The true story behind the Sgt. William Jasper Ceremony

Sgt. Jasper may have died hundreds of years ago but his story is still very alive today
Sgt William Jasper
Sgt William Jasper(Sam Bauman WTOC)
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Another annual celebration that remains close to the hearts of the Irish and those who have served in the military is the Sgt. William Jasper Ceremony.

“There’s a lot of fanfare, there’s a lot of military participation. There’s a parade at Johnson Square that ends up here,” said Ceremony Chairman Michael Bolton.

It’s a tradition that’s been going on for 43 years now.

“Sgt Jasper’s Ceremony, it gives us a chance to recognize our military past, present and future,” Bolton says.

The celebration of today, inspired by the events of the past.

More specifically the actions of Sgt. William Jasper.

“He actually was able to disguise himself and slip into the British lines and gain valuable intelligence,” said Aaron Bradford from the Coastal Heritage Society.

“But he supposedly saved several people and got some prisons right outside of Savannah,” added Bolton.

“And he latched that flag to the sponge, even though the shot and shell was whizzing past his ears as thick as hail it was described,” Bradford says.

While there are countless tales of his bravery, it’s perhaps his last act that cemented his legacy.

“William Jasper’s story, you could say, culminates here on this ground,” said Bradford of what is now Battlefield Park in Savannah.

It was on October 9, 1779 the Sgt. Jasper and his fellow soldiers rushed into battle against the British.

“This 55-minute assault that happened on the morning of October 9, was the bloodiest 55-minutes of the entire Revolutionary War,” said Bradford.

At some point, during that assault a Lt. Bush attempted to raise their flag against the British, but he was shot.

“The gallant Sgt. Jasper, even though he’s already been wounded, grabs the flag from the wounded Lt. Bush, to carry that flag aloft. But at that moment Jasper is cut down,” says Bradford.

Sacrificing his life for a flag which to him, was much more than just a piece of cloth.

“That flag was stitched with love and care and devotion by the wives, and by the families of these men,” Bradford says, “so, when they were to carry this flag into battle it was a powerful reminder of who they were fighting for.”

So, even though there may be some debate as to his true heritage.

“Historians today understand he is mainly of German ancestry,” Bradford says.

“But he’s been traditionally considered Irish,” claims Bolton.

What he stood for on that day, and what he still stands for today is a resilience that can be found in each one of us.

“I think Jasper shows, when the British came to Georgia, he along with other Georgians, they don’t give up, they don’t quit, they don’t say ‘we tried,’ but no, they continued to fight,” said Bradford.

So even though his life ended on that battlefield, it seems that’s where his story truly begins and still continues to this day.

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