The SC State Flag has a rather simple design, a white palmetto tree in the center, and a white crescent to the left and above it.
Sometime in the past 20-30 years, it has been proffered that the crescent represents a gorget, an old armored ‘throat collar.’
The historical record linking the crescent to a gorget is absolutely silent. The State Flag and the predecessor Moultrie flag in all records refer to it simply as a crescent. Maybe it was supposed to symbolize it, and maybe not, but there doesn’t appear to be any written evidence attesting to it.
But the story linking the gorget and crescent had to start somewhere. I’ve found it as far back as 2007, but it might go back a little further–but I doubt more than 30 years, and probably not more than 20.
That’s the GQ: When did the story first appear?
And who knows. . . maybe someone might dig up a contemporary reference linking the two.
[Confession: I bought in to the story myself when I first heard it, because it submitted by someone who seemed to know, but I later came to be more skeptical.]
I’ll have to wait until I get home from vacation to access my South Carolina history books. I’ve done a lot of running down of this story in the past.
As for it being a moon, it cannot be that, or, at least, if it is, it’s not an accurate representation. The moon as a crescent never goes past 180º of arc, and the crescent on the SC flag goes well past that.
A quick note about the “gorget” association: it is generally stated that the “crescent” in the original flag designed by Col. Moultrie represented the crescent metal badges that his soldiers wore on their caps during the early days of the Revolution. The question is why the soldiers wore such crescents; one explanation involves the resemblance to a “gorget”.
I’m bumping this one because I, too, am interested in the answer. I asked some SC residents over the weekend who said I was silly for bringing it up. However, after some discussion, they’re questioning things, too.
I had often wondered about this. It’s a strange-looking crescent moon. The gorget is a compelling explanation but I wasn’t able to find anything conclusive. There were plenty of google hits, though. This link at The Post and Courier may have had the best -but still lacking- information.
It is a ‘crescent’. As far back as news archives go, it is always referred to simply as a ‘crescent’. Not ‘crescent moon,’ not ‘gorget.’ Just ‘crescent.’ The question is whether the crescent is supposed to symbolize a gorget or not, and history appears to be absolutely silent on that.
The fact that it doesn’t look exactly like a crescent moon is irrelevant. Flags use symbolic shapes for stars, The Sun, animals, etc.
The crescent symbol was first used by South Carolina troops in 1761. It was a depiction of the crescent symbol on the family crest of the William Bull who raised the militia to fight the Indians. The crescent on the Bull family crest was a depiction of a medieval gorget. It was first depicted on a flag by Moultrie, in honor of the battle of Sullivans Island. So it is correct to say that the crescent on the South Carolina flag is depicting a gorget.
Just adding to the data point that I’ve lived in SC my whole life and have never heard the gorget thing. I skimmed the vertical file stuff we still have (all pretty old) and there’s nothing about gorgets in it.
However, if you ever wanted to buy a sticker for your car of the SC state flag where the tree is represented by a gamecock leg, well, we got you fam.
Moultrie designed a blue flag with a white crescent moon in the canton with the word “Liberty” on the moon. A form of this design dated back to the 1765 Stamp Act riots when South Carolinians protested the act under a blue flag with three crescents in the canton (the upper left corner). Keeping with this theme, Moultrie’s South Carolina regiments wore blue uniforms with a silver crescent on their caps and the words “Liberty or Death.” Moultrie chose the design to honor his soldiers and continued the tradition of using the crescent as a symbol of resistance to tyrannical rule. This flag became known as the Fort Moultrie Flag and was the first US flag flown in the south. It also became the flag of the South Carolina Minutemen.
My first recollection of your reference comes from the late Eighties to perhaps the early Nineties as to a video game. My kids tried to lure me into an argument over such, as it was somehow involved in one of their favorite games (I didn’t/don’t play) so I didn’t care… But I distinctly remember it, I just didn’t desire to discuss the importance of their notions at the time, much less take note of the name of the game. Sorry.
Perhaps it’s just an early meme derived from overactive children’s imaginations.
ETA: There weren’t that many video games back then, perhaps that in it’s self may be a clue?
It seems fairly plausible that the crescent shape derives ultimately from the arms of William Bull, who raised the militia regiment. However this in itself doesn’t mean that it represents a gorget. This particular heraldic symbol is referred to, unsurprisingly, as a “crescent”. It is conventionally displayed with the points upwards - if the points are to be oriented in another direction this needs to be stated.
Heraldic symbols don’t necessarily represent anything; they are chosen primarily to be distinctive, but beyond that they may be chosen because they have particular significance for the person on whose arms they are to be born, or because they look pleasing or symmetrical, or to indicate a family link with some other person whose arms also include this item.
The main use of the crescent in heraldry is as a mark of cadency; a man’s arms would be inherited by his eldest son, his younger sons would adopt modified versions of the arms, and the convention was that the second son would adopt the arms modified with the addition of a crescent. If the crescent is going to represent a real-world object, it most often represents the moon.
It’s probably unlikely to represent a gorget, if only because a standard coat of arms normally includes a helmet (sitting on top of the shield) and the helmet itself normally includes a gorget.