30 September 2009

Sgt. Jasper Lonely Hearts Club

Sergeant Jasper Apartments, Broad St., Charleston, S.C.

Sgt. Jasper Lonely Hearts Club. Sometimes a blog entry leads to a history lesson so listen up, kids. The building in the picture is the Sgt. Jasper Apartment building on Broad St. It's one of very few high rise style structures on the lower peninsula. I've never been inside one of the units but they must have quite a view, over Colonial Lake on one side and the harbor on the other.

We may have an apartment building named after him but Savannah gave Sgt. Jasper a whole park square near where he died.

Sergeant William Jasper
The hail of British shot and the hot sun pounded defenders of Sullivan's Island on that June day of 1776. As the 271 guns poured shells into the fort, one shot took down the flag post bearing a blue flag with a white crescent. All day it had waved defiantly at the onslaught and let observers watching from the roofs in Charleston know that their men still held the English at bay. When it fell, so also did the hopes of a multitude of citizens.

One man was not to let it lie on the hot sand for long. William Jasper was recruited to serve with the Second South Carolina Regiment by Francis Marion. Jasper was quickly advanced to sergeant by superiors who recognized in him a character well-adapted for a martial career. Well-respected by his men, he was proving himself a hard fighter when the flag pole was shot down. "Colonel, don't let us fight without our flag!" shouted Jasper. "How can you help it? The staff is gone," Moultrie replied. Without another word, the sergeant then jumped out of the fort in the face of deadly fire, walked the entire length in full view of the British, and then cut the flag from its pole. Climbing the wall, he called for a sponge-staff to which he fastened the flag and planted it in the wall. Turning to his enemy he then gave three cheers and returned to his gun.

For this feat, President John Rutledge presented Jasper with his dress sword at a review held soon after the battle and offered him a commission. Jasper turned this down, instead preferring to serve as a scout for the American forces. General Moultrie described Jasper as a "brave, active, stout, strong, enterprising man and a very great partizan" who was a master of disguise.

Jasper made several trips into enemy lines, always returning with valuable information. Tragically, Jasper died at Savannah in 1779 while planting the colors of the Second South Carolina Regiment on the British lines. He was buried somewhere near the scene of the battle in a mass grave with many of his comrades.