South Carolina State Flag: History, Design, Trivia
DATE FIRST USED
South Carolina State Flag
Blue with a white palmetto at the center and a white crescent in the upper hoist. The crescent's points face the upper hoist corner.
Symbols: Palmetto tree and crescent. The palmetto is the state tree and also symbolizes the palmetto logs that made the walls of Fort Sullivan, on Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor, to defend against British cannonballs during the Revolutionary War. The crescent is taken from crescent badges on the patriot guards' caps at Fort Sullivan. Both the palmetto and the crescent represent the state's willingness to defend itself.
Colors: Blue and white. Soldiers who guarded Fort Sullivan during the Revolutionary War wore deep blue uniforms. White is a universal color of peace.
Proportions: 2:3, 3:5, or 5:8
Variations: Many South Carolina colleges and universities use the state flag with their school colors as a school flag. The best-known of these school flags flies at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, and is deep red with the white crescent and palmetto. Other schools use the symbols as well, usually on diagonally divided two-color flags.
On September 13, 1775, anti-British forces at Fort Sullivan in Charleston Harbor raised a blue flag with a white crescent in its upper hoist corner. Colonel William Moultrie had designed this flag at the request of the Revolutionary Council of Safety. Moultrie based his design on his soldiers' blue uniforms and the white crescent badges on their caps. Fort Sullivan was eventually renamed Fort Moultrie after the Colonel.
Later, South Carolina adopted the palmetto as state tree and then integrated it into the design of a new flag. Various "palmetto flags" flew in the early 19th century. These were not all blue and white. Many flags were hand painted at the time, so the symbol was often painted in natural colors on a white flag. The emblem was also sometimes painted directly onto a building or ship. Military units often used red palmetto flags with white emblems as well. As South Carolina prepared to secede from the Union, these flags became even more popular and the design was officially adopted as a national flag soon after secession. The design was exactly the same as the current version. The flag flew through the Civil War and afterward, and this palmetto flag is still in use today.
Other versions of the palmetto flag flew during the Civil War, as did the various Confederate flags. The Confederate flag remained extremely popular after the war and had to be legally removed from many public buildings in the 1960s.
Unless the weather is wet, the flag of South Carolina usually flies from the dome of the State House, and it is also displayed in the chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate in the State House. Courthouses should also fly or hang the state flag. Any school that receives funds from the state should fly the U.S. flag and the state flag according to protocol.
The South Carolina flag should be treated with care and respect so as to avoid damaging it. It should never be purposely torn or marked. Deliberately damaging the South Carolina flag in public is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $100 and 30 days in jail. A flag that is too tattered or dirty to display should be replaced and disposed of in private. The South Carolina flag takes the place of honor within the state unless it is flown with the U.S. or other national flags, in which case the national flag takes precedence.
LEGENDS, CONTROVERSIES, AND TRIVIA
The symbolism of the crescent on the flag of South Carolina is open to interpretation. Some claim that the crescent is a stylized gorget or criniere, originally a steel or leather collar used in battle to protect a soldier's throat. Others allege that the crescent is an emblem of the South Carolina colony and the city of Charleston because the troops of Charleston used a blue flag with three white crescents some ten years before the American Revolution. If that's the case, though, the origin of the crescent as a symbol of South Carolina and Charleston is still a mystery. Still other historians allege that the crescent may have originated from William Bull's coat of arms. William Bull and a number of his descendents served as colonial governors in the pre-Revolutionary years, and his family was prominent in South Carolina when the war broke out.
The flag's palmetto tree and crescent are so popular as a symbol of the state's longstanding heritage that they are featured on shirts, belts, shoes, wallets, and other accessories throughout South Carolina and even in other southeastern states.
On January 26, 1861, after South Carolina had seceded from the Union, the state legislature approved a blue flag that featured a white crescent at the hoist and a golden palmetto in a white oval at the center. After only two days, on January 28, the color of the palmetto was changed from gold to white, and the flag took on its current design.
The flag has flown unchanged since just after South Carolina's pre-Civil War secession, but in 1899, a resolution to change the flag from blue to the royal purple of Confederate uniforms was proposed and defeated.
-World Trade Press