South Carolina: Pioneer of Revolutionary America’s Liberty

By James Sweet III | South Carolina

The roots of liberty in the United States of America lie in the soil of the state of South Carolina. Regardless of political and ideological affiliation, many South Carolinians have influenced the American political atmosphere in major ways. Today, men and women like Lindsay Graham, Tim Scott, Trey Gowdy, and Nikki Haley have major roles to play. Now, while these men and women have influence, they aren’t necessarily liberty driven in all regards. Some are more liberty-minded than others, including House Representative Mark Sanford, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy. However, the true liberty driven South Carolinians lie in heaven. While they may not be alive today, America sees their influence today.

Christopher Gadsden

If you pay attention to your surroundings, you may see the Gadsden flag. The Gadsden flag was designed by South Carolinian Christopher Gadsden. Gadsden was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, and later the First and Second Continental Congress. He was not a rich man, but instead a middle class merchant born in Charlestown. Gadsden led the Patriot movement in the South and was a founder of the Charlestown Sons of Liberty. He was good friends with Sam Adams, earning the nickname “Sam Adams of the South” for refusing an appeal to the British Parliament. The patriot also advocated for the Stamp Act Congress to write the Declaration of Rights.

In 1775, as the revolution dawned, Gadsden presented the Gadsden Flag to the Congress. It was meant to be used as the flag for the colonial marines. When he returned to South Carolina, he also presented the flag to the provincial congress of the state. In February, Governor (whose official title at the time was President) John Rutledge¬†named him brigadier general of the state’s military.

When the revolution broke out, the main concern of the military was the defense of Charleston. Gadsden and other officers defending Charlestown disagreed with Major General Charles Lee on his order to abandon position. They eventually compromised, and as William Moultrie focused on defending Sullivan’s Island, Christopher Gadsden’s regiment built a route that would allow the forces to escape. In 1778, Gadsden became “Vice President of South Carolina”, which later became the office of Lieutenant Governor. Gadsden continued to stay brave and hold the torch of liberty, staying in Charlestown and representing the local government when it fell to the British in 1780. When his parole was violated by the British, he refused to cooperate with General Cornwallis. After the war, he returned to South Carolina, dying in 1805.

William Moultrie

William Moultrie was also born in Charlestown, and his modern day influence is not as important. Although he did leave behind something that is recognizable to some: the Moultrie Flag. Moultrie was a colonel of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment when the British initially attacked Charlestown. As previously mentioned, he was tasked with defending Sullivan’s Island against the British. Moultrie created the Moultrie Flag for his troops to fly. Sergeant William Jasper, after some debate, made it a sign of liberty and the revolution in the South. The people of South Carolina, as well as those in surrounding areas, quickly came to love the flag. Though Moultrie is a controversial figure due to inhumane action in the French and Indian War, many are nonetheless thankful for his contributions to liberty. He defended the revolution, as well as creating a flag that many still use today.

Francis Marion

Known as the Swamp Fox, historians have named Francis Marion as a father of guerrilla warfare. Marion was born in modern day Berkeley County in South Carolina around 1732. He was a Captain under William Moultrie, present at the defense of Sullivan’s Island. In 1776, the Continental Congress commissioned Marion as a Lieutenant Colonel. In 1779, he was part of the attempt to push the British out of Georgia, which was a failure. When he returned to South Carolina in 1780, the British successfully captured Charleston. Marion, however, avoided capture, as he was not present at the city due to a broken ankle. The British continued to push into the colony.

After multiple Patriot military losses, Marion decided to return to the battlefield with a small group of men. At the time of formation, Marion’s group of men was the only group actively opposing the British Army. He met up with General Horatio Gates in an attempt to assist him before the Battle of Camden, but Gates did not like Marion. Due to this, Gates sent Marion to do intelligence gathering, causing Marion and his men to miss the battle. This may have been good, however, considering the British massacred the Patriots due to Gates’ incompetence. Marion continued to defend the state against Lord Cornwallis, holding modern-day Pee Dee when the rest of the state was occupied. The British could never push into Pee Dee, and the British would later retreat from the state to Yorktown, due to multiple military defeats that pushed them out.

Francis Marion gained his name when Banastre Tarleton, a British Colonel that was responsible for the massacre of surrendering American troops, attempted to chase him throughout the swamps. Marion and his men evaded the British for 26 miles until Tarleton ceased his search. Tarleton later said of Marion, “[as] for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.” Marion was able to attack large British forces with his small group of men in a surprising, yet quick manner.

Without Marion’s defense of the state and his ruthless attacks, the thirteen colonies may not have won the war. His offensive and defensive strategy led to Cornwallis retreating from South Carolina to Yorktown. Marion was an influential figure that shaped the fictional character Benjamin Martin in The Patriot.

All being said, it is evident that men like Gadsden, Marion, and Moultrie have contributed to modern day America, and contributed to the Revolutionary War in critical ways. Without Moultrie and Gadsden, we would not have the flags we have now for our movements.Without Marion, we may have just completely lost the revolution in the South. Keep that in mind when you look at the great state of South Carolina and its history.

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