The Real History Of The Gadsden Flag

Gadsden Flag

The Gadsden flag represents a real symbol of independence and freedom for people in America. However, the history of how it came into existence and came to represent what it does is a long and cloudy one that very few people know the real truth about. 

It all started back in the fall of the year 1775 when the British forces still occupied Boston, and when the Continental Army was stuck in Cambridge as it lacked the required supplies to be able to last through the winter season. In order to combat this problem, an elaborate plan was hatched to capture arms and suppliers from two British ships that were heading to America. To help with this brazen mission, marines were enlisted from Philadelphia. Some of these had drums that were bright yellow and had the image of a coiled rattlesnake that was poised to strike on them. The drums had the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” on them. It is this motto that eventually became part of the now famous Gadsden flag. To get your hands on one of these flags, visit

Christopher Gadsden

The man Christopher Gadsden was considered to be an American patriot. He was responsible for leading the Sons of Liberty (based in South Carolina) back in the year 1765. Later on in his career, Christopher Gadsdeb was appointed a colonel within the Continental Army. During 1775, he found himself in Philadelphia and was working within the Continental Congress, as well as part of the Marine Committee. As a result of the work that he did, Christopher Gadsden was sometimes referred to as the ‘Sam Adams of the South’. 

He first presented his flag in the city of Charleston, North Carolina, to the state legislature. The idea behind it was that it displayed a patriotic message (rather than a racist one). Some of the symbolism on the flag has been broken down to make it easier to understand. For instance:

  • The rattlesnake is present as the United States of America is the only country in the world where the animal can be found.
  • The sharp eyes of the rattlesnake represent vigilance.
  • The thirteen rattles that are on the tail of the snake represent each of the Colonies united in America at the time.


With it having its roots within colonial America, there is some controversy surrounding the Gadsden flag and potentially racist undertones. For instance, in the year 2013, a worker received a complaint from an African American colleague for continually wearing a baseball cap with the emblem emblazoned on it. This was made on the grounds that the Gadsden flag is offensive to people of colour. After all, it was made and designed by a known owner and trader of slaves. However, the case was reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and found that there was not a racial context behind the meaning of the flag even though it originated in colonial times.

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