Over the past fifteen years, I have seen many, many organizations in South Carolina refer to the crescent on the state flag as having been a depiction of a "gorget," a relic of medieval neck armor that, by the time of the American Revolution, had evolved into an officer's symbol of rank. It is time to set this fairy-tale to rest.
As a starting point, I refer to an article in the Charleston Post and Courier date August 10, 2004. It was written by Doug Crutchfield, a Revolutionary War researcher and founding member of the re-created 2nd South Carolina Regiment of living historians:
Next, I refer to internet posts dated November 5-6, 2002, by Terry Lipscomb, author of The Colonial Records of South Carolina:
McMaster's theory of the origin [of the crescent] requires a little explaining. Whenever a British monarch died, the current great seal of South Carolina became invalid; the seal had to be packaged up, sent back to London and destroyed, and a seal for the new monarch had to be sent out. In the meantime, the royal governor would use his personal family seal as a makeshift great seal on official documents.
King George the Second died right at the time of the Cherokee War. So when Lt. Governor William Bull issued the commissions for Middleton's Provincial Regiment in 1761, he affixed the Bull family seal--which contained, appropriately enough, a picture of a bull, but which also contained a crescent because William belonged to a cadet branch of the family.
All the information McMaster found about the uniforms of Middleton's Regiment led him to believe that they were very similar if not identical to the South Carolina uniforms of the 1st and 2nd Regiments during the Revolution. He therefore theorized that the crescent had been on the colonial uniforms and that the idea came from the governor's seal.
Remember also that the people who were wearing these uniforms were in some cases identical--William Moultrie and Francis Marion served both in Middleton's Regiment of 1761 and in the 2nd SC Regiment of 1775.
The commission of Colonel Thomas Middleton is recorded in the Miscellaneous Records of the Secretary of the Province at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, and the clerk included in the margin of the book a drawing of Bull's seal complete with crescent.
There is one fact about Colonel Thomas Middleton I forgot to mention; his first wife was Mary Bull and at the time he was going off to war he was recently widowed--she died in 1760. So if he really lifted the crescent from the Bull family seal and adopted it as the cap insignia of his regiment as McMaster thinks, he was honoring the memory of his dead wife--the mother of his three children.
As is clear from the above information, there is quite a bit of circumstantial evidence that the crescent on the South Carolina flag was, indeed, a crescent, taken from heraldry. I have never, in any original documentation from the Colonial or Revolutionary War periods, EVER seen the crescent referred to as anything but a "crescent."
To my knowledge, there is NO documentary evidence to even suggest that the crescent was a representation of a gorget. These best anyone can come up with is that the gorget is vaguely crescent-shaped.
I personally believe the rumor that the crescent is a gorget was started by well-meaning amateur historians who needed to have something to say when asked about the origin of the crescent at public events. I and other reenactors have seen this happen time and again, only to roll our eyes in exasperation. It appears, now, that the fiction has become fact. We must set the record straight.
I challenge anyone who refers to the crescent as a gorget to post ANY evidence lending credence to this theory. I welcome any documentation you may have for your position. Failing that, any person or organization who refers to the crescent as a gorget is propagating an unsubstantiated myth, and a fraud against the collective memory of South Carolina. Prove me wrong.