"The Palmetto Guard Flag"
- The first southern flag over Ft. Sumter
April 14, 1861,
victorious Confederates occupy Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor
after driving off Union troops. Private John S. Byrd, Jr. of
South Carolina's Palmetto Guard places this flag on the fort's
wall facing Charleston.
The flag proudly
shows in its design the Palmetto tree which would soon become
part of South Carolina's new national flag and is seen in her
state flag even today. The tree is a reference to a fort which
was largely constructed of Palmetto logs and situated on
Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor in 1776. The resilient
Palmetto logs are said to have withstood the pounding of British
cannon balls during the Revolutionary War and so contributed to
the repulse of a British invasion force on June 28, 1776. Soon
thereafter, the Palmetto became a central part of South
Carolina's Great Seal.
Thus the Palmetto
became a symbol of American independence and defiance. In 1861,
South Carolinians naturally made it a symbol of Southern
independence and defiance.
The flag stayed in
Private Byrd's family until it was donated to the National Park
Service in 1979. It is on display for all to see at Fort Sumter.
While there, visit the site of the original Palmetto log fort,
now renamed Fort Moultrie.
In February 1865, as Sherman's men were burning, looting, pillaging, etc.,
Columbia, Iowa troops "captured" a huge palmetto flag (14' x 36') hanging at
the Capitol Building, under construction at the time. That flag is still
'owned' by the Iowa Historical Society.
The Civil War in South Carolina © - 1998 Eastern Digital Resources