Why Is Atlanta the Capital of Georgia?

(Last Updated On: November 19, 2019)
Why Is Atlanta the Capital of Georgia?

Known for its diversity of landscapes, the state of Georgia has a lot of natural beauty. It’s located in the southeastern part of the United States, west of the Atlantic Ocean, and borders Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. You’ll find lots of rivers, beaches, and mountains, like the forested Blue Ridge, in this stunning state. 

Georgia has a population of around 10.6 million people, and is home to many prominent cities, including Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta, and Columbus. Atlanta is the largest city in the state, with a population of about 498,044 people. Atlanta is also the capital of Georgia.

Georgia has actually had five capitals in total though. So how did the state finally come to settle on Atlanta? Was it because of the high population, or something else? Let’s explore more about the history of Georgia to find out.

How many Georgia cities can you name? Quiz yourself here!

The Capital of Georgia

The area around modern-day Georgia had been home to various Native American tribes for thousands of years. The Spanish would be the first Europeans to arrive, coming in the 16th century, but focusing mainly on mission work when they found no gold. 

The English would come in the 1730s, led by James Oglethorpe, a British MP. He would help establish the colony of “Georgia”, named after George II of Great Britain. The first wave of settlers would arrive in what would become the colony’s first capital, Savannah.

As one of the 13 Colonies, Georgia would take part in the American Revolution. It was during this conflict that Savannah would fall to the British. Georgia’s government fled to Augusta, and for the next few years the capital would rotate between Savannah and Augusta. But in 1783, needing a permanent seat of government, lawmakers would formally make Augusta the sole capital of Georgia. 

However, many felt Augusta was located too far east, and so in 1786 the legislature appointed a commission to find a new site for a centrally located capital. It would take 10 years, but finally the capital of Georgia would move to the newly constructed Louisville (named in honor of the French King, who had assisted the Colonists in the Revolutionary War). 

Louisville’s stint as capital wouldn’t last long, however. As more Native lands were stolen, the state would expand. With malaria proving to be an issue in Louisville, soon there were calls for a new capital even further inland. In 1804, Milledgeville, named after Georgia governor John Milledge, became the new capital of Georgia. It remained the capital until 1868, including during the American Civil War.

Why is Atlanta the Capital of Georgia?

After the 1821 Indian Removal Act, the Muscogee (among others) were forcibly removed from their land by the federal government. This paved the way for white settlers to take over land in the northeastern part of Georgia. Atlanta would be established in 1836 as a rail link between the Chattahoochee River and the Tennessee River. The industrial growth of Atlanta would lead to almost immediate calls that it should be the capital.

Following the American Civil War, much of Atlanta, and the entire state, had to be gradually rebuilt. Jobs in Atlanta attracted an even greater wave of new residents. With a superior rail and transportation network, the Reconstruction government voted to move the capital of Georgia from Milledgeville to Atlanta in 1868.

Today Atlanta remains Georgia’s fifth, and final, capital.

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Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of Sporcle.com. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.