Monday, April 25, 2011

The Flags Flying Over Fort Sumter

Since becoming a resident of the Lowcountry I have visited Fort Sumter a handful of times and I usually fix my eyes upon the Fort at the far end of Charleston Harbor nearly every time I walk along the harbor front. One of the most memorable images that I have taken with me on my observations of the fortress are the 6 flags waving gallantly in the stiff breeze of the Atlantic Ocean, symbols of the historic significance of the fort and a tribute to the many men who fought to defend or claim her for their respective side.

The current 6 banners displayed at the fort have flown in unison since 1970 and represent a timeline if you will of the occupation of the fortress in the middle of the Charleston Harbor. Within that timeline one can begin to understand the complexity of the history of the famous redoubt. On April 12, 1861 when the recently commemorated inaugural shots of the Civil War were fired upon the Federally Occupied Fort Sumter, the 33-star Flag of the United States of America stood watch over the fortress. Shortly thereafter when the confederates claimed the fort on April 14, 1861 the banner of the Palmetto Guard was raised on the flag pole above the citadel. The first National Flag of the Confederacy, The Stars and Bars with 7 stars signifying the seven Confederate States of America was proudly displayed from 1861-1863. In 1863 the Stars and Bars was replaced by the second National Flag of the Confederacy, the Stainless Banner, adorned with 13 stars representing the 11 seceeded states as well as Kentucky and Missouri who had not seceeded but were recognized as Confederate States. And then in 1865 the National Banner of The United States of America now with 35 stars since two states, West Virginia and Kansas, were now part of the Nation. Today, the Flag of The United States of America and the familiar Flag of The State of South Carolina are displayed along with the other four standards creating a highly recognizable monument visible from the shores of Charleston Harbor. Throughout the Civil War Fort Sumter represented both victory and defeat to both armies and today, one-hundred and fifty years later the citadel in the harbor represents a living museum of history to the thousands of visitors who tour the fort each year.

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