Georgia.
Former governor George Towns died in Macon, Georgia.
Future governor William Y. Atkinson was born in Oakland, Georgia.
A hurricane caused widespread damage in the Savannah area.
Author and journalist Harry Stillwell Edwards was born in Macon, Georgia.
Joseph Clisby, a journalism pioneer, purchased the Macon Telegraph.
Future governor Hoke Smith was born in North Carolina.
Herschel Johnson was re-elected as Georgia governor.
The abolitionist movement was growing in the North; in response to it the Georgia legislature passed a bill giving the governor authority to call a statewide convention should Congress enact any law regulating or prohibiting slavery.
Henry Ossian Flipper, who would become the first African-American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia.
Future Georgia governor Lamartine Hardman was born in Harmony Grove (now Commerce), Georgia.
Former Georgia governor George Troup died in Montgomery County.
Future politician, writer, and prominent attorney Tom Watson was born near Thomson, Georgia.
Future U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia, but he would live in Augusta, Georgia (from 1858-1870), then practice law in Atlanta in 1882. While in Atlanta he met and married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia.
Violent conflict between pro and anti-slavery factions in the Kansas territory led to it being called “Bleeding Kansas.” While this did not affect Georgia directly, it was clear evidence of the continually escalating sectionalism in the country that would soon culminate in southern secession and the Civil War.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision. Scott was a slave who had lived in free territory for years, when his owner died. He sued for his freedom, on the grounds that he had lived on free soil for so long. But the court ruled against him, stating that blacks were not U.S. citizens. Furthermore the court officially declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820 unconstitutional, opening up all of the western territories to slavery. This court decision further galvanized the anti-slavery faction in the North, in particular an Illinois lawyer who openly spoke out against the decision, one Abraham Lincoln.
Joseph Emerson Brown was elected and sworn in as Georgia governor; he would remain in office throughout the Civil War.
Future Supreme Court justice Joseph R. Lamar was born in Ruckersville, Georgia.
African-American clergyman, author, and benefactor Edward R. Carter was born in Athens, Georgia.
Alice Birney, who would co-found the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (which evolved into the PTA), was born in Cobb County.
Former Georgia governor William Schley died in Augusta, Georgia.
Likely in response to the Dred Scott case, the Georgia legislature passed an act prohibiting slave owners from freeing any slaves in the event of the owner’s death. Even more stringent laws were also passed which prohibited free blacks from entering the state (could be captured and sold into slavery if they did so); then for free blacks already in Georgia - they could be sold into slavery for the following: “any free person of color wandering or strolling about, or leading an idle, immoral or profligate course of life, shall be deemed and considered a Vagrant.”
In non-slave legislation, the legislature also banned public execution because it was “believed by many to be demoralizing in its tendency and disgraceful to the character of our people for refinement and good taste, and not so well calculated to accomplish the object for which it was instituted, to-wit: the prevention of crime.”
Noted African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in Pennsylvania; he would teach at Clark College in Atlanta.
Former Georgia governor George Gilmer died in Lexington, Georgia.
Mirabeau Lamar, who had started the Columbus Enquirer, served in the Georgia Senate, and founded the Georgia States Rights Party before moving to Texas, died in Texas.
The Lucy Cobb Institute was established in Athens, Georgia by T.R.R. Cobb. Named in remembrance of his deceased daughter, it was established for the purpose of educating young ladies, and eventually became an Athens landmark.
Events Leading to the Secession Crisis:
On November 6, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the Unites States. Lincoln was the candidate of the relatively new Republican Party; one of their main goals was to stop the spread of slavery into the western territories, or anywhere else in the U.S., but he did not have a stated intention of interfering with slavery where it currently existed. Still, Southerners were very concerned about the effects of his election, with many wanting to secede from the Union.
The day following Lincoln’s election Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown addressed a joint session of the Georgia legislature, in which he called for a statewide convention to consider what action Georgia should take, but warned that any action should include “no more compromise.”
The citizens of Savannah left little doubt how they felt, as they held a secession demonstration on November 8, even displaying a secession flag.
On November 13, Robert Toombs gave an ardent speech in favor of secession before the Georgia General Assembly.
The following day Alexander Stephens also spoke before the Georgia General Assembly. While he was as concerned as anyone over the course of events, he urged a more moderate approach - wanting to wait and see what Lincoln would do first. Stephens and Lincoln were friends from their time together in Washington, D.C., and Stephens hoped (at this time) a separation from the Union could be avoided. He had even written Lincoln a letter asking him his intentions with regards to slavery.
Governor Brown signed an act passed by the Georgia legislature, calling for a secession convention. Election of delegates was to take place the first Wednesday in January, 1861, with the convention to convene on January 16.
On December 7, Governor Brown signed an act to furnish officers of various Georgia volunteer military companies with side arms and other necessary items. He also penned an open letter to the Georgia people outlining the purposes of the called convention, and the questions they had to answer.
President-elect Lincoln responded to Alexander Stephens’ letter, stating again that he had no intention of interfering with slavery in states where it existed at that time.
The Georgia General Assembly voted to adopt a pro-secession resolution.
*For more on the events leading to Georgia’s secession, see the late 1860 entries in This Day in Georgia Civil War History.
Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was born in Savannah, Georgia.
Former Georgia governor Charles J. McDonald died in Marietta, Georgia.
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