Gadsden Flag: Its Place in Today’s Society

Since the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, the Gadsden flag has been flown throughout the United States by a great number of people.

Gadsden Flag

Customs officials at US ports as well as military personnel in every part of the country hoist the Gadsden flag on a daily basis. In fact, it’s now flown on all active naval ships, and the snake from the flag’s imagery now appears on the US Army Drill Sergeant Identification Badge.

US soccer fans have also begun using the Gadsden flag to support the nation’s team. Nike even uses the image of a snake wrapped around a soccer ball for its patriotic “Don’t Tread on Me” campaign, which supports the US men’s national team.

The Free State Project presented the town manager of Killington, Vermont, with a Gadsden flag after Killington decided to pursue secession from the state. The Free State Project also customized the Gadsden flag by switching out the rattlesnake for a porcupine, which is the organization’s official mascot.

The Gadsden flag is also flown for historical reasons in places like Charleston, South Carolina, where the flag’s designer, Christopher Gadsden, first presented the flag.

Band’s such as Metallica, who put the Gadsden flag’s snake of the cover of their “Black Album”, and 311 have used the flag as inspiration. The Gadsden flag can also be seen in the film, “The Patriot”.

Most recently, the Gadsden flag has been used during the 2009 Tea Party protests.

Christopher Gadsden – Creator of the Gadsden Flag

Christopher Gadsden lived a long a storied life. He was, among other things, deeply involved in the American Revolution. However, Gadsden may be best known for having designed the Gadsden Flag.

Christopher Gadsden

Gadsden was born in Charleston, South Carolina on February 16, 1724. His father, Thomas Gadsden, sent him to be educated at a school near Bristol, England. Upon returning the States in 1740, Gadsden became an apprentice in a Philadelphia court house, and when his parents died one year later in 1741, he inherited a sizable fortune.

Starting in 1745, Gadsden spent time serving as a purser on a British warship, and by 1747 he had saved enough money to buy back the land that his father, a chronic gambler, had lost more than a decade earlier.

Gadsden soon became a prominent merchant in Charleston, and a wharf that he built there still bears his name to this day. However, despite being busy with his mercantile ventures, Gadsden found time in 1759 to captain a militia company during an expedition against the Cherokees.

In 1757, he was elected to the Common House of Assembly, and in 1765 the Assembly made him one of its delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City. During the Congress, Gadsden’s addresses caught the attention of Samuel Adams and the two began a long friendship; Gadsden eventually came to be known as the “Samuel Adams of the South”.

Upon returning to South Carolina, Gadsden became a member of a secret organization of American patriots known as the Sons of Liberty, and by 1774 he’d been elected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.

One year later, in 1775, Gadsden was serving as a member of the Second Continental Congress when it created the United States Navy to stop British ships from reaching the Colonies. The Congress also ordered that a group of Marines be got together to accompany the new Navy on its first mission, and the first men enlisted happened to carry yellow drums with the image of a rattlesnake poised to attack and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” painted upon them.

Gadsden Flag

Whether Gadsden was inspired by the drums or had designed them himself is to this day unclear. However, what is clear is that the commander of the Navy, Esek Hopkins, received a flag from Gadsden bearing the same imagery as the soldiers’ drums before disembarking on the first mission. The South Carolina congressional journals also record that Gadsden presented a copy of the same flag to the state legislature in Charleston.

Later in life, Gadsden held a number of positions in South Carolina’s state government, including Lieutenant Governor, and became a prisoner of war before dying of an accidental fall in 1805. He is buried in St. Phillip’s Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina.