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Citadel Battery Flag 1861 (U.S.)

Last modified: 2016-01-03 by rick wyatt
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[Citadel Battery flag] image located by Tomislav Todorovic, 20 November 2012

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Design of the flag

The Citadel Battery Flag 1861

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, also known as "The Citadel." The flag flown over the battery manned by the Citadel cadets was a red field with a white palmetto and crescent. These cadets had the distinction of having actually fired the first shots in what was to become the Civil War. They fired warning shots at the steamer "Star of the West," which had been dispatched by President Buchanan to supply the garrison at Fort Sumter. The "Star of the West" was turned back by the artillery fire. The "Palmetto Battery" continued to serve until April of 1865 when it and its flag was captured at Mobile by the 20th Iowa. The flag remained in the Iowa State Historical Society Museum Collection ( unrecognized and labeled "Unidentified - Red Palmetto" until its rediscovery in the 1960s. It is now on a long term loan from the Iowa State Historical Society and being displayed at the Citadel where it can be seen daily by the proud students. The original bright red background has faded to dull maroon, and the white Palmetto tree has discolored down to a brownish gold.

A similar red flag with a white palmetto tree and crescent has since been adopted as the unofficial flag of The Citadel Military Institute. It is today affectionately known as "Big Red." For some undocumented reason the crescent on the 1861 Citadel Battery Flag is facing the opposite direction as found on the modern South Carolina State flag and the current Citadel flag. Perhaps this is because South Carolina's present flag is a design that was formulated as a possible national banner when the state seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, and it had a reversed crescent. Since the firing upon the "Star of the West" took place less than three weeks after the Ordinances of Session were adopted by South Carolina, this may have been caused by a verbal description being misinterpreted before standardization could occur.

Note: This drawing is based on photographs of the actual flag on display at the Citadel.

Pete Loeser, 20 November 2012