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South Carolina (U.S.)

Last modified: 2006-07-29 by rick wyatt
Keywords: south carolina | united states | palm tree | palmetto | crescent |
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[Flag of South Carolina] by Mario Fabretto, 24 February 1998

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One of the original 13 colonies, South Carolina is represented by a star and a stripe on the 13 star U.S. flags.

History of the flag

Asked by the Revolutionary Council of Safety in the fall of 1775 to design a flag for the use of South Carolina troops, Col. William Moultrie chose a blue that matched the color of their uniforms and a crescent that reproduced the silver emblem worn on the front of their caps.

South Carolina needed a national flag after it seceded from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860. The General Assembly considered a wide range of designs, but on Jan. 28, 1861, added the palmetto to Moultrie's original design. The palmetto represented the colonials defense of the palmetto-log fort on Sullivan's Island against the British on June 28, 1776.

A resolution proposing to change the color to "royal purple" as a memorial to Confederate dead was defeated in 1899, leaving the flag's Revolutionary War symbolism complete.
Robert Hainer, 9 April 1998

Actually there were SC flags with Palmetto trees on them prior to the Civil War. The SC Militia Act of 1839 specified flags of that type (sometimes on red fields as opposed to blue) and the Palmetto Regiment of the Mexican War carried flags of this nature in the mid-1840's.

At the beginning of the secession period of 1860-1861 there were indeed a number of designs submitted to the state committee. For a detailed account of these flags please see "A Flag Worthy Of Your State And People" by Wylma Wates. This was published by the SC Dept. of Archives And History.
Greg Biggs, 9 April 1998

Back in 1965, the Flag Bulletin published an article entitled "And the Ensign of South Carolina Shall Be ..." which stated that the legislature adopted a different Palmetto flag the day prior to the adoption of the present flag. It was blue with a crescent in the canton and a white oval in the center bearing a gold palmetto tree.
Dave Martucci, 9 April 1998

[Flag of South Carolina 1861] by Tom Gregg, 14 April 1998

Adopted 26 January 1861 and superseded on 28 January by the present design.
Tom Gregg, 14 April 1998

Where do the Crescent and Tree come from on the South Carolina Flag?

Smith (1975a) dates the crescent to 1775 but gives no reason.
Al Kirsch, 13 June 2002

It was the symbol worn on the hats of South Carolina troops in the American Revolutionary War. Where they got it from I do not know. The Palmetto tree on the same flag is a tribute to the palmetto logs that were used to build Ft. Moultrie in the Rev War, which withstood bombardment by British warships quite well (palmetto is a soft wood and the cannon balls were pretty much absorbed). Another Confederate Civil War flag also used a crescent symbol - that of Gen. Earl Van Dorn's Army of the West. In this case it was an appeal to the patriotism of Missouri troops as the crescent was part of that state's coat of arms. For an example please visit the website Flags Of The Confederacy at
Greg Biggs, 13 June 2002

I have heard, but can't remember the source, that the crescent originated from a remnant of a knights armor. British officers wore a metal crescent, often silver or gold plated on their chests, left over from a protective piece of armor over the heart area. General Cornwallis can be seen wearing this in the movie "The Patriot" and I have seen actual pieces in the national park museums at forts in South Carolina and Georgia. It has been reported that their appearance is from a cap device worn by South Carolina troops in the revolutionary war, but the origin of the cap device is probably from the uniform decoration.
Michael P. Smuda, 19 June 2002

I believe the metal crescent you refer to is called a gorget. However, a number of websites say the 1775 South Carolina flag designed by Moultrie was preceded by a 1765 blue flag with 3 crescents used during the protests against the Stamp Act. I could not find an explanation of why that was chosen. For example, see and and
Ned Smith, 19 June 2002

The palmetto tree shows up on South Carolina militia colors officially in 1838 with their Militia Act.
Greg Biggs, 8 November 2002

If I'm not mistaken, the palmetto already appeared on the state seal before this time, which makes sense--as Greg pointed out in an earlier message, militia colors were typically the state "coat of arms" (i.e., seal or central design therefrom) on a blue field, modelled on the U.S. Army pattern of the national coat of arms on a blue field.
Joe McMillan, 8 November 2002

From the Admiral Preble book, "History and Origin of the American Flag, Volume One:"
"In 1765, when the stamp paper reached Charleston, it was deposited at Fort Johnson. A volunteer force took the fort and captured the paper. Whilst they held the fort, they displayed a flag showing a blue field with three white crescents, which seems to have been improvised by the volunteers, of whom there were three companies." [pp. 194]
This flag is also described here:
John Evosevic, 8 November 2002

Use of the Flag

[SC Confederate statement flag] by John Evosevic, 8 November 2002

There is a proliferation of unofficial variants of the South Carolina flag. Last year, I purchased a T-shirt with a SC flag halved red over blue, the demarcation from the lower hoist to the upper fly. The girl in the shop explained that the flag was the "Citadel Flag," which is news to me, but it's still a nice looking flag illustration. All-red Citadel or "Big Red" flags are available as are the red auto tags: these are widely sold and displayed. I am not certain of the significance for those that display them on their cars - if it intended as a Confederate symbol, a symbol of The Citadel or both. It may be possible that this is intended as a covert symbol of Confederate heritage in light of the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the SC capitol dome. I've also seen more of the latter flags being flown in SC since then.

Similarly, the University of South Carolina seemed to have developed its own variation on the SC flag: One store had for sale a deep rose pink/lighter red over black SC flag also divided diagonally - in this case from the upper hoist to the lower fly. Another variation seemed to be for the Clemson fan: an all-orange SC flag that was available both as a flag and an auto tag.
John Evosevic, 15 November 2001

I thought I glimpsed this [red over blue] flag some months ago on a TV documentary about efforts to raise the Confederate submarine Hunley from Charleston harbor. A diagonally divided red and blue flag with a design that looked like the palmetto and crescent was flying from one of the ships supporting the operation.
Joe McMillan, 15 November 2001

SC Version of CSA Statement flag

[SC Confederate statement flag] by Rick Wyatt, 21 October 1998

Recently, I was in New Mexico and saw a house flying a flag that was half traditional confederate flag and half crescent moon with the shaded part facing out and what appeared to be a palm tree to the right of the crescent moon. The half with the moon and tree was on the left half, opposing the confederate flag. The colors were, as I recollect, a white background with green filling. I do not know the identity of this flag and am very curious. Any help you can offer me will be appreciated.
Steve Quick, 21 October 1998

This is definitely a cross between the Confederate and South Carolina flag. This is not an official anything. Ever since the movement to remove the confederate flag from the Georgia State flag, various flags have been made. I Ain't Coming Down, Heritage not Hate and "state" confederate flags. We sell the Confed/South Carolina and Confed/North Carolina. I suppose flags are a way of making a statement and some people are doing just that.
Rick Wyatt 21 October 1998

State Military Crest

by Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is "Upon a mount vert a palmetto tree proper charged with a crescent argent."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000