Bernal Streets Offer Guidance in Confederate Flag Debate


The Moultrie Flag

In South Carolina, legislators are struggling as they reconsider the public display of the Confederate battle flag. Hey, better late than never, right?

But what about a replacement? On this matter, Bernal Heights can offer some guidance. We know of a lovely alternative flag design, stemming from the fact that many of our streets here in Bernal are named after American military heroes.

People of South Carolina, we, the Citizens of Bernalwood, here provide a polite tap on the shoulder to remind you about… The Moultrie Flag!

Yup. The Moultrie Flag, as shown above. And no, this isn’t an oddball Bernalwood flag design exercise. Neighbor Glenda tells us the Moultrie Flag, like our own Moultrie Street, is named after William Moultrie, whom the Bernal History Project describes as follows:

Moultrie Street
Although William Moultrie (1730-1805) led troops against Native Americans in 1761 and won election to the colonial assembly, the general is remembered chiefly for his surprising defense of a South Carolina fort (now Fort Moultrie) on Sullivan’s Island. It blocked the British in 1776 from capturing Charleston, his birthplace. Captured in 1780 and released after the war, he was elected governor of South Carolina in 1785.

Ah, but that’s the short version of the story. Blogger Juan Cole explains why the Moultrie Flag should make any South Carolinian proud:

If Southerners want a regional symbol of pride and valor, why not go back to the Moultrie or Liberty flag?

It was flown by South Carolinians in the fight against the Redcoats during the Revolutionary War and was the first American flag to fly over the South.

Best of all, the flag has the word “Liberty” written into the crescent moon, underscoring this key American value, so important for all peoples living in the South. It is better than the Gadsden flag (with the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake) because it expresses a positive value and emotion rather than a negative, reactive one.

So true. Here’s what the Wikipedia sayeth about the Moultrie Flag:

In 1775, Colonel William Moultrie was asked by the Revolutionary Council of Safety to design a flag for the South Carolina troops to use during the American Revolutionary War. Moultrie’s design had the blue of the militia’s uniforms and the crescent. It was first flown at Fort Johnson.[2] This flag was flown in the defense of a new fortress on Sullivan’s Island, when Moultrie faced off against a British fleet that had not lost a battle in a century.

However, there is much debate about the significance of the crescent. In 1775 Colonel William Moultrie was asked by the “Revolutionary Council of Safety” to design a flag for the South Carolina troops. In his memoirs, Colonel Wiliam Moultrie tells us: “A little time after we were in possession of Fort Johnson, it was thought necessary to have a flag for the purpose of signals: (as there was no national or state flag at that time) I was desired by the council of safety to have one made, upon which, as the state troops were clothed in blue, and the fort was garrisoned by the first and second regiments, who wore a silver crescent on the front of their caps; I had a large blue flag made with a crescent in the dexter corner, to be in uniform with the troops …”In the 16-hour battle on June 28, 1776, the flag was shot down, but Sergeant William Jasper ran out into the open, raising it and rallying the troops until it could be mounted again. This gesture was so heroic, saving Charleston, South Carolina, from conquest for four years, that the flag came to be the symbol of the Revolution, and liberty, in the state and the new nation.

Soon popularly known as either the Liberty Flag or Moultrie Flag, it became the standard of the South Carolinian militia, and was presented in Charleston, by Major General Nathanael Greene, when that city was liberated at the end of the war. Greene described it as having been the first American flag to fly over the South.

Raise the Moultrie Flag, people of South Carolina! Raise the Moultrie Flag, people of Moultrie Street!

But wait! There is another Bernal street connection to today’s Confederate flag removal debate. Neighbor Richard reminds Bernalwood about the namesake of Ellsworth Street:

Ellsworth Street
Fascinated by military history and panoply, Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth (1837-1861) was a friend of Lincoln’s. He raised a regiment of volunteers from New York firefighters, who invaded Virginia the day after it seceded. When he cut down a Confederate flag atop a hotel, the owner killed him with a shotgun blast and was shot dead in return. “Remember Ellsworth” became a rallying cry of a regiment known as the Ellsworth Avengers.

Oh my. Ellsworth was killed while removing a Confederate flag! Even more, in the process of doing so, the Wikipedia sayeth that Ellsworth actually became “the first conspicuous casualty of the American Civil War.”

Woooa!  Mind. Blown.

Anyway, to the People of South Carolina, we, the Citizens of Bernalwood send our sincere hope that you will make a wise choice.

HAT TIPS: Neighbors Glenda Brewer and Richard Everett

11 thoughts on “Bernal Streets Offer Guidance in Confederate Flag Debate

  1. We fly this flag in front of our house on Andover on various occasions. People always wonder about the crescent moon, as that appears on flags of Muslim nations as well, but then the “LIBERTY” is confusing in conjunction with that! We just think it’s cool.

  2. That is a great flag, and I was not aware of it previously.

    The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas was a very violent and desperate affair. The American forces were mostly local militias made up of men and boys without formal military training. There were instances massacres and hostage taking against the civilian population in retribution for rebellious acts. The American forces too often engaged very violent acts of what we would now call guerilla warfare.

    Andrew Jackson volunteered for a local militia when he was thirteen. His oldest brother Hugh died of heat stroke following the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779. In 1781, Jackson and his brother Robert were captured. During their captivity, a British officer slashed Jackson with his sword after he refused to polish the officer’s boots. Additionally, both Andrew and Robert contracted smallpox in prison and were gravely ill when their mother arranged for their release in a prisoner exchange. Shortly after their release, Robert succumbed to the illness and died. Jackson survived.

  3. Flags, flags
    All this talk of flags
    Flying over, in my face
    making life a drag

    Fly this don’t fly that
    What’s the deal with flags?

  4. I really like the design too.

    However, we know that “Liberty” in Moultrie’s time was established at least in part through slavery and genocide. Perhaps as good citizens of Bernalwood we can offer South Carolinians a more suitable replacement for the Confederate flag than one honoring someone who “led troops against Native Americans in 1761.”

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