Origin of the South Carolina Flag

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It’s that time of year when enthusiasm abounds amongst college football fans as every team is undefeated and pointed towards wins over their rivals, conference championships, and bowl victories. If nothing else, it’s a thoughtful projection beyond the sports doldrums of summer. Preseason magazines and fan websites fill the void.

For Clemson fans, no site is better than www.tigernet.com, an argumentative but informative place for reports and opinions. Regular blogger Mickey Plyler posted an idea from someone who proposed building two bronze statues of the State palmetto tree, one to be placed Clemson and the other at USC (The Columbia, SC university, not to be confused with the respected USC located in California). The winner of the annual rivalry game would “play for the moon,” a bronze adornment to crown the tree at the winner’s campus. I like the idea. Plyler comments that many believe that the moon on the South Carolina flag is actually a gorget, originating from military uniforms during the Revolutionary war.

Not a moon?  What’s going on here?

I grew up in South Carolina, and I’ve always known the flag to depict the official State tree and a crescent moon. The flag has reached iconic status, having been emblazoned on shirts, car decals, tourism ads, and everything else with tangible economic benefit. Some adaptations are inspiring;


And some are ignoble.


Still, it’s a palm tree and moon. And so the search for truth begins. Well, news to me, the South Carolina flag isn’t even officially adopted by the State:


History, sometimes, is interesting. Who knew?

Well, here’s another opinion on the flag’s history:


As it turns out, a lot of people have opinions, some of which are documented quite ably:


Yes, you skimmed that quickly, didn’t you? And, finally, here’s a shorter restatement:


Longtime South Carolina historian Dr. Marvin Cann notes in private correspondence that “because the Palmetto tree was so associated with the defense of Fort Moultrie and the successful resistance to the British attack, I feel pretty sure the “moon” was also inspired by Colonel Moultrie’s regimental uniform, the cap pin. In it’s modern appearance, I suspect Dr. Salley intended to make it a first quarter moon to symbolize the new South Carolina.”  If I’m reading my historian correctly, it’s a gorget and a moon.

As Dr. Cann is a retired but still teaching professor, I’ll attribute my opinion within the context of the term “University,” which in a literal sense brings unity to the many disciplines in its charge. As such, I’ll first reach to literature and theology to round out the uncertain legacy of historians and columnists. As the accumulated length of related speculations approaches book length, I put forward that the literary device of foreshadowing is in play. As the refinement of its design has been carried out over centuries, there is, obviously, no human author that could write this work. Rather, I’ll suggest that it points towards a divine author who has scripted, as yet, an unfulfilled revelation.  We’re seen the hints; we’re waiting for the final “aha!” moment. 

As depicted, the crescent was originally oriented vertically before being angled to its present appearance. Its preordained final appearance will require further reorientation, but what is to come is not a secret. It’s already visible to those with minds which think and eyes which see.

Numerology and architecture are involved as well. 65-39-4, for those with the gift of understanding, is meaningful. As is 1940, the year in which architecture students happened to design (evolution is not in play) what has since been the face of the Clemson class ring.


Note how the moon has been turned to a C, encompassing the beloved palm, symbolically a solid and resilient defensive core. It is to this end that the State flag is determined, as guided in time by God’s benevolent plan. And it’s for this purpose under His dominion that Clemson dominates USC.

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