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Citadel News Service
17 Mar 2010

Haynsworth, Vincent descendants to attend “Big Red” unveiling

Bishop George Haynsworth’s grandfather died before he was born. But he’s heard the story of how Cadet George Edward Haynsworth on Jan. 9, 1861 pulled the lanyard that fired on the Union supply ship The Star of the West, stopping its approach to Fort Sumter with war supplies.

Like Haynsworth, Dr. Hugh Edward Vincent Jr. only knows the stories he has heard about his great grandfather. A Charleston businessman who made and sold candles aboard ships, Hugh Vincent’s family were also flag makers and made a red palmetto flag with a ‘U’ crescent that came to be known as The Citadel’s “Big Red” spirit flag.

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The Star of the West mural hangs in the Daniel Library.

The doctor from Anderson, S.C., and the Episcopal bishop from Charleston will be at The Citadel on Friday as The Citadel Alumni Association celebrates the homecoming of what is thought to be the “Big Red” that flew over Morris Island and the assault on The Star of the West nearly 150 years ago.

The flag arrived in Charleston March 5. It will be unveiled during an invitation-only event Friday, March 19 at the Holliday Alumni Center, 69 Hagood Ave. The public will get the first chance to see it during Corps Day events Saturday, March 20. After that it will be available for viewing during business hours weekdays and during football and special weekends at The Citadel.

In addition to the unveiling ceremony Friday, NASA Astronaut Randy Bresnik, Class of 1989, will return a replica of the original “Big Red” that he took aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on a November 2009 mission to the International Space Station. Bresnik’s presentation is part of the college’s Principled Leadership Symposium. It is at 12:30 p.m. in Buyer Auditorium in Mark Clark Hall and is free and open to the public.

And during the 3:45 p.m. military dress parade on Friday replicas of the original “Big Red” will be unfurled by each of the five cadet battalions that make up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. The battalion colors have included “Big Red” since 1992. Parade is open to the public.

Discovered in storage in an Iowa museum, “Big Red” is on loan for four years from the State Historical Society of Iowa, where it had been in storage since 1919 when it was donated by Iowa Civil War veteran Pvt. John Baker, said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Historical Society. She will attend Friday’s unveiling.

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"Big Red" is machine- and hand-stitched of wool and cotton. It measures a little more than 7 feet high and just over 10 feet wide. It is encased in a wood frame behind UV glass. In its display in the lobby of the Holliday Alumni Center, the flag will be secured in a climate- and light-controlled room.

"Big Red” is a significant point of pride for Citadel cadets and alumni.

“For me, Big Red is a symbol of The Citadel and the principles of discipline, duty and honor exhibited by Citadel cadets and graduates since 1842,” said Ed Carter, chairman of the Big Red Recovery Committee and immediate past president of the alumni association. “It is a rallying point for the South Carolina Corps of Cadets and all alumni.”

A replica with a white palmetto tree and outward facing crescent was adopted as the “Big Red” spirit flag in 1992. Its design was the same as the South Carolina state flag, but on a red field. The original flag, however, has a stylized palmetto tree and an inward facing crescent. The latter flag was adopted in 2009 as the college’s official spirit flag.

Following its discovery in Iowa three years ago, more than 750 people have donated in excess of $61,000 to bring the historical flag back to The Citadel and create a museum-quality showcase while it is here on loan from Iowa. 

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"Big Red" is moved into its permanent display room in the Holliday Alumni Center. Following its discovery in storage at the Iowa Historical Society three years ago, more than 750 people have donated in excess of $61,000 to bring the historical flag back to The Citadel and create a museum-quality showcase while it is here on four-year loan. 

The flag is machine- and hand-stitched of wool and cotton. It measures a little more than 7 feet high and just over 10 feet wide. It is encased in a wood frame behind UV glass. In its display in the lobby of the Holliday Alumni Center, the flag will be secured in a climate- and light-controlled room. It will be visible through a large glass wall.

Dr. Vincent said he’s fascinated by his family connection to Big Red and proud of the connection to The Citadel. His son, Thomas Vincent is a 1980 Citadel graduate and has a son who is interested in attending his father’s alma mater.

“I knew very little of my great grandfather,” he said. “But I think this is one of the greatest things in the world.”

After the war Cadet George Haynsworth returned to his hometown of Sumter, S.C., where he was the city magistrate. Some years later while at work he was shot and killed during a firefight that broke out in a group of men brought in by the sheriff. Bishop Haynsworth’s father and Cadet George Haynsworth’s son, Joseph H. Haynsworth, Citadel Class of 1900, was just a boy at the time. Like his father, Bishop Haynsworth, Citadel Class of 1944, grew up with only stories of their ancestor’s place in U.S. history.

“We had not heard much of the Big Red flag being with the cadets at Morris Island,” said Haynsworth, now retired from the Episcopal Diocese in Charleston. “But this is a source of great pride to The Citadel and to our history. It really is quite impressive.” 

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