The origin of the battle flag of the cavalry troop commanded by Colonel William Augustine Washington, a distant relative of General Washington, is a romantic and interesting story.
In 1780, Colonel Washington at the head of his cavalry force came from Virginia to South Carolina, where he met Miss Jane Elliott at her father’s house, which was some ten miles west of Charleston. Between the two a strong attachment was formed, which soon ripened into mutual love.
The Birth of the Eutaw Flag
In the fall of 1780, the colonel paid a brief visit to his fiancee, and when about to take his departure, in response to her remark, “that she would look out for news of his flag and fortune,” he replied that his corps had no flag. With a ready resource inherent to her sex Miss Elliott seized her scissors, and cutting a square section from a red damask drapery, she presented it to him with the remark,
Take this, Colonel, and make it your standard.”
This banner, ornamented with fringe and mounted on a hickory pole, was borne at the head of Colonel Washington’s cavalry until the close of the war.
This crimson standard was carried at the battle of Cowpens, South Carolina, January 17, 1781, where the American forces under General Morgan defeated the British under Colonel Tarleton. After that victory the flag was known as “Tarleton’s Terror.” For a second time it waved over the defeat of the British forces under Colonel Stuart, who fought the Americans under General Greene at Eutaw Springs, South Carolina, September 8, 1781. Following that battle it became known as the Eutaw flag, a name it has retained ever since.
This Eutaw flag was presented to the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston by Mrs. Jane Elliott Washington in 1827, on the 19th of April, the anniversary of the battle of Lexington. This highly valued souvenir of the Revolutionary period is still in the possession of that organization. It has been loaned on several occasions: the centennial of the battle of Bunker Hill, for display by the Centennial Legion at Philadelphia, July 4, 1876, and at the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1881.
Washington Light Infantry Monument of 1856 – The Eutaw Flag of Colonel William Washington’s
Cavalry. Available online. [PDF] 343 KB