What exactly is Carolina Day?

An image of Sgt. Jasper raising the battle flag of the colonial forces over present-day Fort Moultrie on June 28, 1776 during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. Photo provided by New York Public Library

Written by: Holly Hamilton

In short, it’s the celebration of the start of the American Revolution with the Battle of Sullivan’s Island on June 28, 1776. It didn’t begin on June 28, 1776 but that is the date that our colonial ire hit the tipping point of British tolerance. It was that day that the British naval (and other military forces) did their best to reign in Charles Towne but were bested by a band of Carolina patriots (North AND South Carolinians – British born, colony born, and Native American).

Founded in 1777, The Palmetto Society has kept the celebration of Carolina Day every June 28th. Their Board of 13 members oversees and coordinates the parade and other festivities that make Charleston’s celebration of Carolina Day complete. Leading the charge is Cal Stephens, Chairman of the Palmetto Society. When asked why how such a few people are able to keep Carolina Day alive, Mr. Stephens said, “Re-read the stories of how this battle launched our country and how a few valiant men kept our patriot dreams alive. We must honor that day and remember the cost. It’s all worth the time, when we hold fast to those reasons.”

On that day in 1776, Colonel Thomson turned the tide on the Breach Inlet invasion while Colonel Moultrie and his men defended Fort Sullivan in what later would be known as the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. To gain a clear image of the battle, realize that the fort was constructed of palmetto logs strapped together to support sand mounds to swallow the British cannonball fire; it was not the stone citadel one thinks of now when “fort” comes to mind.

Our forces had defeated the powerhouse military power in the world – the legendary British Navy. June 28 marked the day that Britain realized the colonies would not submit to the heavy hand of taxation without representation. America would fight for its independence ferociously. And, Charles Towne was the seat of patriotic valor.

It is no coincidence in the grand Providence of our history that while this mighty battle raged in South Carolina, the first reading of the “committee draft” of the Declaration of Independence was read to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. On July 4th, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and it was first read in Philadelphia on July 8th but it was not until August 2nd 1776 that all the signers inked their names as the reinforcement of British troops arrived in New York after their defeat in Charles Towne.

Without the defeat of the British on June 28th 1776 right here at our own Sullivan’s Island, the Revolutionary War would have had a different tone. We sent our Congressional delegates (Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, Thomas Lynch Jr., and Thomas Heyward, Jr. ) to represent us and ultimately declare independence while simultaneously defending our home coast from the British. In Charleston, since 1777, Carolina Day has been a cause for thanksgiving and celebration of the valor of our own patriots.

This year’s Carolina Day festivities begin at 10am in downtown Charleston. A complete schedule can be found here. Pull out the Seersucker (Carolina Day colors are blue and white), grab your sunscreen and hat, then get the family down to White Point Gardens to enjoy patriotic music, wreath laying, a great bit of Revolutionary history by Jack Warren of the American Revolutionary War Institute and every little boy’s favorite part…. Cannon fire!