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It’s hard to believe that 2015 is right around the corner. I hope you all had a good year. My post is a little different today. It has nothing to do with Charleston but does have to do with history and how the Christmas spirit could make a group of men fighting in World War I forget for a moment they were enemies. Below is a link to the video.

Enjoy and  may you all have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year

Lee Ann

 

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Carolina Day and The Battle of Fort Sullivan

In Charleston, June means that it’s time to celebrate Carolina Day, the way Charlestonians commemorate the 1st Patriot victory in the South during the American Revolution.  Every June 28th since 1777, the church bells of St. Michaels ring out with the song of “3 Blind Mice” just as they did on the day that General Moultrie and his men triumphed over the British.

Charles Town (as it was called until after the American Revolution) was the 4th largest city in the colonies but was the 2nd wealthiest.  All that wealth came from “Carolina Gold” which was rice.  The Mother Land did not want to let such a wealth city slip away from her and Britain was determined to crush the revolt that was occurring in the South and to make Charles Town the example.  The British sent a fleet of 50 ships and 3000 soldiers to handle the matter.  On the Patriot side, we had General William Moultrie and 435 men and a fort that was made out of Palmetto trees and sand located on the tip of Sullivan’s Island and called Fort Sullivan.

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The British Attack Begins:

The British began the attack on June 28, 1776.  They situated 11 ships in Charleston Harbor and began firing their 270 guns on the Little Fort. (Which at that time was not complete).  To the amazement of the British, the Fort would not fall.  For those of you that don’t know anything about a Palmetto Tree, it’s very porous and each time the British would fire a cannon, the ball would get stuck in the Fort and not explode; if it did explode then the sand that was used to hold the Fort together would fall and put out the fire.  Confused by the fact that the Fort was not burning, the British moved in closer.  Bad idea:  3 ships ran aground on a sandbar which is now the location of Fort Sumter.  There they became sitting ducks for Patriots.  Francis Marion who would be known later as the “Swamp Fox” ordered the fort’s guns to be turned on those ships.  Meanwhile the battle raged on. General Moultrie told his men to fire every 10 minutes and to make your shots count. The Fort was low on ammunition.  The British thought that they had won when during the battle the military flag was shot away.  They cheered as the flag was lowered as they thought that this was a sign of surrender.  An Irishmen, Sergeant Jasper grabbed it and refastened it yelling “let us not fight without a flag”.  He died 3 years later clutching a flag in the battle to try to reclaim Savannah from the British.

sergergant jasper

 

 

 

 

 

The British did not fare well in the battle.  They lost over 100 men, 2 Captains and at least 1 ship.  The Patriots lost only 12 men.  An embarrassing moment for the British fleet during the battle was when Admiral Sir Peter Parker, who was in commander of the fleet was injured by a flying splinter of wood that left “ the hindpart of his breeches shot away, which laid his posteriors bare.”  This incident provided much entertainment for the newspapers of the day.

The land forces did not fare so well either.  A group of 780 colonials and “Breach Inlet”, a treacherous area of water, were able to hold off the main force of 2000 British soldiers.

A British Officer wrote of the battle and the Little Fort on Sullivan’s Island: “the invincible British Navy defeated by a Battery which it was supposed would not stood one Broadside.”

There were more battles fought in South Carolina during the American Revolution than any other colony/state. (137 to be exact).

sc flagWe also honor this victory in our state Flag.  The Palmetto tree represents the Fort; the blue color matches the color of the men’s uniforms and the crescent moon was a symbol that appeared on their caps. (To learn more about this see my post on September, 2012)

 

Happy Carolina Day

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

 

 

150 Years Ago- The Hunley

By 1863, Lincoln’s Anaconda Plan was in full effect. Most of the harbors of the South had been closed and those that were open were blocked by Union ships patrolling to ensure any blockade runners were stopped from entering the ports with their goods and supplies.   General Beauregard, who was in charge of the Charleston defenses realized that the situation in Charleston was deteriorating daily. Just like the prey of the Anaconda snake, the port of Charleston was being strangled.  The solution to the problem might be in Alabama.  An innovative diving machine that could be used to break up the blockade was being tested.  Letters of success were immediately sent to Charleston and shortly after, 2 gentleman arrived with diagrams, drawing and stories of the underwater tests of a submarine.   Once Beauregard saw the plans and listen to the wild scheme, he thought “Why not?” this might be our chance to break the blockade.  On August 12, 1863 the submarine, which is called the Hunley arrived in Charleston from Mobile on 2 flatbed train cars.  The boat was given the nickname “the fish boat” because the body looked like the body of a fish.

Hunley painting

And so began the training. Unfortunately, the Hunley ran into a string of misfortune.  2 crews lost their lives during training exercises. Both accidents were caused by human error. General Beauregard was ready to boycott the mission “more dangerous to those that use it than to the enemy” but he was convinced by Lieutenant George Dixon to let him have one more chance.

Dixon was described as “very handsome, fair, nearly 6 feet tall, and of most attractive presence. I never know a better man; and there never was a braver man in any service of any army.” These traits and his knowledge of the Hunley (Dixon was part of the crew that built the submarine) probably was what ultimately convinced Beauregard to give the project one more chance.  Dixon recruited another crew, which is amazing in and of itself seeing how the submarine had already killed 13 men. What Dixon said to those men is lost to the ages but in the post war writings of William Alexander who was assigned as Dixon’s First Officer, “We had no difficulty in getting volunteers to man her. I don’t believe a man considered the danger which awaited him. The honor of being the first to engage the enemy in this novel way overshadowed all else.” (William Alexander was recalled to Alabama on Feb 5, 1864.)

By January 19, 1864 the crew was proficient with the attack plans and reported to Beauregard their intentions and requested orders.  Daily the men would make the 7 mile hike from their quarters at Mount Pleasant (It was not until February that the men were quartered closer to the Hunley), take the submarine in the back bay for practice runs, then sleep for a few hours so to be ready to head out once it was darkness fell.  They would do this routine on an average of 4 nights a week and would be propelled by manpower, the submarine approximately 6-7 miles out to sea searching for the enemy till dawn the next morning.

On the night of February 10, a new blockade ship appeared. The Housatonic; 207 foot, 1240 ton sloop that had 12 guns, was sitting 3 miles off shore and would be easy prey.  Their plan was to attack on the first calm evening. February 17 was to be that night.  “The torpedo was fastened to the end of an iron pipe, about 2 inches in diameter and 20-25 feet in length…..”  The final plans were made “The officer in command (Dixon) told Lieutenant-Colonel Dantzler of Battery Marshall when they bid each other good-by, that if he came off safe he would show two blue lights.” The signal to light the shore beacon to guide the Hunley home.

housatonicThe Housatonic

 

 

 

 

The men crawled into the cold, dark, cramped interior and got into their assigned places at the crankshaft.  The hatch was closed and the light of a flickering candle was all Dixon had to see the compass.  Within a few hours they should make contact with the enemy.

loading the hunley

 

 

 

 

 

8:45pm, Office Crosby on the Housatonic: “I took the deck at 8 P.M. on the night of February 17th. About 8:45 P.M. I saw something on the water, which at first looked to me like a porpoise, coming to the surface to blow.”  “The explosion started me off my feet, as if the ship had struck hard on the bottom.  I saw fragments of the wreck going up into the air. I saw no column of water thrown up, no smoke, no flame. There was no sharp report but it sounded like a collision with another ship.”

Within 5 minutes the Housatonic was submerged in 28 ft. of ice- cold water. All that could be seen was her Masts.  Thirteen men lost their lives that night.  Five on the Housatonic and the eight men of the Hunley.

Seaman Robert Flemming climbed up the rigging of the Housatonic that remained above the water “…. While I was in the fore rigging, I saw a blue light on the water just ahead of the Canandaigua, and on the starboard quarter of the Housatonic.”  On Sullivan’s Island, Lieutenant Colonel O.M. Dantzler stated “The signal agreed upon to be given in case the boast wished a light to be exposed at this post as a guide for its return were observed and answered.”

All that is know for sure is that after sinking the Housatonic, the Hunley disappeared without a trace until 1995 when a crew of Clive Cussler’s divers found her.  She would not see the light of day until August 8, 2000 as she was lifted from the bottom of the ocean and moved to her new home in North Charleston.  Today, the Hunley is housed in a building which is a working scientific laboratory.  The Hunley Commission and a nonprofit group called the “Friends of the Hunley” have compiled of team of scientists and historians from over thirty institutions to try and solve one of the biggest mysteries of several generations: “Why did the Hunley sink? What happened to her that night in 1864?” To this day, these questions still remain a mystery.  If you are in the Charleston area, you can visit the Hunley. See www.hunley.org for more information.

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Tonight, 150 years later, as I follow the procession to Breach Inlet, I think of these brave men. The night is cold and crisp with a beautiful moon and a sky full of stars.  (Probably very similar to that night so long ago.) As the flowers and wreaths are gently tossed into the ocean, I think of the men climbing into the Hunley and closing the hatch knowing that this is something that has to be done but they face the danger with courage and honor.  As the bagpipes play their beautiful melody, I hope that the crew of the Hunley and the men of the Housatonic can know that they changed the world that night and 150 years later they are still not forgotten.

Set up of preping for cannon fire“The 3 Cannon Salute”

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading

 

Lee Ann

 

 

 

Arrr, Pirates off the Port Side

September 19th was “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and that got me thinking about this month’s blog. The threat of a pirate attack was very real for the new colony of Carolina. This was one of the reasons why the colonists built a wall around their town when they moved to the peninsula area in 1670. Famous pirates such as Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet and Charles Vane have sailed along our shores but have you ever heard of Anne Bonney and Mary Read?

Anne was born in Cork, Ireland sometime between 1697-1705. Her father was a successful lawyer who was caught having an affair with her mother, the maid. No longer able to live in Ireland the threesome left and headed for Charles Town. Around the age of 13, Anne lost her mother. Her father was not very good at being a parent and he had a hard time managing high-spirited Anne. One of Anne’s favorite things to do was to dress and act as a boy. She was also very good at shooting, hunting and riding and had ‘the mouth of a sailor”. By the time she was 19; her father had enough of her antics and arranged a marriage for her. Anne had no interest in this and eloped with a young sailor and off she went to explore the world. Anne quickly became bored with her new husband and started to despise him because he became a pirate informant for the royal government. About that time, a pirate named Calico Jack was in the town of New Providence, Bahamas and saw Anne. The two fell in love. Anne’s husband would not grant her a divorce so she and Jack recruited a crew, stole a ship and set sail.

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Mary was the 2nd child of a young woman whose husband was lost at sea. When the husband did not return, Mary’s mother had an affair. She ended up pregnant and was embarrassed to have a bastard child so she left town to have the baby. During that time, the older child, a boy died. But when the money ran out, Mary’s mother was forced to go to her mother-in-law for assistance. She dressed Mary up like a boy so she could pass her off as the women’s grandson. It worked. The grandmother provided a crown a week for support of her “grandson”. From then on Mary was brought up as a boy and at the age of thirteen, she had a position as a footman to a French lady. Ultimately, this lifestyle lead Mary to spend time in the army and aboard a man of war ship. Mary did end up getting married but after her husband passed and her money was dwindling, she resorted to dressing like a man again to gain employment. She found herself in Nassau.

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It is said that Anne Bonney was attracted to a certain young man in Nassau and made her feelings known. She got quite a surprise when that young man turned out to be a woman named Mary Read. The women developed a strong friendship and decided to go off pirating together with Calico Jack. Women were banned from pirate ships so Anne and Mary had to disguise themselves as men. It was said they “wore men’s jackets and long trousers and handkerchiefs wrapped around their heads… a machete and pistol in their hands and cursed and swore at the men…”

Pirating was successful for awhile but it eventually caught up with them. An evening of drinking rum caused the crew to be useless and spineless as they were attacked by a privateer sloop. The men hid below deck while Anne and Mary were left to defend the ship. Mary “called below to those under deck to come up and fight like men and finding they did not stir, fired her arms down the hold amongst them, killing one and wounding others.” The women were not able to hold off the attack and the whole crew was captured and thrown into prison in Spanish Town, Jamaica. On November 18, 1720, Calico Jack was to be hung. Anne visited her lover one last time and said to him “I’m sorry to see you here but if you had fought like a man, you need not have hanged like a dog.” The ladies had their day in court and were sentenced to be hung too but they “plead their bellies”. Both of the women were indeed pregnant and were given a stay of execution and sentenced to prison instead. (It was illegal for the court to take the life of an unborn child.) Mary developed a “tropical fever” and died in prison. She was buried in Jamaica on April 28, 1721. It is not known what happened to Anne. Some say that her father obtained her release and she and her child went back to Charles Town. If she died in Jamaica, no records have been found.

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Shiver me timbers what a story,

Until next time

Lee Ann

2 Nations Divided By A Common Language

The above title is quote which is supposedly said by Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde.  No one is quite sure who should get credit for it but I thought it was fitting as a title for this months blog.

I spent some time this summer in England and Scotland. (which I highly recommend!) My kids kept a journal and one of the things that they wrote about were words that mean one thing in England and Scotland and something different here in the States. We had a lot of fun learning the new meanings so I thought I would share a few with you. (The answers are below, no peeking)

Enjoy

Lee Ann

 

English and Scottish

American

1. Mind

A. Potatoes

2. Chips

B. Stroller

3. Nappies

C. Exit

4. Take Away

D. Bridge

5. Queue

E. Rent

6. Lorry

F. Flash light

7. Way Out

G. Leash

8. Lift

H. French Fries

9. Tatties

I. Line

10. Torch

J. Take notice of (be careful of)

11. Fly Over

K. Elevator

12. Leed

L. To Go

13. Buggy

M. 18 Wheeler

14. To Let

N. Diaper

Answers: 1-J,2-H,3-N,4-L,5-I,6-M,7-C,8-K,9-A,10-F,11-D,12-G,13-B.14-E

Presidents

It’s hard to believe that it is the middle of February already. While thinking about the 3 day weekend for President’s Day, I had a great idea for this month’s blog: let’s talk about the Presidents that have visited Charleston.

The first President to visit our fair city was the very first President of our country, George Washington. After he became President, Washington decided he should visit the Southern States to learn more about this region’s political sentiments and their economy. His time spent in the South was called the “Southern Tour”. Washington arrived in Charleston in 1791 to great fanfare. His barge, which departed from Mount Pleasant, was manned by 12 local ships captains. The barge was accompanied by “a flotilla of boats of all sizes filled with ladies and gentlemen” including 2 boats that carried bands that were to play as the President crossed the harbor. During his weeklong stay, President Washington was wined and dined in traditional Charleston fashion. One of the many parties that the President attended was a formal ball that was held in the Old Exchange building. This was such a monumental occasion that the Ladies of Charleston wore pictures of George Washington with the wording ‘Long Live the President” in their hair. The President remarked that the women of Charleston were among the most elegant to be found anywhere. During his stay, he resided at the home of Thomas Heyward (Signer of the Declaration of Independence for South Carolina) which is located on Church St. The President had so many offers from prominent citizens of Charleston to stay with them, in an effort not to insult anyone so he had the city council rent him Heyward’s home. (The President used his own funds to pay for his lodging. Probably the one and only time in our history something like this would happen.) During that time, Heyward stayed at his plantation. Early morning risers were treated to the sight of the President racing his horse up and down Broad St. for exercise.

old exchangeOld Exchange

President Taft and his wife Nellie were frequent weekend guests of Mayor Rhett at his home on Broad St. It is said that the Mayor was concerned that the crab soup which was to be served with dinner was too pale for the President. William Deas, who was the butler for Mayor Rhett, was given the task of livening up the soup. His creation of “She Crab Soup” which was based on Scottish seafood bisque brought here in the early 18th century. It is what we eat today: meat of the small female blue crab was added to bisque and then it was decorated with their orange hued eggs to add color and flavor. Of course presentation is everything here in Charleston as Mrs. Taft learned. She thought Southerners were “strange” for their irritating ritual of “always taking a half hour to get ready for everything.” (And that includes our food!J) Tradition has it that President Taft loved the soup so much that he added it to the White House menu.

john rutledge houseThe Home of Mayor Rhett

Beginning in December of 1901, Charleston was the hostess to the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition. The expo was designed to promote the resources and industry of South Carolina. April 9, 1902 was designated “President’s Day” at the Expo. President Theodore Roosevelt arrived outside the city by train and then took a ship into Charleston. A parade of 3000 people marched to the exposition as thousands lined the streets to view the procession. President Roosevelt visited the exhibits, especially the one that housed the City Hall Collection. He addressed distinctive guests and was invited to the Women’s building which was located at Lowndes Grove Plantation where he was treated to a Charleston lunch which included tea grown in Summerville. After his day in Charleston, the President was escorted to Summerville where he stayed at Pine Forest Inn. The Inn boasted its own power plant, telegraph office, long distance telephone service and steam heat. To entertain yourself while visiting the resort, a guest could partake in three bowling alleys, shuffle board, billiards, pool tables, 130 golf links, a stable of 50 horses or listening to the in-house orchestra.

SC Interstate expoThe Cotton Palace at the Exposition

The next two gentlemen were not Presidents during their time here in Charleston but became President soon after.

So a sister decides to set her brother up with one of her co-workers. Sounds pretty harmless unless the brother is John F. Kennedy and the lady is Inga Marie Arvad who was thought to be a Nazi spy. Before coming to the States, Inga covered the Berlin Olympics for a Danish newspaper. There she met and interviewed several men from Hitler’s inner circle. She even interviewed Hitler himself. Hitler invited Inga to sit in his private box which is where a picture of herself and Hitler together was taken. Later Hitler would give her a silver and red frame which held a signed photo of himself. (Hitler rarely gave out personal photos.)

Once Inga reached the States, her political views were not well received. The FBI was contacted by one of her classmates and then again by one of JFK’s jilted girlfriends that she had Nazi loyalties. (This led to a full scale investigation which included surveillance and wiretaps.) The findings were delivered to J. Edgar Hoover. Once Hoover realized who Inga was dating the information was shared with the Navy Intelligence Division. A gossip columnist got wind of it and leaked that an ex-ambassador’s son was the “romantic target of a suspected Nazi spy, and Pa no like.” The next thing JKF knows is that he is being transferred to Charleston, SC. “They shagged my ass down to South Carolina because I was going around with a Scandinavian blonde, and they thought she was a spy!” JKF was not happy to be here! He thought Charleston a provincial backwater and that the Union should have let us go during the Civil War.

Inga did come to Charleston to visit JFK on 3 different occasions and while she was here, their hotel rooms were wired and the couple was followed. For awhile there was even talks of marriage (that is a whole another story) but JKF was shipped off to the Pacific and as time passed the romance slowly fizzled. “There seemed no way in which her old intimacy with Jack could be reestablished without the same difficulties they had encountered in Washington three years before, and Inga wisely refused to try, particularly with Jack having made up his mind to run for a congressional seat.”

jfk at white pointJKF at The Battery    BE041799Inga

On a spring afternoon presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke to Charlestonians from the front porch (or piazza as we call them in Charleston) of 21 King St. He did not forget that memorable day because during his victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park he told the crowd of 1 million and those watching at home “Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and on the front porches of Charleston.” Michelle also spoke from the piazza and was very impressed, “”Talk about the White House, I think this house is pretty terrific. I’d like to come back and spend the night!” On that day, the piazza of 21 King St was a symbol of American’s political process. You had whites, blacks, Democrats,Republicans,  and “undecided’s” all listening to a candidate for the President of the United States of America.

obama piazzaThe piazza of 21 King St.

Hope you enjoyed hearing about some of the Presidents who spent time in our fair city.

Thanks for reading!

Lee Ann

A Little Different Post

Hope your 2013 is off to a good start.  I thought I would post a little something different this month. I’ll be back next month with an entertaining history blog. Promise.

 

I heard this funny joke about Charleston during the holidays that I thought I would share:

Question: How many Charlestonians does it take to change a light blub?

Answer: 4: 1 to change the light bulb, 1 to mix the drinks and 2 to discuss how wonderful the old light bulb was.Smile

I also wanted to share a fantastic experience we had at Hall’s Chop House.  We were there for a special occasion and my son ordered a Root Beer. The waiter said they did not have any but would go and get him one. And that was what he did. He sent someone down the street to buy a root beer at a store. Now that is going the extra mile for your customer.  I was so impressed!

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

The Flag

As I sit and watch the Democratic and Republican conventions and think what a folly they have become. Neither side can agree with each other even on minuscule ideas. I wonder how they got like this and then I start to laugh. This is nothing new. This has been happening in our government for a lengthy period of time. I think one of the funniest instances took place here in Charleston. It’s December 1860 and South Carolina has just seceded from the Union. We are our own country right now. No other states have left the Union so there is no Confederacy yet. So here we sit an independent nation without a flag to represent us. The legislature, who was housed in Columbia, chose to leave the city when the Secession Convention decided to come to Charleston for the all important vote. (Of course, the reason given was that there was an outbreak of smallpox in Columbia (only 1 case) and the delegation must leave to be safe.) It was well known that the delegates wanted to be in Charleston for the big moment since it was her vocal citizens that had been pushing for secession since 1832.

Both houses reconvene to Hibernian Hall on Meeting St. in Charleston and one of the first orders of business is a resolution that calls for a joint committee to conceive a “National Flag or Ensign of South Carolina.” Both houses submit representatives to the committee and so that they are not left out, the Secession Convention decides it will appoint a committee too. (Their group never met but at least could say that they had a “committee” that worked on this important issue)

The joint committee presents their resolution “the national flag or ensign of South Carolina shall be white, with a green palmetto tree upright thereon: and the union blue, with a white increscent.” Within minutes of reading and discussing the logic of this choice, a movement to amend the resolution is voiced and so the craziness begins. They argued about the color of the palmetto tree and the color of the flag itself and then the Senate wanted to change the look of it by adding a coat of arms. This went of for 6 days. (Scary to think that South Carolina just left the Union and this is what they focused on) Eventually they agreed on the initial amended resolution which was proposed by Robert Barnwell Rhett Jr. on the 1st day. (Yes, his father was Robert Barnwell Rhett, “the fire-eater”.) “The National Flag or Ensign of South Carolina shall be blue, with a white palmetto tree upright thereon, and a white crescent in the upper corner.” Rhett’s reasoning was that “the Colonial flag was blue, with a white crescent, and it seemed to him the addition of a white Palmetto tree made a very simple and beautiful flag.” The palmetto tree represents the Battle of Fort Sullivan during the American Revolution. (See July’s Blog for the story on that)

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*(This state flag was captured by Iowa troops on February 17, 1865. Photograph was taken by the State Historical Society of Iowa. The flag is on loan today from them and can be seen at South Carolina State Museum.)

There is one little difference in our flag today compared to the one in 1861; the placement of the crescent moon. In 1861, “the white crescent in the upper flag staff remains as before, the horns pointing upward.” (as seen in the above picture) The crescent moon was the symbol that appeared on the caps of Colonial Moultrie’s men during the battle of Fort Sullivan.

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It was in 1910 when the crescent moon changed positions. An act was introduced that would provide for the display of the state flag over public buildings. Clemson College was to manufacture the flags “as prescribed in the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, January 28, 1861.” Clemson’s rough draft had the crescent the way it was in 1861 but the Secretary of the Historical Commission told them “your crescent is wrong”. The act noted, “to be approved by the Secretary of the Historical Commission” who was incorrect in his comments to Clemson so today we have a crescent moon with its horns pointing to the flag pole instead of upright.

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The symbols of this flag can be seen in the many different eras of South Carolina’s history; from the American Revolution to the time that the flag made a trip to the moon. Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr. was part of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon and he took several miniature state flags with him.

We are proud of our flag no matter how silly our legislature in 1861 looked for spending 6 days on it.

They got it right!

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann