Sullivan’s Island, SC – Friday is the day the Lowcountry will celebrate a moment in history now called “Carolina Day.”
“Celebrated on the 28th of June every year since 1777, Carolina Day commemorates an important battle that took place on Sullivan’s Island in 1776, an action that could rightfully be called the first significant American military victory in the early days of our war for independence from Great Britain,” according to the Charleston County Public Library.
The celebration helps natives and newcomers understand why South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State and why there is a palmetto tree on the state flag.
“In January 1776, South Carolina’s Provincial Congress ordered the construction of a new fortification on Sullivan’s Island, on the northern edge of the entrance to Charleston harbor. Fort Johnson, built on James Island in 1708, was the traditional guardian of the harbor, but the Provincial Congress felt that the creation of an additional fort on Sullivan’s Island would create a gauntlet, making it much more difficult for enemy ships to approach Charleston,” according to Nic Butler, Ph.D.
“The Provincial Congress took an important step on 26 March 1776. On that day, our elected representatives adopted a constitution that declared South Carolina to be a sovereign and independent state. Our Provincial Congress renamed itself the South Carolina House of Representatives, and we elected John Rutledge “president” of our state,” Dr. Butler explained.
In May of 1776, a fleet of fifty plus British warships, headed to South Carolina.
After nearly four weeks in a stand off, on June 28th, for hours, seven British vessels took turns firing broadsides into fort of palmetto walls. “Those shots either bounced off the spongy trees or became imbedded in the walls,” Dr. Butler explained
Inside the fort, ammunition was in short supply. So the South Carolina soldiers focused shots on the British’s biggest ships. When those British ships tried to move out of the line of fire, they were stuck in a sandbar and rendered useless to the battle.
During the battle, a cannonball smashed the flagstaff at the fort, but Sergeant William Jasper, spring into action to retrieve the flag and re-erect it. His efforts encourages the South Carolinas to continue fighting.
At sunset on June 28 1776, the British fleet cut anchor and sailed away.
“The raw, untested South Carolina troops lost a dozen men, while the superior British forces suffered 220 casualties and retreated with a fleet of shattered warships. It was an amazing victory by any standards,” according to Dr. Butler.
Photos provided by Sullivan’s Island Town Hall