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1999 Georgia Stamp Location had long history

The 1999 Georgia waterfowl stamp features a pair of drake pintails over a flooded field just off the Conasauga River. Located near present-day Calhoun, Ga., it is an area rich in the history of the great Coosa people, the Cherokee Indians and early explorations of DeSoto.

The featured drake pintails, by Jerry Raedke, are birds of subtle yet elegant color the tuxedoed gentlemen of the waterfowl world. Today, biologists are concerned that the pintail is not enjoying the same recovery as most other waterfowl and in Georgia the pintail represents less than one percent of the waterfowl harvest.

In the background of the painting a tree line marks the banks of the Conasauga River, an area with some of the richest history in all of America. It was to this place that DeSoto, the first European explorer, came in 1540, searching for the supposed gold of the Coosa empire, a huge Federation which at that time was the largest in all of North America, numbering in the many thousands of people, stretching from what is now northern Alabama into mid-Tennessee. Gold was not found but the Spanish kidnapped some of the Coosa people and took them all the way to Mexico City, arriving in 1543.

Twenty years later a second expedition left from Mexico City, including some of the captured Coosa, under the direction of DeLuna, intending to reach the Capital of the Coosa and start a colony. Their goal was not obtained. However, when the kidnapped Coosas returned they thought that their memories of home had been a dream as they surveyed what was left in such a short time period, of a place devastated by European disease.

At this point, a modern footnote needs to be added. In 1986, what has been termed "the most important artifact ever found in Georgia" was unearthed in the hands of a buried Coosa child along the Coosawatte River not far from its junction with the Conasauga River and the scene of the painting. The discovery was a copper plate filled with Aztec inscriptions, which experts traced, to the DeLuna expedition coming all the way from Mexico City and confirming the location of the Coosa Capital and the center of the far-reaching Federation.

Ironically, it was this very same ground, somewhat later, that became the center of the Cherokee nation. And it was here that the sad saga of the "Trail of Tears" had its tragic beginning.

Now, as the two drake pintails in the stamp glide over the Conasauga and Coosawatte Rivers, a story unfolds that spans 1,500 miles to Mexico City, the earliest European explorers, the cultures of the amazing Cooosa people and Cherokee nation, and 400 years of American history.


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