The current SC State Flag was designed by
Col. Moultrie following the battle for
Sullivan's Island. The Crescent represented
a form of armor worn by some men (and was
part of the Middleton Family Crest), but the
Palmetto Tree was added after Moultrie
saw the explosions from the Acteon as
Captain Milligan and company disembarked.
He noted how the bursting of the bombs
reminded him of the Palmetto tree.
Also, the Fort was not completely finished,
and was partly defended by cut Palmetto
trees laid around its perimeter. These
soft, spongy trees absorbed the British
cannon shells preventing severe damage to
the American forces.
Battle of Sullivan's Island, when Lt.
Jacob Milligan's sloop boarded the British
ship, The Acteon, it was already ablaze,
having been set on fire by the British who
abandoned it. After turning the guns of the
Acteon back against the British, Milligan
and his crew left the Acteon, and it blew
up, Here is an account of this action from a
lesson plan by Ms. Jennifer Coe, Lang Middle
School, Mt. Pleasant SC (a former teacher of
As darkness came, Admiral Parker began to
take stock of the damage to his fleet. Most
of his ships were damaged, some severely. Of
the three ships run aground, the Syren and
Sphynx had managed to free themselves, but
the Acteon was still firmly planted on the
sandbar. The British retreated under the
cover of darkness and when the Patriots
awoke on the morning of the 29th, they found
the fleet withdrawn. The crew of the Acteon,
after being unable to free her, evacuated
the ship and set her afire. Troops from the
fort went out and boarded the ship, firing
her guns at the departing crew.
The Patriots took what they could from the
ship until they realized that the fire was
quickly heading towards the magazine. They
rapidly left the ship and headed back to the
fort. Legend has it that all of those who
witnessed the Acteon’s magazine catch fire
said the smoke from the explosion rose up
and formed the shape of a Palmetto tree. The
palmetto tree became part of the seal of
South Carolina - the image of a palmetto
rising high from a fallen English oak – and
was later added to the crescent to become
the South Carolina state flag.
Georgia Muldrow. Battle of Fort Sullivan:
Events leading to the First Decisive
Victory". Fort Sullivan Chapter, Daughters
of the American Revolution. 1976. Lipscomb,
Terry W. The Carolina Lowcountry April 1775
– June 1776 and the Battle of Fort Moultrie.
Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of
Archives and History. 1994.
The Crescent Moon
The crescent moon actually
originated from the remains of a knight’s
armor. British officers wore a ceremonial
metal crescent, often silver or gold plated
placed over the heart area. The crescent was
also the silver emblem worn on the front of
the hats of South Carolina troops in the
American Revolutionary War of Independence.
The metal crescent is called a gorget. The
gorget eventually became discontinued, but
the design of the crescent was retained as a
unit symbol and inspired the first unit
flags used by the troops – blue with a white
The palmetto tree comes from
the war itself. The Palmetto tree is a
tribute to the palmetto logs that were used
to build Ft. Moultrie in the Revolutionary
War, which withstood attack by the British
fleet at Charleston. Asked by the
Revolutionary Council of Safety in the fall
of 1775 to design a flag for the use of
South Carolina troops, Col. Moultrie chose
the color blue which matched their uniforms.
The palmetto tree was added later to
represent Moultrie’s heroic defense of the
palmetto-log fort on Sullivan’s Island
against the attack of the British fleet on
June 28, 1776.