The Gadsden Flag was a flag that was historically used during the American Revolution. The flag has a yellow field on which a rattlesnake is depicted. The rattlesnake is seen to be about to strike with the words ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ under it.
The Continental Navy was organized soon after the American Revolutionary War broke out. Christopher Gadsden was one of the important American leaders who participated in the war effort. Gadsden served as a delegate to the Continental Congress.
He also participated on active duty in the Continental Army and was eventually promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Gadsden is credited with having designed the Gadsden Flag which today bears his name.
In 1775, the Continental Navy was still being organized under command-in-chief George Washington. Washington hoped to counter the Royal Navy in the Americas with the Continental Navy. With the creation of the navy, a need was felt to design a flag which would identify the vessels.
This was when the Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden presented the flag for one of the ships of the navy. The flag, with its iconic and eye-catching design, soon caught the attention of others and became one of the flags used for the Continental Navy.
The main symbol on the Gadsden Flag is the rattlesnake. The rattlesnake was commonly found in all the Thirteen Colonies which comprised the revolutionary America. It was also used as a symbol by Benjamin Franklin in an anonymous letter to show how the Thirteen Colonies could truly win by standing together as one. Franklin significantly elaborated on the symbol of the rattlesnake to show how it attacked someone only after significant warning.
One of the key features of the Gadsden Flag is the motto ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ inscribed under the flag. The motto was meant to show the defiance of the Thirteen Colonies which are represented in the rattlesnake.
It was a rejoinder to the British government which sought to suppress the call of liberty in the colonies. The motto basically means that should the British try to tyrannize the colonies, the Americans would retaliate fiercely. The motto has also been used in various other flags and designs used during the American Revolution.
The symbolism and design used on the Gadsden Flag has been used by various other entities over the course of history. Most notably, the same flag design and motto was used on the flag of the Culpeper Minutemen and is today seen on the flag of the Virginia volunteers.
More recently, the Gadsden Flag has been used as a political symbol and has become closely associated with the Tea Party Movement. It has been widely used at various political rallies which is why many people now see the flag in a political, rather than a historical, context.