The Gadsden flag is a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Positioned below the snake is the legend "Don't Tread On Me". The flag was designed by and is named after Continental Colonel and South Carolina statesman Christopher Gadsden. In 1775, the first Marines enlisted in the city of Philadelphia, PA and carried drums painted yellow, depicting a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, and the motto "Don't Tread On Me." This is the first recorded mention of the future Gadsden flag's symbolism.
It became the first flag used by the sea-going soldiers who eventually would become the United States Marines. This flag first saw combat under Commodore Hopkins, who was the first Commander-in-Chief of the new Continental Navy, when Washington's Cruisers put to sea for the first time in February of 1776 to raid the Bahamas and capture stored British cannon and shot.
Beginning in 2009, the Gadsden Flag has become an adopted symbol of the American Tea Party movement. Tea Party activists have embraced the "Don't Tread on Me" flag and its message. Nationwide it serves for Tea Party protesters upset at the current government yet still feeling patriotic. Some have dubbed it a political symbol due to the Tea Party connection, and the political nature of Tea Party supporters.
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Original "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsen Flag.