Augusta is the principal city of the Augusta-Richmond County Metropolitan Statistical Area, which as of 2012 had an estimated population of 580,270, making it the third-largest city and the second-largest metro area in the state after Atlanta. It is the 116th-largest city in the United States. Internationally, Augusta is best known for hosting The Masters golf tournament each spring.
The area along the river was long inhabited by varying cultures of indigenous peoples, who relied on the river for fish, water and transportation. The site of Augusta was used by Native Americans as a place to cross the Savannah River, because of its location on the fall line.
In 1735, two years after James Oglethorpe founded Savannah, he sent a detachment of troops to explore up the Savannah River. He gave them an order to build at the head of the navigable part of the river. The expedition was led by Noble Jones, who created the settlement to provide a first line of defense for coastal areas against potential Spanish or French invasion from the interior. Oglethorpe named the town Augusta, in honor of Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales and mother of the future King George III of the United Kingdom. Augusta was the second state capital of Georgia from 1785 until 1795 (alternating for a period with Savannah, the first).
Augusta developed rapidly as a market town along with the development of the Black Belt in the Piedmont of Georgia; large cotton plantations for short-staple cotton were developed and generated great revenue from slave labor after the invention of the cotton gin made cultivation of short-staple cotton more profitable. Many of the slaves were brought from the Lowcountry, where their Gullah culture had developed on the large Sea Island cotton and rice plantations.