What Is the Gadsden Flag?

Have you come across a yellow-colored flag featuring the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me?” Known as the Gadsden flag, it’s commonly displayed throughout the United States. The Gadsden flag has been around since the American Revolution. While originally used by the Continental Army, it’s since made its way into the homes of millions of Americans. What is the Gadsden flag exactly, and what does it symbolize?

Overview of the Gadsden Flag

The Gadsden flag is a historical flag featuring a coiled-up rattlesnake over the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me.” It’s set against an all-yellow background. Unlike with the American flag, it doesn’t feature any stars or stripes, nor does it feature a traditional red-white-blue color scheme. Rather, the Gadsden flag consists entirely of a rattlesnake and the aforementioned phrase against an all-yellow background.

It’s known as the “Gadsden flag” because it was designed by Christopher Gadsden. During the American Revolution, Gadsden served as a brigadier general for the Continental Army. Using scraps of fabric, he designed the Gadsden flag. In 1776, Gadsden provided the South Carolina Congress with a journal record of his flag. The journal record referred to the flag as having “a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, Don’t tread on me.”

Symbolism of the Gadsden Flag

Even if you’re familiar with the history of the Gadsden flag, you might be wondering what it symbolizes. The main focus of the Gadsden flag’s symbolism lies within its rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes were frequently found throughout the original Thirteen Colonies. Therefore, they’ve become synonymous with the country’s origins. Rattlesnakes, in fact, are similar to bald eagles in the sense that both animals are unique to the Americas. As a result, including the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag symbolizes the United States.

Of course, the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me” is a meaningful and important element of the Gadsden flag as well. Rattlesnakes aren’t aggressive animals. They typically won’t attack humans or other large mammals unless threatened. This is similar to the early American colonists who wanted freedom and independence from Great Britain. They didn’t seek aggression, but they defended themselves when the British Army arrived during the American Revolution. Over time, the Gadsden flag has become associated with the Tea Party movement as well. Members of the Tea Party organization often display the Gadsden flag.

Join thousands of others receiving our newsletter.