Timeline: Revolution & Early Republic 1776-1800
This section of GeorgiaInfo correlates with Georgia Performance Standards SS8H3, SS8H4, and SS8H5
In January the Georgia provincial congress met again. They added George Walton as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. Archibald Bulloch began his term as president of the Council of Safety. Later, Button Gwinnett was also elected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress.
Royal governor James Wright was placed under house arrest, but soon escaped to some British ships on the Savannah River.
In April, the provincial congress issued the Rules and Regulations of the Colony of Georgia, a temporary constitution for the revolutionary government.
For an image of the Georgia signers, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
August 2: this was the day the Declaration of Independence was formally signed by all the delegates to the Second Continental Congress, including the three Georgia delegates remaining - Button Gwinett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton.
In February, delegates to a Georgia constitutional convention meeting in Savannah adopted Georgia’s first state constitution. As part of this constitution, Georgia’s parishes were replaced by counties. (See Related GeiorgiaInfo articles for text of Constitution)
British ships blockaded the port of Savannah.
Georgia’s first official state legislature met in Savannah in May; John Treutlen was elected as Georgia’s first governor.
For more on Button Gwinnett, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Button Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh engaged in a duel; both men were wounded. McIntosh recovered, but Gwinnett died three days later. His death so soon after signing the Declaration of Independence has made his signature one of the more valuable ones of all the signers.
John Houstoun began his term as Georgia governor, becoming the first native born Georgian to serve in that position.
The British recaptured Savannah; James Wright returned to assume his duties as royal governor.
The British captured Augusta one month after capturing Savannah, putting Georgia in danger of falling totally back under royal control. The Revolutionary government formed a Supreme Executive Council to handle matters during the British occupation.
For more on the Battle of Kettle Creek, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
On February 14, Georgia and South Carolina Patriots, under the leadership of Elijah Clarke, defeated the British Loyalists at the Battle of Kettle Creek. While it was not a large military operation, the victory did help secure support for the Patriot cause and solidify resistance to the British in the Georgia back country, while the two largest cities were under British control.
The British won a victory at the Battle of Brier Creek near Augusta, temporarily helping to secure their control of that city.
John Wereat was elected president of the Supreme Executive Council.
French naval commander Count D’Estaing arrived off the coast of Georgia with 22 ships and 4000 soldiers to attempt a siege of Savannah. In the military operations that followed Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman fighting for the Patriot cause, was mortally wounded, dying two days later. The Patriot attempt to take Savannah failed.
For more on Nancy Hart, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
A legendary event in early Georgia history occurred this year, or did it? According to legend, a group of Tories was captured (one actually killed) by Patriot woman Nancy Hart. They had supposedly entered Hart’s home and demanded she cook for them, while bragging about killing one of Hart’s neighbors, John Dooly (he was killed in 1780). According to the story, Hart was trying to sneak the Tories’ guns through a hole in the wall, but when she was caught she used one of the guns to kill one of the Tories, then injured another, before holding the others at bay until her husband returned home. Then the Tories were hanged for their killing of Dooly. While nothing was officially reported about this event, it was passed down among family members, but not published until 1848. There has been much speculation on whether it actually happened, but the story was given credence in 1912, when railroad workers, digging at a site near the location of Hart’s cabin, unearthed the remains of six men who had been buried in shallow graves. While the accuracy of the Hart story cannot be conclusively proven, it is apparent that Hart was a fiercely loyal Partriot. She is also reported to have acted as a spy for Patriot leaders like Elijah Clarke, even going so far as to dress up as a man. She and her husband may have even been involved in the Battle of Kettle Creek. Nancy Hart subsequently became the first woman in the nation to have a county named for her.
As the Patriot government was kept on the run by the British, Heard’s Fort in what is now Wilkes County was used as a temporary seat of government by the Supreme Executive Council.
Stephen Heard became president of the Supreme Executive Council.
Johann De Kalb, a German who had come with Lafayette to aid the American cause, was killed fighting in South Carolina. DeKalb County would eventually be named for him.
Future Georgia governor George Troup was born.
Future Georgia representative, senator, and U.S. ambassador John Forsyth was born in Virginia.
Robert Grier, of Grier’s Almanac fame, was born.
Noted Georgia entrepreneur Farish Carter was born in South Carolina.
Augusta was retaken by Patriot forces under the leadership of Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, Andrew Pickens, and Elijah Clarke.
Nathan Brownson became governor of Georgia.
Future prominent Georgia politician John Berrien was born in New Jersey.
Future Georgia representative and senator, then Alabama governor, William Wyatt Bibb was born in Virginia.
A Continental Army, under the command of General Anthony Wayne, arrived in Georgia. They were able to outmaneuver the British in several small encounters, capturing vital provisions along the way. Eventually, most of Georgia outside of Savannah was back under Patriot control.
In May the British general in charge of all forces in America ordered the evacuation of Savannah. The final evacuation of Savannah by British troops began on July 10; the city was formally surrendered to Patriot Colonel James Jackson on July 11. This effectively ended the American Revolution in Georgia.
The Georgia legislature confiscated the property of 280 Loyalists and banished them from Georgia.
American and British negotiators reached agreement on preliminary articles to end the war of the American Revolution. Foremost among these articles was British recognition of American independence.
The American Revolution officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783). Not only did Britain acknowledge American independence, but the details of the treaty also laid out the southern border of the United States. With Georgia being the southernmost of all the states (at that time), the treaty thus established Georgia’s southern border.
Some Creek Indians agreed to the Treaty of Augusta, which ceded the lands between the Oconee and Ogeechee Rivers to Georgia. Some Creeks opposed the treaty though, and contested its validity; it would not become final until 1790.
Lyman Hall began his term as Georgia governor.
Abraham Baldwin moved to Georgia; he would become one of the state’s leading citizens and be very instrumental in events during the rest of this decade.
Future Georgia governor Wilson Lumpkin was born in Virginia.
The Continental Congress formally ratified the Treaty of Paris (1783).
New legislation was passed on distributing public lands, increasing the number of acres available per family.
The House of Assembly passed, and the governor signed, a piece of legislation setting aside 40,000 acres in recently ceded lands for two new counties and “a college or seminary of learning.”
John Houstoun began his second term as Georgia governor.
Merchant Joseph Clay wrote a letter describing how Georgia was recovering from the Revolution.
One year earlier land had been set aside for “a college of seminary or learning” to be established on lands ceded by the Creek Indians to Georgia. Abraham Baldwin proposed a charter for a University of Georgia; in January of 1785 the charter was enacted into law, making the University of Georgia the nation’s first state chartered university.
John Adams became the United States’ first official ambassador to Great Britain. One of the first people he met upon his arrival there was 88 year old James Oglethorpe. The two had a pleasant meeting, and Adams soon returned the visit to Oglethorpe. But soon thereafter Oglethorpe fell ill and within a few days he died.
The newspaper the Augusta Gazette began publication; it would eventually become the Augusta Chronicle, still in publication today.
Georgia’s last, and ablest, royal governor - James Wright - died in Great Briain.
Two treaties were signed - the Treaty of Galphinton with the Creeks and the Treaty of Hopewell with the Cherokees. These treaties acknowledged the boundaries which had been set by previous treaties.
Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene was granted a plantation near Savannah in honor of his military service; he named it Mulberry Grove.
For an image of the old government house in Augusta, see the Digital Library of Georgia.
The Georgia capital was officially moved from Savannah to Augusta.
After sporadic battles and an actual declaration of war by the Creek Indians, the Treaty of Shoulderbone Creek was signed, in which the Creeks reaffirmed the Treaty of Augusta (1783) and the Treaty of Galphinton (1785).
Future Georgia governor and congressman William Schley was born in Maryland.
Edward Telfair began his first term as Georgia governor.
Georgia named six men to attend a convention in Philadelphia intended to amend the Articles of Confederation. The six Georgia delegates were William Few, Abraham Baldwin, William Pierce, George Walton, William Houston, and Nathaniel Pendleton.
The convention convened in May. It soon became apparent that much more was needed than amending the Articles of Confederation; the delegates began discussions and debates on forming a new national government. While there were many disagreements along the way, probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome was the issue of representation - the smaller states wanted equal representation for each state; the larger states wanted representation based on population. The convention almost broke up over this matter in July, until a vote was taken to adjourn while a possible compromise could be reached. Georgia’s Abraham Baldwin cast the deciding vote allowing the temporary adjournment. In the intervening time, the “Great Compromise” was devised, in which there would be two houses of the Federal government, one based on population (House of Representatives) and one with each state having equal representation (Senate).
The new Federal Constitution was approved by the convention in September.
A convention meeting in Beaufort, SC settled a boundary dispute between Georgia and South Carolina.
George Mathews served his term as Georgia governor.
In January, Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the new Federal Constitution. It became official when it was ratified by nine states (New Hampshire being the ninth) in June. (See GeorgiaInfo Related articles for text of ratification ordinance)
The Georgia legislature called for a convention to draft a new state constitution along the lines of the Federal Constitution.
The nation’s first Baptist church for African-Americans was established in Savannah.
William Longstreet and Isaac Briggs were granted a patent (by the Georgia legislature) for a steam engine. They would successfully power a boat with one in 1807, just days after Robert Fulton has successfully done the same in New York.
George Handley served as Georgia governor.
To view the Constitution of 1789, see the Georgia Archives.
A convention had begun meeting in November of the previous year to draw up a new Georgia constitution. In May a convention assembled in Augusta to consider any amendments to the proposed constitution, and to consider approving it. They acted quickly, ratifying the new constitution within two days.
The United States Congress held its first official meeting in New York City. Present from Georgia were Representatives James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and George Mathews, along with Senators William Few and James Gunn. The Congress welcomed the nation’s first president when George Washington took the oath of office.
In November President George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving in honor of the new United States Constitution. Later presidents would do the same for significant events, until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln designated the fourth Thursday of each November as a national Thanksgiving Day.
See the text of the Treaty of New York.
The Treaty of New York was signed between the Creek Indians and the United States. The treaty formally ceded the lands between the Oconee and Ogeechee Rivers to Georgia. Earlier treaties had ostensibly done the same, but they were opposed by some Creeks. With the Treaty of New York, the land cession was official.
Future Georgia governor George Gilmer was born.
Future politician, jurist, and author Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was born.
Future Cherokee leader John Ross was born.
Georgia signer of the Declaration of Independence Lyman Hall died.
The first United State Census was taken; Georgia reported a population of 82,548 - 52,886 white and 29,662 black.
President George Washington, touring all thirteen states “to acquire knowledge of the face of the country, the growth and agriculture thereof - and the temper and disposition of the inhabitants toward the new government,” visited Georgia from May 12-May 21. See In Their Own Words entries for those dates for his personal accounts of his visit to Georgia.
The Treaty of Holston, designed to perpetuate peace between the two nations, was signed by the Cherokee Nation and the United States.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution - the Bill of Rights - went into effect.
The first Treaty of Philadelphia was signed between the Cherokee Nation and the United States. It was an addendum to the Treaty of Holston signed the previous year, the Treaty of Philadelphia reset a price paid by the U.S. for the Cherokees relinquishing land.
Eli Whitney graduated from Yale and was promptly hired by Catherine Greene, widow of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, to come to Georgia and tutor her children at their Mulberry Grove plantation near Savannah.
For an image of the house where the cotton gin was invented, see the Digital Library of Georgia.
Eli Whitney had been hired the previous year to tutor Catherine Greene‘s children. While living in Georgia he learned that cotton was not a big cash crop because producing it was so labor intensive. The cotton seeds had to be removed from the fiber by hand, a slow, difficult process. So he started trying to devise a machine that would do the same thing, but faster and more efficiently. In June of 1793 he applied for a patent on his machine - the cotton gin. It would revolutionize agriculture in the South, making the mass production of cotton possible. Unfortunately it would also help lead to the need for more slaves to plant, weed, and harvest the cotton.
George Mathews was sworn in for his second term as governor of Georgia.
Future Georgia governor and Supreme Court justice Charles J. McDonald was born in South Carolina.
Noted educator Alonzo Church was born in Vermont. He would serve for thirty years as President of the University of Georgia.
Revolutionary War military leader Elijah Clarke, posing as a French agent, led a group of settlers across the Oconee River to establish what came to be called the Trans-Oconee Republic. But the land had not yet been ceded to Georgia and the United States, so governor George Mathews ordered that the settlers be removed from the land and Clarke arrested for his actions.
Another Treaty of Philadelphia was signed with the Cherokees, fine tuning some matters in the two previous treaties.
Land speculators began serious efforts to convince the Georgia governor and legislature to sell large parcels of land along the Yazoo River on Georgia’s western frontier (land now in Alabama and Mississippi) to them cheaply. Governor Mathews resisted these efforts, indicating more citizen input was needed. Thus began one of the most infamous scandals in Georgia history - the Yazoo Land Fraud.
Agents for four land speculation companies bribed many Georgia legislators into selling them 35 million acres of land along the Yazoo River for an incredibly cheap price of less than two cents an acre! They then sold the land to other speculators and to private citizens, realizing huge profits in the process. When word of the Yazoo Land Fraud became public, Georgia citizens were outraged and many of the bribed legislators fled the state. James Jackson, then serving Georgia as a United States Senator, resigned his seat to come back to Georgia to help deal with the scandal.
A treaty between Spain and the United States settled the border between Georgia and West Florida (at that time Spanish territory).
Jared Irwin was elected governor by the General Assemby, and one of the first actions taken was to pass (and Governor Irwin signed) an act repealing the Yazoo Act from the previous year. Not only was the act officially repealed, but it was ordered that all existing copies of the Yazoo Act be destroyed. The legislature was true to their word in this case, as a copy of the act was burned on the grounds of the state legislature, calling on a fire from heaven (sun’s rays through a magnifying glass) to destroy the infamous piece of legislation. But the people who had bought land under the act did not want to give up their claims, thus the case was tied up in the courts for many years, ultimately reaching the United States Supreme Court. The scandal did not finally end until 1814 when the federal government took control of the lands in dispute and paid off all of the Yazoo claims.
The capital city was moved to Louisville.
The Treaty of Colerain was signed between the Creek Indians and the United States, in which the Creeks reaffirmed earlier land sessions and agreed to relinquish all claims to lands east of the Appalachee River.
Revolutionary War leader John Houstoun died in Savannah.
Benjamin Hawkins was appointed United States Indian agent for Indian affairs south of the Ohio River. He would serve very ably in this position for twenty years, with much of his work coming on the Georgia frontier.
For more letters of Benjamin Hawkins, see the Digital Library of Georgia.
Benjamin Hawkins began his work in earnest dealing with Indian affairs south of the Ohio River. Much of his work would be done in Georgia, especially among the Creek Indians. His journal and letters provide us with a good perspective on his diligence for his work and of what life was like on the Georgia frontier at the time. See In Their Own Words for Jan. 7, Feb. 2, Feb. 5, Feb. 16, Feb. 18, March 8, Sept. 14, Sept. 24, Oct. 2, Nov. 7, Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 for excerpts from his journal and letters from 1797.
James Jackson, who had served as a military leader in the Revolutionaray War and who had resigned a Senate seat to come home and fight the Yazoo Act, was elected governor.
A convention met in the state capital of Louisville to adopt a new state constitution.
Future judge and author Garnett Andrews was born in Wilkes County.
Future Georgia governor George Crawford was born in Columbia County.
Georgia adopted its first state seal.
Joseph Henry Lumpkin was born in Oglethorpe County. He would eventually become Georgia’s first Supreme Court Justice, and would found the University of Georgia Law School.
Revolutionary politician John Wereat died in Bryan County.
Revolutionary War military leader Elijah Clarke died in Richmond County.
Ellicott’s Mound was erected at the head of the St. Marys River to mark the boundary between Georgia and Florida.
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