State, southeast-central U.S. Area: 42,143 sq mi (109,150 sq km). Pop. (2009 est.): 6,296,254. Capital: Nashville. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia to the north, North Carolina to the east, Alabama and Mississippi to the south, and Arkansas and Missouri to the west. The Great Smoky Mountains edge the eastern part of the state, while the Mississippi River is on its western boundary. The Tennessee River valley dominates much of the state, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is the nation's largest electric-power generating system. Tennessee has a moderate climate; about half of it is forested. American Indians, including Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Shawnee, inhabited the region when Spanish, French, and English explorers visited it in the 16th–17th centuries. It was included in the British charter of Carolina and in the French Louisiana claim and was ceded to Great Britain after the French and Indian War. The first permanent settlement was made c. 1770. It was part of North Carolina until 1785, when the area's settlers broke away and formed the free state of Franklin. North Carolina relinquished its claim in 1789, and Tennessee became the 16th U.S. state in 1796. In 1861 it seceded from the Union; the hard-fought American Civil War battles of Shiloh, Chattanooga, Stones River, and Nashville occurred there. In 1866 it was the first state readmitted to the Union. During the Reconstruction era, blacks lost what little power they had gained. After World War II Tennessee became a testing ground for those involved in the civil rights movement. The state's economy is based on manufacturing.