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South Carolina Secession Flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by rick wyatt
Keywords: south carolina | sovereignty | secession | phillipi |
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The Original Secession Flag

[Flag of South Carolina] image by Mario Fabretto, 24 February 1998

Though the South Carolina state flag harkens back to the crescent worn by her troops in the American Revolution, and the palmetto tree is a reminder of the palmetto logs that stopped British cannon balls in the bombardment of Ft. Moultrie during the same war, it is still very much a Confederate flag for its current incarnation.

While the flag in some variation was adopted under the South Carolina Militia Act of 1838, the flag as shown today was not officially adopted as the state flag until January, 1861. Then it was the flag of the seceded Republic of South Carolina - the first of the states to leave the Union.

As such, it is indeed every bit as much a Confederate flag as any other pattern of Confederate flag (and there were many). In fact, the palmetto flag, as it became called at the time, was far more the symbol of secession for the South than the more famous Bonnie Blue flag - that gets far more publicity than it deserves based on an examination of the newspapers of the time (but it did have the song). I have found FAR more mentions of palmetto flags being hoisted all over the South (as well as out West and in the North) as symbols of secession than the lone star/Bonnie Blue flags.

South Carolina troops also fought under their state flag -the state providing flags to the first ten regiments raised for its defense. Other palmetto flags were issued to local military companies as well which saw early combat use.

The palmetto flag of South Carolina is, therefore, a Confederate battle flag, just like those that were created to be as such during the war by the various CSA commanders.

Greg Biggs, 19 January 2000

S.C. Sovereignty Flag

[Sovereignty Flag of South Carolina] image by Christopher Johnson, 29 April 1999

This is a version of an early flag raised over South Carolina shortly after its secession from the Union in 1860(it was also supposed to have been raised over Yale University by sympathizers). It was called the South Carolina Sovereignty Flag and was supposed to have been an inspiration for the Confederate flag in its later form.
Christopher Johnson, 29 April 1999

"Palmetto Flag" captured at the Battle of Phillipi

"Yanks from the South" by Fritz Haselberger on page 76 illustrates the "Palmetto Flag" captured at the Battle of Phillipi (WV) in 1861. My research tends to indicate that the contemporaneous use of the term "Palmetto Flag" was something that became synonymous with "Secession Flag" and did not always indicate the use of a palmetto device. As just one example, a Copperhead publication in Philadelphia was called "The Palmetto Flag."

What is most curious about this flag is that it is a rather typical Virginia state flag with one difference: There is a wide red vertical stripe along the fly of this flag. Does anyone know the significance of this red stripe?
John Evosevic, 14 November 2001

The palmetto flag was far more widely used for the secessionists all over the South than any other pattern - even the more famous Bonnie Blue flag! I have accounts of palmetto flags being hoisted all over the South in early 1861 - and even in some Northern
cities as well! It definitely has to do with a connection to South Carolina for their secessionist stance taken in December, 1860.

Many of the secession flags hoisted in Virginia were done so before the state seceded in April, 1861. When people back then said "secession flag" they could mean several types - CS First National flags (these may be the biggest group of them), palmetto flags, state flags, flags of unique design, flags with lone stars (on their own or in combination with other devices). Most are not described.

As for SC secession banners - most I have seen are blue - not red. I do a lecture on SC flags and their flag makers and have not seen, nor seen written descriptions of, flags other than blue for the most part (since the state/republic flag was blue!). There were some red ones, with lone star, and lone star and palmetto devices on them, but blue dominates these flags in SC in 1860-1861.

Greg Biggs. 14 November 2001