History of the Gadsden Flag

Gadsden Flag

Gadsden Flag

Lately on the news I have been seeing people lining up at town halls, mayor offices, and government buildings rallying for their causes. Whether it be health care, bail out plans, or a hopeful bid to reinstate bell bottom jeans as the official pants of Minnesota, we all have our causes. One thing I have noticed at most of these rallies is a weird looking yellow flag with a rattlesnake…what I have found out to be the Gadsden flag. I decided to do a little investigation into the history of this flag so we can all understand the exact meaning. Hope you guys (and girls) enjoy!

So what is the significance of the rattlesnake, I mean that is a little scary, but at least he shakes his tail to let you know you are in danger. Rattlesnakes are not more intimidating than the Numa Numa guy. Well there is more to the rattlesnake story. The US colonies were first depicted as a rattlesnake in a political cartoon in 1774 by…Benjamin Franklin. Yes sir, you heard that right, Mr. Bifocals himself is responsible. In his cartoon, the US colonies were depicted as an 8 sectioned snake with the saying: “Join, or Die”, referring to the “disunited state” of the colonies. This was designed to inspire unity in the defense against France but was later used in defense from the British.

This is where Christopher Gadsden comes in. Now Christopher Gadsden was a true man’s man. He was a founder and leader of the Sons of Liberty and a delegate on the First Continental Congress before leaving to become a colonel in the Continental Army. Between Gadsden and the Continental Congress, they chose Esek Hopkins as their commander-in-chief of the US Navy. Believing in the importance of Navy commanders to have their own “distinct personal standard”, Gadsden created what is now called the Gadsden Flag or sometimes the Hopkins Flag. The flag was presented in Charleston, South Carolina, where it is still proudly flown today, among many other places.

Since the creation, it was altered to become two other separate important flags in US history…the Culpeper Flag and the First Navy Jack Flag. The Culpeper Flag, which was used during the American Revolution by the Culpeper County, VA minutemen. This flag however was white instead of yellow and bore an added slogan “Liberty or Death”. Also, it is correctly spelled Culpeper, not Culpepper…so all of your Detroit Lions fans, if there are any left, you have the wrong Culpepper!

Also, the First Navy Jack Flag has adopted the Rattlesnake design and was first distributed as fleet signals by Hopkins. This flag features 13 red and white alternating stripes with an uncoiled rattlesnake with “Dont Tread On Me” on the 12th stripe. These stripes represent the first 13 colonies and was probably first introduced as a US Navy flag following the 1777 adoption of the First Stars and Stripes Law. This law said that the flags of the United States consist of 13 red and white alternating stripes symbolize the 13 colonies. The First Navy Jack has been flown on the oldest serving ship in the Navy, with the last as the USS Kitty Hawk. Then, in May 31, 2002 the Secretary of Navy ordered all Navy ships to fly the First Navy Jack during the War on Terrorism.

The Gadsden Flag started as a military flag to inspire unity, to inspire change, and to inspire freedom amongst all Americans. Now, after 235 years, it still serves as a symbol to stand up for the things we believe in and stand firm to our positions. Be true to yourself, your country, and your beliefs and don’t let anyone tread on you!

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