Fort Moultrie Flag
The Fort Moultrie Flag
This flag was flown over the Fortifications on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, as they battled a British blockade and potential invasion. When the flag fell during the course of the battle, it was lifted by Sergeant William Jasper (a SC State Park is named after him, near Hardeeville, SC), who held it until a new flagstaff could be improvised, claiming, “We cannot fight without a flag.” But they fought valiantly with the flag, fending off the British fleet and felling their commander, Sir Peter Parker. This decisive battle was the first British loss at sea in years, and prevented them from the capacity for a Southern invasion for a long while afterward. It was enhanced with the bold word “Liberty” to reflect the dreams of the Colonists.
This flag gets its name by being the first flag flown over an island fort built by General William Moultrie near Charleston, South Carolina and reflects the desire by the American colonists for divinely inspired Liberty. The American forces defending the fort wore a silver crescent on their caps emblazoned with "Liberty or Death," and the Moultrie design was the first American flag flown in the Southern states. Note the crescent is not a "moon" ... it is this symbol from the Sons of Liberty.
The fort was built out of the materials at hand - palmetto logs and sand - and came under heavy British naval bombardment on June 28th, 1776. The flag was shot away in the withering fire, but the fort - and the spirit of the defenders - did not yield.
The design was adopted by the Minute Men of South Carolina. Variations of this design were used throughout the American Revolutionary War, particularly the Sons of Liberty who used the "crescent shape". This shape depicted a piece of leather armor that fit around the neck. It was also the shape of the bill of the caps of the soldiers.
As stated above, the Palmetto (now the SC State Tree) played an important role in the battle at Fort Moultrie. Each day, the British bombarded the fort, knocking down some of the walls. Each night, people from Charleston would cut down palm trees and take them out to the fort where they were placed, with sand, into the broken walls. The British cannonballs were basically "absorbed" by the palms. Often they were in good-enough physical shape that they could be shot BACK at the British! So the Palm became an important symbol of being impenetrable and strong and able to resist. The crescent and the palm tree had a strong influence on the design that became the state flag of South Carolina.