Primary sources allow students to study all aspects of Georgia’s Civil War period. Despite the destructive forces of war and time, excellent primary documents from this period still remain. The economic, social, and political issues debated leading up to the Civil War come to life in political speeches, newspaper articles, broadsides, legislation, etc. The experience of war is revealed in images, diaries, letters, and reminiscences of those who lived through the period. Historians use the term “watershed” to describe the most significant and impactful events in history. For example, historians studying Ireland debate whether or not the famine from the 1840s was a watershed event or not. A similar debate could be held on whether or not the Civil War was a watershed event in Georgia’s history. After studying the Civil War through primary and secondary sources, students should be able to give a clear argument as to what extent they believe the Civil War was a watershed event. With this framework in mind, students can approach the primary sources and secondary sources they read with purpose and direction. This primary source set includes five primary sources related to this period.
This decade or so following the Civil War was an unprecedented time in political history, bringing black southerners, many of whom were enslaved only years earlier, to local, state, and national offices. Moreover, the technological innovations of the 19th century allow students to see photographs commemorating progress, such as black politicians, as well as mementos, such as the Confederate Seal below, glorifying the Old South of antebellum and the Confederacy. The primary sources below will bring Reconstruction alive and demonstrate the importance of the years immediately following the Civil War.
The primary sources of the New South include many references to agriculture and the growth of the cotton industry in Georgia. This agricultural resurgence was one of the defining factors of Georgia’s New South, and GHS provides resources, such as the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition to demonstrate the gravity of this moment. Moreover, this set includes many opposing viewpoints on race, lynching, and the state of Georgia following Reconstruction. These views also shed light on the future of Georgia in the New South, a period of technological and agricultural growth.
Georgia’s early years as a state were marked by expansion and growth. Georgia’s population grew after the Revolutionary period and the white population looked west for more elbow room. New technologies like the cotton gin and steam-powered rail led to expansion and growth of Georgia’s economy. It was in this period that cotton became king of the South, Georgia being no exception. Several defining historic events occurred during this period including, the Yazoo land frauds, the founding of the University of Georgia, the discovery of gold in North Georgia, the spread of Baptist and Methodist churches, the creation of a Cherokee syllabary, and the Trail of Tears.
In 1732, the British crown granted the Georgia Trustees a charter to establish the colony of Georgia in the debated territory between British Carolina and Spanish Florida. The colony was governed by a board of men called the Georgia Trustees from 1732-1752. In 1752, the Georgia Trustees gave over control of the colony to the British government and Georgia became a Royal colony. By this time, the original philanthropic goals of the Trustees had given way under the weight of harsh conditions in the Colony, and the colonists had fallen into line with South Carolina’s economic plan with production of rice, lumber, naval stores and indigo. This type of agriculture was supported by the lifting of the ban on slavery in the colony of Georgia in 1750 and the easing of land policies.
Georgia’s human history begins thousands of years before February 12, 1733, when James Oglethorpe arrived with the first settlers on the banks of the Savannah River. The available sources from this period present a challenge for students of Georgia’s history. How do we study societies without written languages? What can we learn about early Spanish activity in Georgia when there are no remains and few records left behind? What can we trust from early accounts of European explorers? Historians have faced these challenges by integrating archeological research with a careful examination and scrutiny of the written material existing from Georgia’s earliest human history.
Georgia has a complex and interesting story in the American Revolution. Georgia had experienced growth and prosperity as a royal colony and its citizens were deeply divided over issues of independence. Even the Whigs who supported independence from Great Britain had an internal struggle between the radical and conservative leaders. Relations with the Creek and Cherokee population on the Western frontiers added another layer of complexity to Revolutionary War Georgia. Letters, official documents, journals, newspaper articles, and other primary sources offer an opportunity to gain a richer more varied understanding of this volatile time in Georgia’s history.