A couple weeks ago Micah and I went to Charleston, SC to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We had a fabulous time visiting the ocean for the first time, enjoying the local low-country food, and touring a lot of historic sites. We rented a convertible and found multiple “back road” ways to get where we were going. We got our fair share of Vitamin D and fresh air! It was amazing.
In our travels we noticed palmetto images on everything, seemingly everywhere. It’s on their state flag, sure. But they were also on business signs, license plates, t-shirts, road signs, just to name a few. We curiously wondered what the big deal was. (I mean, growing up in Missouri you didn’t see two bears and the state seal on everything like that, lol.) It was neat seeing the real trees too though. Palmetto trees certainly aren’t native to the land-locked central U.S. where we have lived all our lives. Although the palmetto images were all over the place, the actual trees were just mixed in with many other tree varieties in the land-scape.
It was on some of the historic tours that we started to get a picture as to why the palmettos are such an important part of the low-country culture. Charleston was originally Charles Town, one of the richest cities in the colonies due to its port commerce. Being on the coast, the Patriots knew the Charles Town harbor would need protection and began to build a fort to defend it in 1776. This said fort wasn’t even complete when the British attacked it on June 28, 1776 with nine warships led by Admiral Sir Peter Parker (no relation to Spider-Man…at least, I don’t think so), whose plans were to capture the port then the city and in so doing, close off the southern colonies from the northern conflict. The Patriots were out-numbered and seriously out-gunned, and seemingly should have lost rather easily. However, a few unexpected factors sent the victory to the Patriot’s favor. The geography of the area resulted in some British ships not reaching their designated positions because they ran onto sand bars. A plan of crossing an inlet by foot proved to be impossible, as the average 5’5″ British soldier couldn’t wade through the 7′-8′ deep water. But the battle for the fort that day in June was most likely won by the fort itself. You see, the fort had been built with Palmetto logs harvested locally. The same characteristics that made those trees survive coastal climate and conditions kept the fort from falling–Palmettos naturally bend instead of break.
The same characteristics that made those trees survive coastal climate and conditions kept the fort from falling–Palmettos naturally bend instead of break.
The spongy wood absorbed 9+ hours of shelling. The British cannonballs reportedly even bounced off the fort’s walls that shook but never splintered. As the fort remained a stronghold in the midst of the constant British attack, the Patriot army was able to patiently and carefully fire its limited munitions (they only had 31 cannons, of which only 25 could be aimed at the ships), doing strategic damage to the remaining ships attacking the harbor. The British used 32,000 pounds of gunpowder and the Patriots used less than 5,000.
So after a day’s fight, the fort still stood. The British burned one damaged ship as to not let it fall into Patriot hands and left with the other 8 in defeat. But the significance of the battle came in that this was the first time the Patriots has successfully stopped a British land and sea invasion. And since this was the time of horse & rider news delivery (and not cellphones, Facebook & Twitter), it took a few days for the news of the victory to reach the Second Continental Congress that was meeting in Philadelphia. Previously uncommitted colonists were spurred to believe in and fight for independence as a result of what happened at the Sullivan’s Island fort, which would later be renamed Fort Moultrie after Col. William Moultrie who commanded the Patriot troops that day.
The Palmetto image we saw plastered nearly everywhere on our trip is a constant reminder to all who see it of the Carolinians’ heritage, bravery and fortitude. Those early colonists knew the value of what they held and saw Liberty as worth fighting for. Their victory was won using what they had available. By all means, this was a David and Goliath situation. It was like Gideon & his 300 men being outnumbered by thousands of Midianites. I could go on and on with the Biblical comparisons. At the end of the day, they were all regular people using regular things fighting oppression and winning the victory.
So I ask you on this Independence Day, 240 years later, what is your Palmetto? We all have regular talents, regular abilities, regular fortitudes that God grows in us through the everyday climate of life. He then uses them miraculously when the enemy attacks. There are characteristics about you that will not splinter and disintegrate when under fire. Instead, they either absorb or simply repel the attack and you are able to patiently and strategically operate with precision to foil the accusers plan to put you in bondage. Don’t despise your Palmetto and don’t despise the time God is growing your Palmetto in your life. Use your Palmetto, whatever it is, even when it may seem unorthodox. God is always ready to make your natural super with His power!!
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
2 Chronicles 16:9a NKJV