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Grasping one end of a bright yellow flag, Ken Obriot presented a piece of history to county officials late last month.
Representing the Friends of Buford Massacre Battleground, Obriot unfurled a replica of the Buford Battle flag carried by Continental soldiers and captured by British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton during the massacre on May 29, 1780.
The battleground is located south of the Pageland Highway/Rocky River Road intersection.
With his hands outstretched, Obriot presented the flag to Lancaster County Council Chairman Larry McCullough during council’s Oct. 28 meeting.
“Tarleton took this flag and in 2006 it was sold at auction and a picture was taken of the county flag. No one even knew it existed until then,” Obriot said. “We had it replicated as best as we could.”
In a memo to council, County Administrator Steve Willis said the original flag, which was made of gold silk, was sent back to Tarleton’s estate in England where it was displayed in private for over 225 years.
He said little was known of the flag’s existence until 2006 when the Tarleton family put the flag up for auction. It was later displayed publicly at the Exchange Building in Charleston before Sotheby’s of New York held the auction.
Peering over the side of the flag, Obriot carefully described its features, including a drawing of a beaver chewing on a palmetto tree which is emblazoned on its front.
“This was an important symbol for the county because beavers represented endurance and they were a hard-working animal who wouldn’t give up a fight,” he said.
The flag also features a green scroll with the Latin word “perseverando” written inside, meaning to persevere.
“It means to stay the course,” he said.
Obriot also pointed out the left-hand corner of the flag, which sports a blue box filled with 13 white stars.
“This is one of the first battle flags to show the 13 colonies with 13 stars,” he said.
He then handed the flag to McCullough and Councilman Bob Bundy.
“We think this is the right place for it to be,” Obriot said. “We present it to the county as a place to fly it forever.”
McCullough thanked Obriot and the Friends group for their donation, while lauding the rich history of Lancaster County.
“We have good history here and good heritage and some great people who volunteer here,” McCullough said.
Willis said the flag will be added to the rotation of service flags flown at the County Administration building.
“This is where we fly the service flags for the week on their birthday and the POW flag on the week of POW Day,” Willis said. “We will fly this flag the week of the Massacre memorial service at the Buford Monument.”
Earlier this year, Obriot discussed with The Lancaster News how he first learned of the battleground during a motorcycle ride about two years ago.
He recalled a conversation he had there with “Miss Emily” Carnes Franklin, who was raking leaves.
She told him when the smoke cleared after the battle that day in 1780, 113 of Buford’s men were dead and 253 men were taken prisoner, including 150 men who were wounded by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s Green Dragoons.
Tarleton’s troops showed no mercy that day in a one-sided battle that earned the British commander his “Bloody Ban” nickname.
Franklin also told them how local residents were forced at gunpoint to bury 84 soldiers in a mass grave, around which the current memorial stands and later, bury another 25 in a still-undiscovered grave somewhere on the battlefield.
“The loss of life in such a brief amount of time (about 15 minutes) is staggering,” Obriot said in March. “Think about the horror of it. These soldiers need to be honored. They paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Friends group’s mission is to promote, preserve and improve the battlefield memorial, as well as to provide an educational experience to remember the soldiers lost there.
During the Oct. 28 meeting, Obriot described recent improvements made to the site.
“We’ve put in a brick walkway out there with memorial bricks. It’s a place to honor our first veterans who are buried there,” he said. “They were buried there so ignobly by the British. You can measure people by how they remember their heritage. We should take this to our hearts and build on it. American blood was spilled in this county.”
Editor’s note: Copy editor Greg Summers contributed to this story.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 41