The Fort Moultrie Flag: Southern Liberty During the American Revolution
The Fort Moultrie Flag: Southern Liberty During the American Revolution by Sam Jacobs for Ammo
In 1775, in the lead up to the American Revolution, Colonel William Moultrie wanted a flag that represented the new American nation. Moultrie was the commander of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment. He commissioned a design based on the uniform of his soldiers. This was the distinctive deep blue you see on the flag today. The crescent moon might come from the caps of the soldiers, which initially bore the legend “Liberty or Death.” Some historians believe that it’s instead a form of neck armor. Whatever the symbol’s original, its message was eventually simplified to “liberty,” which is either written within the crescent or in the center at the bottom of the flag.
Fort Moultrie is the current name for several forts on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. These forts were first built to defend the city of Charleston, with the original built of palmetto logs. On June 28, 1776, the flag was raised over the palmetto-log fort now known as Fort Moultrie – which wasn’t armed or ready for the attack by British forces that came. Nine British warships attacked the fort for over 10 hours. However, because the palmetto logs were still soft, they absorbed the array of cannon fire. Legend has it that some of the cannonballs bounced off, rather than penetrating the fort. Because of the successful defense, the British armada was forced to retreat and could not take the city of Charleston. This is now celebrated in Charleston as “Carolina Day,” though the fort and Charleston were later captured by British forces.
During the first battle, the flag was shot away by British forces. However, a Sergeant by the name of William Jasper recovered the flag after it was shot down. He then hoisted the flag up again on a temporary pole and held it up while taking fire, until a more permanent structure could be erected. After the battle, South Carolina’s governor, John Rutledge, gave his sword to Sgt. Jasper in recognition of his exemplary bravery under fire. Sgt. Jasper later died of wounds he received while trying to recapture Savannah, Georgia, from the British. Several states have counties and townships named after Jasper.
After this battle, the flag became the battle standard of the South Carolina militia. The liberation of Charleston represented the end of the American Revolution. And after the liberation, the flag became the first truly American flag to be flown over the South. As such, it has become a popular symbol of American independence throughout the Southern states – including becoming the state flag of South Carolina (which is essentially a modified version of the Moultrie flag with a palmetto tree).