“Big Red” gets rousing welcome home
“Big Red,” the red palmetto flag that many believe was carried by Citadel cadets who fired on the Union supply ship Star of the West in 1861, was welcomed home today by an appreciative crowd of alumni, special dignitaries and descendants of the flag maker and one of the cadets.
“This is a source of great pride to The Citadel and to our history. It really is quite impressive,” said retired Episcopal Bishop George Haynsworth of Charleston. His grandfather was Cadet George Haynsworth, who is credited with pulling the lanyard that repulsed The Star of the West, stopping its approach to Fort Sumter with war supplies.
“Big Red” is on loan for four years from the State Historical Society of Iowa, which received the flag in 1919 from an Iowa Civil War veteran. The flag is housed at the Holliday Alumni Center where a museum-quality showcase has been built for the 10- by 7-foot framed flag. More than 750 people have donated in excess of $61,000 to bring the historical flag back to The Citadel.
We are pleased to be able to share this wonderful artifact by loaning it to The Citadel in time for the 150th anniversary of The Star of the West,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
The flag will be on public display from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 20 during Corps Day activities at The Citadel. After that it will be available for viewing during business hours weekdays and during football and special weekends at The Citadel.
“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.
“I think this is one of the greatest things in the world,” said Dr. Hugh Edward Vincent of Anderson, S.C. Vincent’s great grandfather, Hugh Vincent, was a Charleston businessman who made and sold candles aboard ships. His family also made flags, including “Big Red.”