In Charleston, June means that it’s time to celebrate Carolina Day, the way Charlestonians commemorated the 1st Patriot victory in the South during the American Revolution. Every June 28th since 1777, the church bells of St. Michaels ring out with the song of “3 Blind Mice” just as they did on the day that General Moultrie and his men triumphed over the British.
On this day in 1776, British ships sailed into Charleston harbor and opened fire on a tiny fort on Sullivan’s Island. The infamous “shots heard ‘round the world” had been fired a little over a year before in April 1775, but Americans were still debating whether to declare independence from Britain. The British expected to put down the rebellion quickly by taking Charleston, one of the largest and wealthiest ports in America.
Unprepared for battle, patriot Colonel William Moultrie and his troops hastily constructed a fort on the tip of the island using local palmetto trees. As the British navy began their bombardment, the spongy logs absorbed the cannon balls rather than splintering. Moultrie’s regiment, with a limited supply of troops and ammunition, fired carefully upon the British fleet, damaging the ships severely. After a day of bombardment, the British navy withdrew to New York, and it would be three years before they revived the fight in the southern colonies.
A year later, Charlestonians commemorated Moultrie’s victory, and the holiday has been celebrated in the state ever since. The state flag, which features prominently in all Carolina Day celebrations, was designed by Colonel Moultrie after the battle. The indigo flag incorporates the crescent symbol from Moultrie’s company flag and an image of the palmetto tree that was critical to that battle.
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