Big Red Flag Official Flag of the Citadel
Official flag of The Citadel
AKA: Big Red Flag, Citadel Guidon. "Citadel Cadets' Spirit Flag."
Mostly forgotten until the 20th century after being used in the American Civil war.
The Red South Carolina Flag
(“BIG RED”)—”Big Red” is the official spirit flag of The Citadel Corps of Cadets and has been associated with the college since the beginning of the Civil War.
It is a slightly different representation of the palmetto tree--with the inscription "THE CITADEL" in an arc of white letters above the tree and "SOUTH CAROLINA CORPS OF CADETS" in an arc below the tree.
Source: The first year cadets' handbook "Knob Knowledge," online edition at www.citadel.edu/library/Knob/knob_f.htm, which says:
This is the S.C. State Flag with "S.C. Corps of Cadets" embroidered on it. It has nine battle streamers commemorating Civil War engagements in which The Citadel participated."
Civil war history of Big Red
In the week following South Carolina’s withdrawal from the United States in December 1860, a variety of “secession flags” were sewn and flown throughout the new republic. One such banner—a red flag with a white palmetto in its center—was presented to a company of Citadel cadets stationed on Morris Island by the ladies of Hugh E. Vincent’s family. Mr. Vincent owned much of the island, which is on the south side of the entrance to Charleston harbor.
The cadets manned a sand battery of three cannons, and their mission was to protect the harbor and prevent US ships from resupplying the Union troops sequestered at Fort Sumter. When the Star of the West, an unarmed commercial steamer, entered the harbor on the morning of January 9, 1861, Cadet George Edward Haynesworth of Sumter fired the first hostile shot of the accelerating conflict between the North and South. Above the battery, according to the captain of the Star of the West, flew the red flag with the white palmetto.
Big Red disappears until the 20th Century
After the Civil War, this red and white palmetto flag seems to have disappeared for almost a century. In the fall of 1960, it was used as a guidon by that year’s honor company (Romeo) in anticipation of its reenactment of the firing on the Star of the West on January 9, 1961. As best determined, this is when the term “Big Red” was first used to describe the flag, as it was much larger than the normal guidon.
In recent decades, “Big Red” has been flown by the Touchdown Cannon Crew who fires the cannons each time The Citadel’s football team scores. Since 1989, it has replaced the Confederate Naval Jack that the Cadets once waved at sporting events. You can also see “Big Red” flying daily near the center of The Citadel campus at the north end of the parade ground.
Big Red Flag in the 21st Century
“Big Red” completed its 150-year and 1,203-mile journey home to The Citadel on Friday, March 19, 2010 and has become a symbol of pride and spirit for The Citadel.
Discovered in storage in an Iowa museum, the Civil War-era red palmetto flag is through extensive historical research believed to be a design of Charleston flag maker Hugh Vincent and the actual flag that flew over Morris Island when Citadel cadets fired on the supply ship The Star of the West in 1861. Private Willard Baker, a Civil War veteran from Iowa, donated the flag to his state in 1919 as he wanted it to be used to educate people about history. After its discovery, the flag was in 2010 graciously provided on loan from the State Historical Society of Iowa through the efforts of Citadel alumni. Big Red “has been embedded into the tradition and history of the Corps of Cadets ever since, with every aspect a part of each cadet’s life forever,” according to South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and the hope is that it will remain at The Citadel in perpetuity.