I am retired, a 1964 graduate of The Citadel (Charleston, SC) and hold a non-paid staff position at my alma mater as Historian. I am writing to you concerning a subject of great and intense debate on campus, and one of historically important ramifications.I am hopeful you, or NAVA, can be of assistance.
On Jan 9, 1861 Citadel Cadets manned a battery in Charleston harbor and fired/hit a federal ship, Star of the West, in the prelude to the War Between the States. Four eyewitness accounts (published in the 26 Jan 1861 Haper's Magazine) describe the event and note "a red flag with white palmetto" posted at the cadet battery. The same eyewitness's describe "similar flags" posted at 2 other locations that fired upon the ship.
None of the eyewitness accounts mention a "crescent" on the flag.
On Jan 28, 1861 the "nation" of South Carolina, having seceded the previous December, unfurled its "National Flag"-------a white palmetto tree and outward facing crescent on a blue field.
Today, the state flag of South Carolina remains exactly the same as the "National Flag" of Jan 28, 1861. Today as well, there is a white palmetto tree with an outward facing crescent on a RED field manufactured and flown as "The Citadel Spirit (or battle) flag".
It is believed, because of a written account describing "the ladies of the Hugh E. Vincent" family presenting a flag to the cadet battery on Morris Island, SC and commanded by Citadel Superintendent, Peter Stevens in Jan 1861, that Vincent ( a flag manufacturer at the time) made a garrison type flag (Vincent was known for manufacturing large flags) for posting at Morris Island..........possibly at the other locations as well.
Since the Star of the West ship's Captain, a crewmember, a journalist for the Charleston paper and Harper's, and a Union Officer at Ft Sumter all describe seeing a "red flag with white palmetto" posted at Morris Island (and "similar flags" at two other gun battery locations) during the firing there seems to be ample evidence of this flag flying on Jan 9, 1861.
The flag then "disappears" until a large flag (garrison type) is discovered in an Iowa Museum in Des Moines, Iowa in 2007. The museum is not entirely sure of the origin or meaning of the flag but gives an account of how it came into its possession. The Museum reports that Pvt William Baker of the 20th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, Co. C had "possessed" the red palmetto flag and donated it to the museum in 1919. In a handwritten letter to the Iowa State Historical Society , Baker describes the flag as having been captured at Mobile, Al around Apr 9, 1865. That was the time when the 20th Iowa captured Ft Blakely in Mobile. Baker states in his letter that, "The palmetto flag carried the emblem of the State of S. Carolina , but how the flag happened to get into Ala. I do not know."
Records show the 20th Iowa did help capture Ft Blakely on 9 Apr 1865 and remained there until disbanded on 8 Jul 1865. Only one SC military unit was at Ft Blakely on 9 Apr 1865. It was an artillery unit, called the Palmetto Battery"commanded by Capt James Culpepper, Citadel class of 1854. Culpepper was captured as Ft Blakely surrendered. Also at the Palmetto Battery was 1/Lt James Dove, Citadel 1861, 2/Lt Josua Moses, Citadel 1860 (KIA 9 Apr 1865), 2/Lt Perry Moses, Citadel 1864 (wounded in action), and Pvt Horace Moses, Citadel 1867 (captured).
NOTE: Capt Issac Moses, Citadel 1862,( brother of the above Moses boys) while not present at Ft Blakely.......was a member of the cadet unit on Morris Island that fired on the Star of the West.
One last bit............profound "bit"...........of information.
The red flag with white palmetto found at the Iowa museum has a DOWNWARD facing crescent!!! records show that a downward facing crescent was not unusual with any of the secessionist flags, and especially not for the Vincent family--makers of secessionist flags.
Issue: Is it "probable" that the flag at the Iowa museum is the red flag described in the eyewitness accounts? Your thoughts are most welcome because the recovery of such an historical piece of Citadel history would be important. The downward facing crescent is an even more important and distinctively unique description.
2 Hilton Head Island, SC
843 342 6972