The palmetto tree (Arecaceae Sabal palmetto) is our state tree and a familiar emblem in South Carolina, adorning our majestic state flag as well as t-shirts, beer bottles, and a myriad of mundane objects. All good South Carolinians know, of course, that the “Palmetto State” honors the palmetto in memory of the events of 28 June 1776, on which date a small number of brave soldiers lodged in an unfinished palmetto-log fort on Sullivan’s Island successfully repulsed a large invasion force of the British Navy. It was the first significant victory for the American “rebels,” a week before the Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
Beginning in 1777, the 28th of June has been regularly celebrated in South Carolina (well, mostly in the lowcountry), as “Palmetto Day” or “Carolina Day,” and these commemorations represent a treasured heritage for many in our state. The Palmetto Society (formed in 1777) in conjunction with the South Carolina Historical Society, for example, lead an annual parade down Meeting Street to White Point Garden. The National Park Service staff at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island annually hosts a fun day of educational events at the site of the original battle. Many in our community are unfamiliar with this venerable tradition, however, and thus we feel compelled to help spread the word about this most deserving of anniversaries.
To commemorate the 236th anniversary of Carolina Day, Dr. Nic Butler, public historian at the Charleston County Public Library, will present an illustrated lecture examining the use of palmetto trees in the construction of fortifications on Sullivan’s Island, James Island, and even downtown Charleston, between 1775 and 1780. The public is invited to attend this free program on one (or all!) of the upcoming dates:
The Palmetto Tree:
Defender of South Carolina, 1775–1780.
Saturday, June 22nd at Noon: Edgar Allan Poe Library, 1921 I’On Avenue, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Tuesday, June 25th at 6 p.m., James Island Library, 1248 Camp Road, Charleston, SC 29412
Wednesday, June 26th at 6 p.m., CCPL Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401
For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.