David Lauderdale

Happy Birthday, SC: Don't you dare call that crescent on the state flag a moon

By DAVID LAUDERDALE - dlauderdale@islandpacket.com

South Carolina flag

Today marks South Carolina's 230th birthday.

Pardon me while I howl at yonder crescent moon.

But alas, it wouldn't do any good.

According to one of our careful readers, I would be howling up the wrong tree.

I have been taken to task for suggesting in a column that the crescent in our South Carolina state flag is a moon.

It is not a moon, I was told in revolutionary tones. That arc over the breezy palmetto tree that makes our flag more marketable than Elvis is actually the breastplate from a Revolutionary War uniform.

The SC state flag has a rich history dating back to the Revolutionary War.

My first reaction was jobs. What will it do to flip-flop sales if that graceful crescent on our deep blue flag is not a romantic Carolina moon? Our flag, unlike any other that I'm aware of, is plastered on everything trinket from flip-flops to fine jewelry.

But actually, I wasn't discussing the flag last week. The topic was the high-stylin' piece of art the Beaufort International Film Festival commissioned for its first Spirit & Pride of South Carolina award winner, actress Andie MacDowell. The large piece of colorful glass is in the shape of a palmetto tree with a crescent moon above. That's what I said.

The S.C. Statehouse website says:

"The General Assembly adopted the current version of South Carolina's flag on Jan. 28, 1861. This version added the palmetto tree to the original design by Colonel William Moultrie in 1775 for use by South Carolina troops during the Revolutionary War. Colonel Moultrie chose a blue color which matched the color of their uniforms and a crescent which reproduced the silver emblem worn on the front of their caps."

But like most South Carolina history, things get clearer than pluff mud the more you look at it.

Brian Hicks wrote a column about this quandary in the Charleston newspaper several years ago. The headline was: "What the heck is that doodad in our state flag?"

He reports that whatever it is, it has gone through many phases over the years. Like a moon.

In the early 20th century "Alexander Samuel Salley Jr., secretary of the state's Historical Commission, started monkeying with the design," Hicks wrote. "He fluffed up the palmetto, making it leafier, adding the grass on the ground.

"Salley also turned the crescent on its side, apparently on his own authority. Since then, the crescent has crept closer and closer to the palmetto ..."

Do you know why the palmetto tree ended up on the South Carolina state flag? Learn the story — and a few other facts about the state tree.

So, with all due respect to the gentleman who wants the record straight, I am going to branch out on my own authority and consider the crescent a moon. It is a sliver of moonlit heaven on a foggy Carolina beach, and I thank Col. Moultrie for my freedom to enjoy it.

Follow columnist and senior editor David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale and facebook.com/david.lauderdale.16.