You’ve probably seen that bright yellow flag with the coiled rattlesnake before. In fact, if you’re reading this, there’s really no way you can miss it. In recent years, there’s been a massive resurgence of the Gadsden Flag. All over the country, Americans are flying the bright banner emblazoned with the iconic words Don’t Tread On Me, but what does that mean?
Odds are, you’ve sat through a history class at some point in your life and heard a teacher talk about the history and meaning behind this icon. Perhaps that was a long time ago, though, and perhaps you didn’t get the whole story. I know in my case, there’s a lot from my school days that I don’t really remember, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In case you’re like me and need a refresher, let’s talk history. You might be surprised at how relevant it still is.
The American Timber Rattlesnake image you see in our logo has been around since before the American Revolution. Colonists printed it on currency, flew banners, and engraved it on their jacket buttons, and newspapers around the colonies displayed the same image over and over as the situation between England and the colonies reached a boiling point. Snakes were a popular symbol of the independence and fierceness of the American colonies. Our forefathers liked the message it conveyed, that though we may be small, we be fierce. Many relatives and cousins of the famous coiled rattlesnake also circulated prolifically around this time, including the image of a snake cut into thirteen segments, a representation of each individual colony. This version was oft accompanied by the words Join or Die, or alternatively, Unite or Die, and was a compelling bit of revolutionary propaganda in the already inflamed colonies.
Somewhere along the line, a henceforth unknown person added the line “Don’t Tread On Me” to the coiled rattler image, and it stuck. The phrase was a succinct description for the overall message the colonists were trying to convey to their government: if you keep stepping on us, we’ll bite. It was this version of the snake image, the coiled rattler and motto, that decorated the drums of the Marines who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, one of the first altercations marking the American Revolution.
This new rattlesnake, no longer segmented in 13 parts, still gave a nod towards the individuality and independence of each colony by carefully depicting 13 separate compartments on the snake’s rattle. The American colonists appreciated and revered the sovereignty of their individual communities, but acknowledged the power and venom they could wield as a united whole. If that philosophy sounds familiar, it’s because this entire country was built upon that same principal, and is the reason that we are the United States of America.
Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden, who was on that charge with George Washington at Bunker Hill, is credited with creating the cohesive Gadsden Flag, the image you see in our logo. He presented this banner to the American Navy in February of 1776, and another copy to the South Carolina Congress. Since that day, the Gadsden Flag has been a symbol of independence, freedom, and the power that a small people can have when they unite. You can read more about the history of the Gadsden Flag here.
These are the ideals that we hope to embody in Gadsden Guns. We may be small, but we are not to be stepped on. A small, but determined, group of people can stand against any empire, and when we come together under one banner, unite for one cause, we don’t lose who we are individually. Becoming a unified group doesn’t require that we sacrifice our individuality; it is only because we retain that independence that we are so strong. We are a country of rattlesnakes. We stand for something bigger than us. Do you?