MARIETTA, Ga., June 13, 2014 – Hundreds of Georgia State Defense Force members, family members and friends gathered together at the Marietta Hotel & Conference Center to celebrate the GSDF’s birthday. The conference center location has an inspiring history. The cannon that announced the beginning of the GSDF Birthday Ball was originally deployed by the Georgia Military Institute that was established in 1851.
The ball featured the guest speakers Brig. Gen. John King, Director of the Joint Staff, and the GSDF Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Tom Danielson. The birthday ball was emceed by 76th Support Brigade Commander Col. Eddie Williams, organized by the 1st Brigade Commander Col. Brad Bryant and the Aide-de-Camp Maj. Cathy Page.
GSDF has a long history – In 1733, when James Oglethorpe established the thirteenth American colony of Georgia he knew that the threat of a Spanish invasion from Florida was imminent. In response he organized and trained a militia force in the colony that would be ready to respond at the first sign of aggression from any outsider. In 1742, Oglethorpe’s fear was realized when Spanish forces under the command of General Manuel de Montiano invaded the colony of Georgia. The Spanish attacked a force of British Regulars and Georgia Militia under Oglethorpe’s command and were soundly beaten back forcing a full scale retreat by the Spanish back to Florida. Due to the overwhelming defeat, this Battle of Bloody Marsh was the first and only attempt by Spanish forces to invade Georgia.
The Georgia Militia was again called upon to defend Georgia during the American Revolution. Georgia militiamen fought long and hard against British Regulars and loyalist forces in a deeply divided Georgia back country and throughout the south for American Independence. In 1779, Georgia militiamen alongside those from South Carolina surprised and defeated a superior force of loyalists at the Battle of Kettle Creek near Washington, Georgia. After the American Revolution, Georgia continued to maintain an active militia force throughout the 19th century. In 1836, a battalion of Georgia militia aided Texas’ freedom fighters in their fight against Mexican forces during the Texas Revolution.
In 1861, when civil war broke out in the United States, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown activated numerous recruiting drives throughout the state to bolster the strength of the Georgia Militia. Although Brown tried to maintain his militia forces within state boundaries many Georgia units were called up to join larger armies established by the Confederate government. Throughout the war, Georgia sent the second largest number of volunteers to fight for the Confederacy (only eclipsed by Virginia). These volunteers took an active role in almost every front during the American Civil War. In 1864 as Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman organized a large force of Northern troops in Chattanooga to begin his invasion of Georgia, militia units joined other Confederate troops in a gallant attempt to defend Georgia, as well as Atlanta. After the fall of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, Sherman drove deep into the heart of Georgia, pushing towards Savannah. At the Battle of Griswoldville, near Macon, Georgia militiamen put up the only substantial resistance to Sherman’s March to the Sea when a force of militia attempted to slow the Federal onslaught.
During World War I, the Georgia Militia was again called upon to serve the state. During this activation Militia units were assigned to guard key military targets around the state and take an active role in patrolling the Georgia coastline. In the 1940’s, Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers activated the Georgia Militia under a new name, the Georgia State Defense Corps. In addition to guarding key military targets in Georgia during World War II the State Defense Corps was also assigned to undergo training that would necessitate preventing an invasion by one of the Axis powers. As World War II came to a close, the State Defense Corps, under a new nom de plume, the Georgia State Guard reached a record strength of almost 5,000.
In 1947, the Georgia State Guard was inactivated and remained inactive for the next thirty seven years. It was not until 1985 that a new breath of life was given to the State Guard when it was reactivated and authorized as the Georgia State Defense Force. Since its reactivation, the Georgia State Defense Force has served the citizens of Georgia alongside the Georgia National Guard in every mission given from search and rescue to natural disaster relief. Currently the Georgia State Defense Force supports the state in the wake of the federal activation of the Georgia National Guard in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Throughout its history, the Georgia State Defense Force has played numerous different roles in the state’s proud history. Whether as an armed force or in a support role, the primary mission of the Georgia State Defense Force has not changed in more than two hundred seventy years as it continues to be “ready to serve” the needs of State of Georgia and its citizens.
Story by Capt. Vadim Timchenko
Photos courtesy of Julie Paulk
Georgia State Defense Force