How SC’s national flag lives on today
Compile a list of best-looking US state flags and South Carolina’s would be near the top.
With a white palmetto tree and crescent moon on an indigo background, South Carolina’s banner offers an elegant simplicity that enables it to stand out among a group which include many cluttered, mismatched designs that, quite frankly, are often anything but inspirational.
Interestingly, the flag that flies over the state capitol today in Columbia wasn’t designed as a state standard, but, rather, as a national flag.
In the days after South Carolina seceded from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860, the adoption of a new flag was an issue of great importance to the state Legislature.
Journals of the SC House of Representatives and the Senate from Dec. 21, 1860, through Jan. 28, 1861, reveal the legislative wrangling regarding which design would represent the newly independent Republic of South Carolina, according to a 1915 article “The Flag of the State of South Carolina,” written by South Carolina historian A.S. Salley and published by the S.C. Historical Commission.
Salley detailed some of the Legislature’s proceedings:
“Mr. Moses submitted the following report: ‘The Committee of Conference, on the part of the two Houses, appointed to determine what shall be the national flag or ensign proper to be borne by the State of South Carolina … beg leave to report … That from and after the adoption of these resolutions the national flag or ensign of South Carolina shall be blue, with a golden palmetto upright upon a white oval in the center thereof, and a white increscent in the upper flagstaff corner of the flag …”
And that’s that, right? After all, when you’re starting your own country from scratch, one might assume there would be more important matters to move onto than continued bickering over a banner.
Not so; at least not in South Carolina.
“After many disagreements between the two Houses on that question during the preceding week, both Senators and Representatives must have felt pleased on that Saturday night … [but] there was dissatisfaction because on Monday morning the brand-new flag was altered,” Salley wrote.
“Mr. Read introduced the following resolution: ‘Resolved, that a message be sent to the Senate, requesting that body to consent to the alteration of the Flag, lately adopted by the General Assembly, so as to dispense with the white medallion and golden Palmetto, and in their place to insert a white Palmetto.’ … The Senate concurred, and returned a message accordingly.”
Squabbling Solons finally reached a consensus and South Carolina had its own national flag.
It flew for all of seven days.
That’s because on Feb. 4, 1861, the state joined the newly formed Confederate States of America and the concept of an independent South Carolina ceased to exist.
Essentially, that meant lawmakers spent four times as long arguing about what a national flag should look like as the national flag spent flying.
However, the effort was not wasted.
Not only was the flag retained as a state flag while South Carolina was a member of the Confederacy, it was used when the Palmetto State rejoined the Union and remains the state banner today.