A Rally Cry for Freedom from the King

What’s the story behind the popular “Dont Tread on Me”, Navy Jack IR patch?

The origin of the “Navy Jack”  patch trace back to the days leading up to the American Revolution.

The symbolism of the rattlesnake began in 1754 when Ben Franklin, a man of wisdom and wit, drew a political cartoon. He drew a rattlesnake in 8 disjointed sections, each representing a colony.  In the cartoon under the snake was the catchy phrase “Join or Die.”  This was in direct response to Britain’s practice of dumping all their felons into the colonies.

Franklin’s cartoon went viral before viral was even a thing, and the message circulated from Massachusetts to South Carolina. The message struck a nerve with the people who were deeply irritated by the oppressive British taxes and laws.

The colonists heard the warning loud and clear. Join the movement or face dire consequences.

The message of the rattlesnake became a rallying cry for the people, a powerful symbol of resistance and solidarity among them.

Power Symbol of Unity and Freedom

By 1775,  the impact of the rattlesnake and the catchy phrase “join or die” had become a powerful symbol of unity, freedom, and liberty for the colonists. It proudly appeared in newspapers, banners, flags, clothing, and even money. The characteristics of the rattlesnake resonated deeply with the American colonists.

The rattlesnake will not attack unless provoked, but if provoked it will fight and defend to the death!

So, the colonists were sending a bold message to King George and the British crown – we will be peaceful but if you infringe on our freedoms we will defend ourselves.  

“Dont Tread on these American colonies” was the slogan that energized and propelled the birth of a new nation.

Navy Jack is called “Gadsen”

History is unclear when or by whom the familiar coiled rattlesnake with the motto, “Dont Tread on Me” symbol first appeared.

Yet in 1775, Colonel Christoper Gadsden from South Carolina took this potent symbol of independence and freedom and initiated it to fly over the Continental Naval ships.

Colonel Gadsden’s was a passionate advocate for independence. Because of his fervor for freedom and association with the flag, the Navy Jack is often referred to as the “Gadsden” flag.

Colonel Gadsden and Congress chose Commodore Esek Hopkins to lead the Navy. Hopkins used the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag as his personal standard for his Navy and Marines, one of who was John Paul Jones.

A Symbol of America’s Unwavering Spirit

The exact details of the first “Navy Jack” flag design is a bit fuzzy. but it is believed to have featured 13 horizontal alternating red and white strips, with a rattlesnake moving diagonally across them with the motto, “Dont Tread on Me.”


Over the years, interpretations and meanings of the “Dont Tread on Me,” may have shifted.

But the one thing remains undeniable, the rattlesnake symbol has played an integral part in American history. 

The unwavering spirit of freedom and independence still resonates with Americans today!

In 1776, colonists who were passionate about independence, unity, freedom and peace embraced this symbol as a rally cry to birth a new nation.

Today Americans are still motivated by these same values.

Let us never forget … God Bless America!

Fun read about the History of the American Flag! ... from Glory to Glow

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