W. Thomas Smith, Jr

Soon thereafter, South Carolina Militia Col. (future brigadier general) Christopher Gadsden – a member of the Continental Congress and of the Marine Committee – had the rattlesnake and motto incorporated into a flag which he presented to the Navy, the Marines, as well as to the S.C. Provincial Congress, which recorded in its minutes:

"Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American navy; being 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!'"

A company of militiamen from Culpepper County, Virginia also carried a "DON'T TREAD ON ME" flag, but on a white field, and with the added words, “LIBERTY OR DEATH.”

It was during this same period that Commodore Esek Hopkins directed his ships to fly a “striped jack” with – as some historians suggest – an uncoiled snake and the motto, "DON'T TREAD ON ME."

This flag became known as the first American “Navy Jack.” And on May 31, 2002, the old “Navy Jack” was ordered by the Secretary of the Navy to be flown aboard “all U.S. Navy ships during the Global War on Terrorism.”

Today the old rattlesnake “Navy Jack” flies from my front porch.

Subversive? Hardly.

An unapologetic expression of pride in – and love for – American independence and the kind of defiant, can-do-despite-the-odds courage exhibited throughout history in places with names like Lexington, Yorktown, Fredericksburg, Bastogne, Hue, and Fallujah?

You bet.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read W. Thomas Smith's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.