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The Citadel (U.S.)

The Military College of South Carolina, Charleston

Last modified: 2021-07-17 by rick wyatt
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Big Red
[Flag of The Citadel, Military College] image by Peter Krembs, 27 March 03

See also:

Official flag of The Citadel

The official flag of The Citadel is the one carried by the color guard of the Corps of Cadets. It is a variant of the SC state flag--a slightly different representation of the palmetto tree--with the inscription "THE CITADEL" in an arc of white letters above the tree and "SOUTH CAROLINA CORPS OF CADETS" in an arc below the tree.
Source: The first year cadets' handbook "Knob Knowledge," online edition at, which says:
This is the S.C. State Flag with "S.C. Corps of Cadets" embroidered on it. It has nine battle streamers commemorating Civil War engagements in which The Citadel participated."

The battalions of the corps of cadets have similar flags, but white on red, resembling the "Big Red" design. See them at
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2008


[Seal of The Citadel] image located by Paul Bassinson, 19 November 2017

Big Red

The red flag with the palmetto and crescent has since been considered an unofficial flag of The Citadel. It is affectionately known as "Big Red", and stickers seen are probably on vehicles belonging to Citadel cadets or their families.
Devereaux Cannon, 5 February 2000

"Knob Knowledge," the fourth-classman's handbook says:

A red flag with a white palmetto and crescent, believed to have been flown by The Citadel cadets who fired on the Star of the West on January 9, 1861. The flag-- also called The Citadel Spirit Flag--is flown on the Parade Ground and is carried by cadets at football games and on other occasions.

More at
Joe McMillan

Information can be found in a book by Milby Burton entitled the Siege of Charleston. When the Cadets of the Citadel fired the warning shot across the bow of the Union ship Star of the West, they were serving under a red South Carolina State Flag. This flag was given to them by the daughters of the owner of Morris Island in Charleston Harbor. The Cadets occupied Fort Morris on Morris Island and flew the red flag given to them by the daughters. In recent times the flag has made a comeback due to Confederate Battle flag not being allowed to fly over campus.

Of added interest and also covered in Burtons book, it is interesting to know that at the time of the firing on the Star of the West the South Carolina state flag could be any color as long as it had the correct symbols. At the time the flag over Ft. Moultrie was green, and of course the red over Ft. Morris. Some time after this it was decided that the official flag would be the blue one we have today.
James F. Seabrook II, 13 August 2009

Civil War Use of "Big Red"

"Big Red" was not the flag raised over Fort Sumter. It was flown over a seacoast battery in early 1861 manned by Cadets from the South Carolina Military Institute, better known as The Citadel.
Devereaux Cannon, 9 June 1999

In early 1861, after South Carolina seceded from the United States, her military forces took possession of all military installations around Charleston harbor, except Fort Sumter. One of the smaller installations, or batteries, was manned by cadets from the South Carolina Military Institute (known as "The Citadel"). The flag flown over the battery manned by the Citadel cadets was a red field with the palmetto and crescent. These cadets had the distinction of having actually fired the first shots in what was to become the war. They fired warning shots at the steamer "Star of the West", which had been dispatched by U.S. President Buchanan to supply the garrison at Fort Sumter. The "Star of the West" turned back, avoided the opening of hostilities at that point in time.
Devereaux Cannon, 5 February 2000

I thought you might be interested in a fascinating development concerning this flag. Many alumni feel that a flag recently spotted in Iowa is the original, one and only Big Red. See: It was captured in April 1865 at Mobile by the 20th Iowa. The only South Carolina unit involved was an Artillery unit commanded by a Citadel grad and included three brothers of Cadet Moses - a member of the Morris Island battery that fired on The Star of The West.
Don't know if absolute identity can be established. We hope to regain custody of it.
Burnam Taylor, Citadel 1961, 23 March 2007

As a follow-up on my notes from March about the discovery of what is believed to be the original Big Red in Iowa I find the following in the draft minutes of the Citadel Alumni Association (CAA) Fall Board Meeting , Saturday, Sept 8, 2007:
"Colonel Pohl ('76, CAA president) introduced BG Hugh B. Tant III, '71, who presented a report on the Red Palmetto Flag currently housed at the Iowa Historical Society Museum. He prefaced his remarks by commending members of The Citadel Historical Council, headed by Col. William H. Buckley, '71 for their efforts to research and rediscover some of the college's history. Reviewing the role of Citadel cadets in the events that took place 1861-1865, he proceeded to explain the origins of the Big Red Flag. He related the various sources documenting that the flag was flown at Morris Island and Fort Sumter when the shots were fired on the Star of the West. Research also has linked the flag to events that took place at Fort Blakely in Alabama in April 1865. The Union forces were led primarily by troops from Iowa, Indiana and other Northern states. The only South Carolina unit there - ultimately defeated by the Union forces - was the Palmetto Battery commanded by Captain Culpeper, Citadel Class of 1854. This unit also included former Citadel cadets who were brothers of Cadet Moses, Class of 1862, who took part in the firing on the Star of the West. The Big Red Flag currently held by the Iowa Historical Museum was presented to the Iowa Historical Society in 1919 by a former private in the 20th Iowa Infantry Volunteers, the same unit that fought at Fort Blakely in 1865. General Tant recently visited the Iowa Historical Society Museum to view the flag and is among several Citadel historians who believe that it is the flag carried by the Palmetto Battery in 1865. He also related the museum protocol for preserving flags and explained that the museum has taken particulate samples off their flags for future DNA testing to authenticate where the flags were originally flown.

Concluding his presentation, General Tant explained that the Iowa Historical Museum would loan the flag to The Citadel and that permanent acquisition would have to be approved by the Iowa State Senate. Glen S. Baldwin, '70, a member of The Citadel Historical Council, offered additional comments and supported action to secure the loan of the flag. He noted that the insurance required by the Historical Society loan application is most likely already in place for The Citadel's Museum. Hiram Hutchison, '57, made a motion, seconded by Mr. Croft, '64, and unanimously approved the following resolution: The CAA will recommend to the President of the college that The Citadel Archives and Museum submit, on behalf of The Citadel, the application for loan of the Red Palmetto Flag in the Iowa State Historical Museum in order to bring the flag to The Citadel for continued historical research. The CAA also will support related costs of transfer and insurance requirements. In addition, Col. Edward B. Carter, '66, suggested that the Historical Committee determine the cost of DNA testing on the flag."

Burnam Taylor
The Citadel 1961
, 9 November 2007

Supporters flag

[Supporters flag] image located by Paul Bassinson, 31 January 2020