The Palmetto Tree
A Symbol of South Carolina
The Palmetto Tree - Defender of Charleston Harbor
On June 28, 1776, as British warships
moved to conquer the South Carolina city of
Charleston, Colonel William Moultrie and a
force of Patriot soldiers stood behind
unfinished palmetto log walls and prepared
to defend the city.
Moultrie had been warned by General
Charles Lee that the British guns would
knock his fort down around his years, but the
fiery officer replied that he would fight from
For nine hours Moultrie withstood the fire of
nine British warships, returning fire with
cannon shots that swept the decks of the
enemy vessels. The palmetto logs of
Moultrie's fort did not shatter from the impact
of British cannon balls, but instead the soft
logs absorbed the iron balls much as a
sponge absorbs water.
The flag of the fort was shot down at one
point, but Sergeant William Jasper braved a
storm of shot and shell to retrieve it and
return the colors to their place over the works.
In the end, Moultrie and his men prevailed.
The badly battered fleet withdrew and the fort
on Sullivan's Island became a landmark of
the American Revolution. Named Fort
Moultrie in honor of the brave colonel who
had defended it in 1776, it is a place of honor
for South Carolinians. Moultrie's blue flag
with a white crescent in the corner - with the
addition of a palmetto tree - was adopted as
South Carolina's official state flag.