Op-Ed: 200+ Years Later And Another Battle For Self-Governance Is Underway On The Historic Beaches Of South Carolina

By Jon Regan Walters  for Island Eye News

On 28 June 1776, a group of patriot militia in a half-built fort made of palmetto logs and sand fought and defeated the British Armada, the world’s greatest military power of the time, on the beach of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina in what is known as the Battle of Sullivan’s Island and celebrated annually as Carolina Day.  

This unlikely victory, and first decisive victory of the Revolution, set the stage for their counterparts in Philadelphia who were at the time writing a declaration of independence to shake off the yoke of tyranny and set in motion events that resulted in a “great experiment” of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. 

Today, on the same beaches of South Carolina, four communities have been singled out and their Constitutional right to Home Rule has been stripped by the state and given to unelected bureaucrats. Home Rule in South Carolina is based on the idea that the residents and municipality leaders of a community know what is best for their community (government by the people). 

Since the loss of Home Rule, the S.C. Department of Transportation has removed the emergency lane from the bridge to the mainland, resulting in a 50% increase in traffic accidents. Traffic flow has slowed dramatically, often taking over an hour to get off the Island. The S.C. Department of Transportation has significantly impacted residents’ livability by creating commercial parking lots in single-family zoned areas, complete with cement parking bumpers that make front yards look like a Walmart parking lot. This action has also slowed traffic flow and resulted in a laundry list of safety issues. 

However, modern day patriots on the Carolina coast, have declared independence from the state of South Carolina and created the Palm Republic in the same spirit that their sister republic, the Conch Republic, was founded in 1982. These patriots are seeking restoration of Home Rule to those communities affected. They are also seeking to find a balance between resident rights and beach visitor rights. All need to understand that expanding your rights generally infringes on the rights of others. The rapid growth in Charleston S.C. caused by national migration south, exacerbated by COVID-19, puts even greater pressure on the rights of residents to have a livable community. People should consider when they go to the beach that they are guests in someone else’s community and should act as they would want guests to act in their home! As I once heard someone in downtown Charleston so eloquently say to tourists who were stopping traffic to take pictures, “this ain’t Disney World, people live here”. 

Every battle has its heroes and in the current strife they will be the residents, beach visitors and state leaders who work for and find the compromise that recognizes the residents’ right to a livable community, provides adequate parking for all, and restores self-government to every South Carolina community. 

No discussion of South Carolina heroes is complete without paying homage to Sergeant William Jasper. Sergeant Jasper became the hero of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island when the garrison’s flagstaff was broken by enemy fire and the blue flag with a crescent in the upper left corner fell to the sand below. The flag was being used as a signal flag; lowering it meant the fort was falling to the British and to evacuate patriot leaders from Charleston. Sergeant Jasper saw it fall and quickly jumped down into the sand below. Exposing himself to heavy enemy gunfire he grabbed the flag, climbed back up the wall of the fort, lashed the flag to a cannon ramrod, planted it in the sand and gave three cheers toward the British fleet. No one knows what three words he cheered, but based on my 30 years in the Army I can think of several three-word combinations he may have used; none of which are printable in this newspaper. 

So, as you go to the beach, lake, mountains or parks be polite and take some time on 28 June and 4 July to think about the patriot militia at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, the importance of Home Rule, and how important the news of the battle was to the gentlemen putting their signature on a declaration of independence in Philadelphia. Home Rule was the basis of our country’s Declaration of Independence from England. Also, take time to remember the real heroes, our military past and present.  

Retired Army Col. Jon Regan Walters, a native South Carolinian, has been an Isle of Palms resident for more than 50 years and is currently raising his family there. A combat veteran, he deployed and served in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, receiving the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, and the Master Parachutist badge. He worked at every level from small teams to combatant command staff. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and an MBA from The Citadel. 

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