South Carolina Volunteers, 1846 to 1848
“I see now in the prospective, the Palmetto Banner floating triumphantly over the storm of War. Go, and the God of Battles be with you.”
Governor Johnson, Charleston, South Carolina, December 22nd, 1846.
“The Gallant Palmettos, who showed themselves worthy of their state and country, lost nearly one half. The victory will carry joy and sorrow into half the families in South Carolina.”
Brigadier General W.J. Worth, U.S.A., in a letter dated August 26th, 1847, referring to the Battle of Churubusco.
HISOTRY OF THE PALMETTO'S
1846 to 1848
Post War, 1849 to 1920
Field & Staff | Company A | Company B
Company C | Company D | Company E
Company F | Company G | Company H
Company I | Company K | Company L
FLAGS OF THE PALMETTO REGIMENT, S.C. VOLUNTEERS
The City of Charleston Flag
On December 24th, 1846, in Charleston, South Carolina, May Thomas L. Hutchinson, of that city, presented the Regiment with its first Flag.The Flag was described as being made of Blue Silk, with the Coat of Arms of the State of South Carolina upon one side, and the United States Arms and a Palmetto Tree upon the other side, with the Inscription “Presented by the City of Charleston.” The Flag was also reported to have the motto “Not for ourselves we conquer, but our country.”
The Regiment carried this Flag through all of its active operations during the War with Mexico. At the Battle of Churubusco on August 20th, 1847, Colonel Butler and Lieutenant Colonel Dickinson were both mortally wounded while carrying the flag, Dickinson passed the flag onto Major Gladden who then passed the Flag to Lieutenant Baker of Company A, who carried it a short time before giving out due to illness, and turned the banner, once again, over to Major Gladden. Major Gladden passed the Flag to Private Patrick Leonard of Company H who carried the Flag through the remainder of the Battle.
At the Battle of Chapultepec and the fighting at the Belen Gate on September 13th, 1846, this Flag was the first American Colors that were raised over the City of Mexico. After the War Captain Charles Naylor would write that:
“After we had been there sometime, it was suggested that a Flag should be raised to announce our position and success to the other Division’s of the Army. General Quitman ordered a flag to be raised for the purpose. So far as I can remember there was no American Flag there; there was certainly none produced or exhibited. A young officer (whose name I am sorry to say I do not recollect) of the South Carolina Regiment, brought forward the Palmetto Flag, the flag of his regiment and State, and with two of his men and Lieut. Wilcox (of Quitman’s Staff) clambered to the top of a little shed adjoining the aqueduct, and upon the right of the gate as we enter the city, and from the top of that little shed he raised the Palmetto Flag over the aqueduct, and there held it amid a tremendous fire, provoked for a time into increased severity upon that point by the display of the Flag. There being no means to secure the flag in its place, General Quitman ordered it down; but before this could be done the gallant officer who had planted it and held it, was shot. I aided in getting him own. One of the two men who had charge of the flag, when this officer was wounded, was himself shot just as he leaped down from the shed, and he fell with the flag in his hand, by the side of General Quitman, who was at this time in a greatly exposed position, smoking a cigar, as was his custom, and inspiring the breasts of all around him with his own cheerful daring, unpretentious heroism, and confident security of an immediate, glorious, and final triumph.”
Upon the Regiment’s return from Mexico Colonel Gladden turned all the Regimental Property over to the Governor and the State. These Flags were reported to have been placed in a glass case for preservation at the South Carolina Statehouse, where it remained until February 17th, 1865. The records concerning the Flag are somewhat confusing as some sources state that when the Statehouse was burned by Union Forces the Flag was destroyed, however others indicate that the Flag may have been removed before hand, in either event the fate of the Original Flag of the Palmetto Regiment remains unknown.
There is supposed to be some small fragments of the Flag today, they are two small pieces of silk, and some gold fringe that were removed from the banner and presented to Lieutenant Robertson of Company F, they are reported to be located in the Armory of the Washington Light Infantry in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Second Issue Regimental Flag
While the Regiment was stationed in the City of Mexico, it was present a Regulation Style United States Regimental Flag by Major General William Orlando Butler, United States Volunteers, in recognition of it’s services in the War with Mexico.
Upon the Regiment’s return to South Carolina the Flag was turned over, along with the other Regimental Property to the Governor for safekeeping. During the Civil War the Flag disappeared, but resurfaced again after the war in the hands of the Palmetto Regiment Survivors Association.
In April of 1898 the United States went to war with Spain, among the Volunteers called for at this time was two Regiments of Infantry and one Battery of Artillery from the State of South Carolina. The Second South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of those Regiments, it was ordered to Cuba in January of 1899 as part of the United States Army’s 7th Army Corps, before their departure however the Regiment was presented the Flag of the Palmetto Regiment to carry during its service in Cuba. The Flag was carried for a second time to foreign soil, and as such became the only American Flag to have flow in victory over the Capital Cities of two Foreign Countries. Upon the Regiment’s return from Cuba and it’s being mustered out of United States service on April 19th, 1899, Colonel Wilie Jones commanding the Regiment returned the Flag to the Palmetto Regiment Survivors Association.
On February 8th, 1901, the Second Flag of the Palmetto Regiment was placed in the care of the State by the Palmetto Regiment Survivors’ Association, and by a Resolution of the South Carolina General Assembly the Flag was placed in the State Library. Since that time the Flag has remained in the care of the State of South Carolina, and is currently to be found on display at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Museum in Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina.
Letter of Colonel A.H. Gladden concerning the Colors
Columbia, South Carolina, Nov. 20, 1848.
Sir: I have the honor to deliver to you the Flag of the late Palmetto Regiment. It was presented by the City of Charleston to that Regiment on the eve of its departure from the State to join the Army in Mexico. It was borne by that Regiment in the capture of Vera Cruz – in the Battle of Contreras and Churubusco, on the 20th of August, 1847, and at Chapultepec and Garita de Belen on the 13th of September. At the Battle of Churubusco, it was taken from the hands of the Color Sergeant, Thomas Boggs, by Lieut. Col. Dickinson, and immediately after, Boggs was shot down standing near the Flag.
Col. P.M. Butler who had received a severe wound early in the action, and had turned over the command of the Regiment to Lieut. Col. Dickinson, was killed while standing under its folds. While Col. Dickinson held the Flag, h was shot down mortally wounded, and as he fell I caught it from his hands, and handed it to Lieut. Baker, of Company A, who bore it a short distance and reported to me that from sickness and exhaustion he was unable to carry it, whereupon I ordered Patrick Leonard, of Company H, to take charge of it; he bore it with great gallantry through the remainder of that battle, and in all others in which the Regiment participated.
In the final assault upon the city of Mexico, the Palmetto Regiment was ordered in the advance and was directed by Gen. Quitman to close up on the Rifles, so as to place rifles and bayonets in the same arches of the aqueduct. In this way the two corps continued in advance steadily, arch by arch, between the successive discharges of the enemy’s artillery. On approaching the Garita they charged the enemy, who retired and took shelter behind the strong works of the citadel. At this time, twenty minutes past one o’clock, P.M., the Palmettoes and the Rifles entered the city.
I stated in my official report, which I regret to say does not appear among the documents accompanying the President’s message, that the Rifle and Palmetto Regiments claim the honor of being the first American troops that entered the city of Mexico, which they did simultaneously, and that the Palmetto Flag was the first unfurled within its walls. I believe so then and believe so now.
At the moment that the Regiment was making the charge into the city, marching by the right flank, I saw John Miot of Company F, the flag bearer of that company, struggling to gain the walls, and asked for his flag, and he replied, “No, Major, let me bear it myself.” I then rode to the center of the Regiment, took the Flag from Leonard, galloped back to the gate, dismounted, turned my horse loose, (which I have never seen since) and at the head of the Palmettoes, planted their, the first American Flag in the City of Mexico. Gen. Quitman then expressed a wish to see the Palmetto Banner planted on the aqueduct, which was one by Lieut. Selleck, and then returned to me.
The Palmetto Regiment was then ordered to occupy fifteen arches of the aqueduct within the city. I carried the Flag to the fifteenth arch, and continued to hold it at that point until I was wounded.
I also deliver to your Excellency a flag assigned to the Regiment by Maj. Gen. Butler in the City of Mexico. I also deliver to you all the books and papers with some small articles of Regimental Property. The fact that almost every one who has touched or was near the flag of the Regiment was killed or wounded, and the number of bullet holes in it, shows the service through which it has gone.
With assurance of my highest respect, I remain,
Your Obedient Servant,
To his Excellency,
Governor of the State of South Carolina.
References & Resources
- “The Flag of the Palmetto Regiment.” Russell’s Magazine, Volume III, No. 1, April, 1858.
- “History of the Flag of the United States of America.” George Henry Prebele, Osgood & Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 1882.
- "South Carolina in the Mexican War. A History of the Palmetto Regiment of Volunteers. 1846-1917." Jack A. Meyer, South Carolina Department of Archives & History, Columbia, South Carolina, 1996.
- "The Gallant Gladden." Edith A. Purvis, Palmetto Bookworks, Columbia, South Carolina, 1996.
- South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Museum, Columbia, South Carolina.
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