South Carolina State, and Secession Flags


State flag

        According to Confederate Army Regulations infantry units were to carry only one flag, or colour.  In practice many units appear to have carried both a National or Battle Flag and a State flag.  The Palmetto Sharpshooters along with their Battle Flag carried the State Flag.
        In 1765 opponents of the 'Stamp Act' marched in protest behind a blue flag bearing three white crescents.
        In 1775 Colonel William Moultrie was asked by the 'Revolutionary Council of Safety' to design a flag for the South Carolina troops.  Moultre's design had a blue field and bore a crescent or new moon.  This matched the blue of the troops uniforms and the silver crescent emblem on their hats.  Although there are other interpretations of the crescent one is that it represents a gorget, the ornamental plate worn on a chain by officers of the time.
        On 20 December 1860 with the secession of South Carolina from the Union a National flag was needed.  After considering many designs the decision was to keep Moultrie's flag but to add a Palmetto tree.  The addition of the tree was to signify the defense of the palmetto log fort on Sullivan's Island, 28 June 1776, just six days prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The cannon balls of the British warships having little effect on the logs.  (A proposition in 1899 to change the field to 'royal purple' to commemorate the Confederate dead was defeated).  This flag became the National flag of the Republic of South Carolina.
        A resolution in 1899 to change the field from blue to royal purple to commemorate the Confederate dead was defeated.
        Flags depicting palmetto trees are mentioned in the South Carolina Militia Act of 1839, although these sometimes had red fields and not blue.  Also in the mid 1840's the Palmetto Regiment, from the Mexican War, carried flags of this type. 
        A South Carolina statute states that any person who mutilates, injures or desecrates the flag, wherever displayed, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.  They will be punished by a fine of $100 or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days or both.


State flag (Alternative Design)

       There are written sources, engravings, and a photograph taken in 1911, that show there was an alternative, and possibly original, design in which the intent was for the crescent to face upward, so it could be safe to say that Moultrie's original flag did likewise.  The crescent pins worn as the hat badges of the South Carolina troops also faced this way and these were the inspiration for the crescent on the flag.  It was only later that the accepted positioning became predominant.  Flags of the time have the crescent as we know it but some most definitely had it as depicted.. 


1, 2or 3 day State flag?

        On 26 January 1861 the State’s legislature adopted the above flag with a golden Palmetto, upright.On 28 January this was modified to a simple white palmetto tree on a dark blue field.  Other information suggests from one to three days.  


A Secession flag?

        This flag now resides in the Texas State Library and Archives.  Here it awaits conservation.  The crescent moon, like the single star, was a symbol popular in the South, especially in South Carolina and Louisiana.


Sovereignty flag

       While the South had support all over the Union this was raised over the Alumni Hall at Yale University by Southern sympathizers on 20 January 1861.  This is also claimed that this was an early flag to be the flag flown in South Carolina shortly after her secession on 20th December 1860.


Big Red (Spirit flag)

       This is the flag of the 'South Carolina Military Institute', known as The Citadel.  The Citadel's Cadet Corps were stationed on Morris Island manning a sand battery comprised of four guns and fired warning shots at. the Federal supply steamer, 'Star of the West' when it attempted to supply Fort Sumter.  The ship turned back so avoiding the start of the war at the time.  The flag had been presented to them by the ladies of Hugh E. Vincent.  (The Vincent family owned much of the island).  J. O. Foster, at the time, said that 'The troops...are quartered in the buildings constituting the small-pox hospital, over one of which their flag is flying, a red field with white palmetto tree upon it.'  A report in the 'Official Records' tells us  that 'the flag on Fort Johnson is similar, as is also the one on Castle Pinckney'. Big Red is on loan for four years from the State Historical Society of Iowa at The Citadel.


Palmetto Guard flag

        With the entry of the victorious Confederate troops into Fort Sumter Private John S. Byrd, hung the militia unit banner of the Palmetto Guard over the wall facing Charleston.  The original is now on display at Fort Sumter having stayed in Byrd's family until it was donated to the National Park Service in 1979. The same, or similar flags were raised, so The 'Charleston Mercury' tell us, at the at the offices of 'Messrs E. Lafitte and Company' on Savannah Packet wharf.  J. O. Foster stated 'that on Fort Moultrie is a white field with a green palmetto tree and a red star in the corner. '   Some of the similar flags had no star, and as other States succeeded some added additional stars.  Most, we can only assume, were not so crudely made. 

 
Charleston Custom House flag

       The day after South Carolina seceded a red flag, with two tails, a large white star and an upside down crescent moon at the top by the flag staff was raised over the Charleston Custom House.  It then spread to other cities as a symbol of secession.  Needless to say with the adoption of the South Carolina National Flag it had a brief life.  The original flag was 68" x 92".  It was subsequently flown on the C.S.S. Dixie.


Flag of the 'Cecile'

        Hoisted by Captain Peck, of the 'Cecile', when hosting a dinner aboard for Messrs. Lafitte and Company.  The flag was greeted with much enthusiasm.  As recorded in the 'Charleston Mercury', 7 December 1860.


Chafee and Knauff flag

        This one was flown by Messrs Chafee and Knauff, 135 East Bay.  Stated to be a flag with a red field, a yellow palmetto tree, and in the center a lone star and a crescent.


Railroad Accommodation Wharf flag

         Two flags were raised at the Railroad Accommodation Wharf this is one of them.  'They were made by some of the fairest daughters of Carolina.'  In the 'New York Times',  20 November 1860.


Thomas Flynn flag

        Outside Thomas Flynn's Southern Exchange, Market Street. (The colour of the tree and stars is not mentioned).  In the 'Charleston Mercury', 8 November 1860.


Merchants hotel flag

        Erected to the left of the Merchants Hotel and bearing the motto of South Carolina 'Prepared in mind and resources'. Mentioned in the 'New York Times', 19 December 1860.


G. F. Marchant flag

            This flag was hung outside G. F. Marchant's, Meeting Street.  Its mentioned that the flag was of 3 colours with the middle being white and palmetto tree was supported by cotton bales so the colours as shown are artistic licence but could well be correct.  Underneath is the motto 'Dieu et Mon Droit'(God and My Honour or God and My Right.)   Mentioned in the 'Charleston Mercury.'

Some Others.
   
     Various other flags were raised by organizations, and units, during secession:  Needless to say there were others not only in Charleston but throughout the State.  If any reader knows of any illustrations, photos, drawings, etc, of the flags listed here could they please inform me as I would wish to illustrate these as well.
          1/ South Carolina Railroad Depot.  This was raised by the operatives in the upper workshops and is 18' x 4', with a blue border 4" wide.  On the field is a Palmetto tree which is encircled by a rattlesnake, which has 24 rattles.  At the top a large star with a half moon in the centre, which has 2 stars on each side of it.  On the left is a cotton field with 10 bales of cotton which are being rolled into place by a bay.  On the right is a locomotive, named 'Line Street' the first built by the company.  The train is pulling platform cars which carry cotton bales and has a flag with a lone star. To the rear of this is a further train loaded with goods.  The painting was in oil colours and was done at the railroad.          
            2/ The Eagle Fire Company.  A flag with three large stars and the motto 'Semper Parati' (Always Prepared).         
            3/ By Messrs J. Camsen and Co, Market Street.  This flag has a deep blue ground, the motto 'Now or Never' over a Palmetto tree, and one star in each corner. Size 4' x 3 1/2'.          
            4/ The Charleston Mercury.  A flag with a blue ground, large letters saying 'Southern Confederacy' and a star for each of the Southern States, at this time 4 plus South Carolina.

Some Regimental flags bearing the Palmetto tree.

            SC Marion Artillery

        This flag, which is still in existence, is shown with the crescent moon, cannon, palmetto tree, and the fox, in white with the outside picked out in gold as are the initials MA in the center.  The original flags white has now discoloured to yellow.

            1/ Brigadier General  Samuel McGowan's South Carolina Brigade in May 1864 carried, at Spotsylvania Court House, a blue silk state flag which featured a palmetto tree encircled with a wreath of oak and laurel leaves.
            2/ 1st SC Regiment Rifles.  A blue field with a white Palmetto tree in the centre.  Starting at the pole and going over the tree to the fly end are the painted words in gold 'First Regiment of Rifles. So. Ca. Volunteers'.  At the trees base is 'Oct 4' on its left and '1861' on its right.  There is also a half moon at the pole end. This measures 26 1/2" x 46".
            3/ 1st SC Infantry Regiment.  A dark blue field with an intricate flower design in the center with the wording '1st Regt. S.C. Volunteers' in a circle inside.  The flowers and the wording are in white.
            4/ Co. B, 3d SC Infantry Regiment.  A dark blue field with a circle at the center with, in white, the words 'God Guide Us' and at the bottom 'Williams Guards' within this is a palmetto tree with a soldier leaning on a cannon on the left with a stack of arms on the right this is painted in natural colours.