The Palmetto Society is pleased to offer a primer on many of the essential pieces of history behind Carolina Day, which the society has been celebrating since 1777.
On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, South Carolinians will celebrate the 240th Carolina Day, commemorating the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. On June 28, 1776, an assault by combined British naval and other military forces attempted to seize Charles Town, at the time, the fourth largest city in British North America, but far and away the wealthiest city in Britain’s American empire. A small force of Carolina patriots responded to this attack; they included South Carolinians, North Carolinians and Native Americans — all commanded by Colonel William Moultrie and Colonel William “Danger” Thomson.
Defending Breach Inlet and Fort Sullivan, a partially completed palmetto fort, the Carolinians defied the odds and successfully repelled the invasion force. In particular, Colonel Thomson’s crack sharpshooters turned back a poorly planned invasion at Breach Inlet. On the other side of Sullivan’s Island, Colonel Moultrie’s palmetto logs held together enormous
Defense of Fort Sullivan by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel (1823-1909), engraving, 1858 (public domain).
sand bunkers into which many British cannonballs sank harmlessly. It was the amount of sand — not the palmetto logs — that was essential to victory, but a mound of sand is not very exciting to place on a state flag.
The American’s spectacular victory against the might of the British Empire — the most powerful military force in the world at the time — dampened British hopes for quickly subduing the rebellion in the American colonies and greatly strengthened the patriots’ resolve for independence. Days and weeks after July 4, 1776, patriots had not actually signed the Declaration of Independence, and many found their resolve to do so on August 2, 1776 by learning about this great triumph in Charleston Harbor. It was on this day when 50 of 56 signers actually inked the famous document.
First known as “Palmetto Day,” our Carolina Day celebration was born of this important victory. As was the case for the first celebration, church bells will sound in Charleston on June 28.
The Palmetto State’s current flag is based upon the original flag that flew at the palmetto fort and was the inspiration of Colonel Moultrie and the uniform of his Second South Carolina Regiment. The first flag included a white crescent, similar to the crescent moon of the pin worn on all regimental hats; the indigo blue background of the flag was akin to that of their blue uniforms.