Sullivan's Island, South Carolina is an American town in Charleston County, South Carolina, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, with a population was 1,911 at the 2000 United States Census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it (27.11%) is water. The Ben Sawyer Bridge connects Sullivan's Island to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. A bridge spanning Breach Inlet connects it to Isle of Palms, South Carolina.
Sullivan's Island was the site of a major battle of the American Revolution at Fort Sullivan (now Fort Moultrie) on June 28, 1776. Sullivan's Island was also the point of entry for approximately 40 percent of the enslaved Africans brought to British North America, and has been likened to Ellis Island in New York City, New York. On September 23, 1989, Hurricane Hugo came ashore near Sullivan's Island; few people were prepared for the destruction that followed in its wake. The eye of the hurricane passed directly over Sullivan's Island. The Ben Sawyer Bridge was a casualty of the hurricane. The swing bridge broke free of its locks, and before the storm was over, one end of the bridge was in the water and the other was pointing skyward. Sullivan's Island police chief, Jack Lilien, was the last person to leave the island before the bridge gave way.
As defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and used by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes only, Sullivan's Island is included within the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville metropolitan area and the Charleston-North Charleston Urbanized Area.
The island was known as O'Sullivan's Island because of Captain Florence O'Sullivan, who was stationed here as a lighthouse keeper in the late 17th century. O'Sullivan was captain of one of the ships in the first fleet to establish English and Irish settlement at Charleston. In 1671, he became surveyor general. He appears in the earliest record of Irish immigration to the Carolinas, mentioned as being taken on "at Kingsayle (Kinsale) in Ireland".
Sullivan's Island was the disembarkation port for over 40% (ca. 200,000) of the slaves traded to Britain's North American Colonies, making it the largest slave port in North America. It is estimated that nearly half of all African Americans had ancestors that passed through Sullivan's Island. "There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath or wall, or park or skyscraper lobby", writer Toni Morrison said in 1989. "There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road." On July 26, 2008, the Toni Morrison Society dedicated a small bench on Sullivan's Island to the memory of the slave trade.
On June 28, 1776, an incomplete fort was held by colonial forces under Colonel William Moultrie against an onslaught by the British under General Sir Henry Clinton's army sailing with Commodore Sir Peter Parker's men-of-war. The British cannon had no effect on the sand-filled palmetto log walls of the fort; only the shots that came above the walls took any lives.
During this battle, a flag designed by Moultrie flew over the fortress, dark blue with a crescent moon on it bearing the word "liberty". When this flag was shot down, Sargent William Jasper reportedly picked it up and held it aloft, rallying the troops until a new stand could be provided. Because of the importance of this pivotal battle that flag became symbolic of liberty in South Carolina, the South, and the nation as a whole.
The Battle of Sullivan's Island was commemorated by the addition of a white palmetto tree to the flag used to rally that day, the Moultrie Flag, forming the Flag of South Carolina. The victory is celebrated and June 28 is known as Carolina Day.
The history of the island has been dominated by Fort Moultrie, which, until its closure in the late 1940s, served as the base of command for the defense of the City of Charleston.