In 1844 Robert Barnwell Rhett stood beneath a giant oak tree in Bluffton, South Carolina and spoke to a large crowd, many of whom were young supporters of the “Fire-Eater“. Some in the crowd wore badges made of palmetto on their clothing in defense of Southern interests and States’ rights against Federal supremacy. Rhett, who became known as the “Father of Secession”, made the first public appeal for Southern independence, citing a long train of US abuses against the Southern people. The speech started the first grass-roots Southern nationalist campaign, which came to be called the Bluffton Movement. Its supporters, who were especially strong in the Lowcountry but campaigned briefly throughout much of the Lower South, were called the “Bluffton Boys”.
The “Secession Oak” that Rhett stood under in 1844 became a living symbol of the Southern cause. It is literally the place where the Confederacy took root. Surprisingly, it was not cut down by the occupying US military in 1865 or since killed by anti-Southern extremists. Much like Rhett’s home in Charleston and his brother’s home in Beaufort (where Rhett stayed quite a bit) the Secession Oak thankfully remains to us today and continues to inspire many Southerners.
This weekend my girlfriend and I visited the Secession Oak in Bluffton. It is a magnificent tree with a huge canopy. It is believed to be approximately 400 years old. We had a great time together hugging the tree and gazing up in wonderment at its limbs. SF readers might enjoy some pictures that we took of this living symbol of our great tradition and rich heritage.