Articles > This Week in 1860

1st Confederate Secession Flag
22 Dec 2005






This week in 1860...

This week in 1860 the very first secession flag was flown right here in St Luke's Parish.


Here is the story as told by Betsy Caldwell in "The Island Packet" from 1993, "The Charleston News & Courier" of 1905, a book called "A Short History of Callawassie Island, South Carolina" by William Behan, and compiled from Kirk letters and stories from Kirk descendants.

          By December 1860, Dr. John and Caroline Kirk had not yet moved into this house (Rose Hill Plantation House). It was still under construction and had been for several years. Their rather headstrong daughter Emily ( who would've been 21 at the time) decided to invite people over to the new house for a Christmas party - without consulting her parents first. This forced John and Caroline to move into this house prematurely to prepare for Emily's Christmas Ball. This would be the first and the last Christmas the Kirks would ever spend here at this house together.

          Many local people as well as people from all over SC came to this party including some young friends of Emily's, Armstrong and Sallie Harlee, who were the children of Robert Harlee ( owner of Melrose Plantation near Florence, SC ).  While on their way to Rose Hill, they had to stop in Charleston on December 21 - which would've been the day after the Ordinance of Secession had been passed. They reported that the city was full of excitement and that they had caught the contagion as well. They left for Bluffton on

          December 22, aboard the little "Cecile" steaming close to Ft Sumpter - where another historic event was soon to take place.

          They stayed for a week here at Rose Hill and reported that the party was very elegant - the kind of elegance not seen again in later times. On the day after Christmas, Caroline's youngest brother Clarence ( who owned Callawassee Island and who would've been a young man at that time and just a few years older than Emily) came by Rose Hill and Caroline Kirk instructed him to take the young folks over to his house to finish the party there.

          The next day at Callawassie, the discussion turned to South Carolina now being an independant state and needing its own

flag. So Clarence suggested that the ladies design and make a flag that he could fly over his island. Emily Kirk and Sallie Harlee came up with a design that was a red flag with a single white star in the center. Clarence produced a red bolt of flannel and one of white home spun cloth from his plantation stores and they constructed this flag. Clarence Kirk then selected a tall pine tree near the landing and his men climbed to the top and fastened the flag there, stripping its limbs to make a perfect crude flag pole. This Secession flag could been seen from miles away in every direction. It flew there until November 1861 when the Northern fleet took possession of Port Royal. While passing Callawassee they saw this flag and fired on it, assuming that Confederate troops were encamped there on the island.

     All of the young men in attendance at the Rose Hill Christmas party and who helped fly the first Secession flag over Callawassee so long ago ( including John and Caroline's son William) later became volunteers in the Confederate Army.


And the rest is history ..... or, as we Southerners say,............. it is "gone with the wind".  


Robin White
Rose Hill Plantation House


Robin White