Important Moments in Atlanta’s Past
Atlanta begins in 1821. At that point, one of the many Native tribes in the area, the Creek, owned much of the land that now houses the Atlanta metro area. The United States was working hard to expand and grow and convinced the Creek to cede their land to the state. They did so, and 5 years later Archibald Holland was given the land that now houses downtown Atlanta.
Atlanta has always been a commerce and travel hub, even from the day it was born. In 1837 the Zero Mile Post, also called “Terminus”, was created as a railroad connection spot. The state chose to build a rail line from Terminus into the midwestern parts of the United States. While there are a number of factors that led the state to choose that spot, it didn’t take long before a city sprung up around it.
It was in 1839 after the railroad was finally finished when a store and several homes were built nearby. The store was built to serve those who were boarding or disembarking, allowing them to stock up on supplies. People who worked for the railroad moved into the houses, and by 1854 there were 4 connecting lines that met at the station. By then, Atlanta had become the main connection point for all of southern United States.
Atlanta During the Civil War
Atlanta was a major business and transport hub, which meant it was an important part of the Confederate supply line. Since Georgia was one of the states that went to war to maintain ownership of slaves, Atlanta quickly became a major Union target.
There were an estimated 9,554 people living in Atlanta during the civil war, though those numbers are a bit misleading. Some of that population was made of slaves, who had no rights or privileges and weren’t actually citizens. There were free black people counted, as well. However, free black people weren’t allowed to live in the city limits without the city council’s written permission. It’s uncertain how many non-African people lived within the city limits at the time.
Even so, Atlanta was hardly a big supporter of the Confederate cause. The city was a financial transportation hub. This meant most of the people who lived there were business people and those who had moved in from other states. Owning slaves didn’t especially benefit them while being able to trade with the northern states did.
In fact, many citizens of the city cast their vote for the Union candidates for president. Unfortunately, Georgia as a state chose to secede in January of 1861 in spite of the majority of Atlanta disagreeing. By the middle to end of that year, the few Union supporting families – estimated at around 100 families altogether – were being pressured to leave. There were even groups that made it their sole purpose to find Union spies and make sure they couldn’t spy any longer. It didn’t take long before the Union loyalists got out of town for their own safety.
Either way, it was in 1864 that the Union army, under the command of General William Sherman, marched through the city. After fighting off the Confederate army protecting the city, Sherman had the entire area burned to the ground. The only things left untouched were the churches and the hospitals.
In an effort to ensure the Confederacy couldn’t make use of Atlanta’s resources, Sherman even had companies still owned by Union loyalists destroyed as well. As far as he was concerned, his job was to ensure the Confederacy could never rise again.
It worked. The Union victory over Atlanta not only helped Abraham Lincoln win the presidency, it eventually proved to be the first nail in the Confederacy’s coffin. Without its biggest transport and financial hub, there was simply no way the south could recover.
Atlanta In The Modern Era
The war ended, and citizens began to move back home in 1864-1865. The city was in ruins, but they worked to get the railroad up and running once again. By the end of 1865, all five rail lines were running once again. By the time 1900 rolled around Atlanta had 15 rail lines. It’s estimated that 150 trains came through the city every day.
Several major events happened during those 35 years. In 1868 Atlanta became the state capital. By 1880 an estimated 1/3 of the city’s economic infrastructure was tied up in manufacturing. And by 1890 Atlanta grew to the top of the list in terms of regional commercial development.
It would be impossible to touch on every major historical point in Atlanta’s past. Many of the largest events involved race relations, such as colleges dedicated to higher education for African Americans being built and in 1921 the first African American high school was built. While this was later found to be a way to segregate black people from white people, it was a step up from what they’d had originally.
From the founding of the city all the way to today, Atlanta has been a major economic and transport hub. It still boasts a number of railroad connections, and a huge number of wholesale and retail products are shipped through. It also boasts the largest number of federal agencies outside of Washington D.C.
If nothing else, Atlanta has always been and will always be an amazing city.