Don't Tread on Me

Friday, January 15, 2021 2:48 PM


GADSDEN Flag (Don’t Tread on Me)

As we were wont to say in the Marine Corps, “What’s the skinny?” (confidential information on a particular person or topic) … on the Gadsden flag. There has been a skewed association of this flag with the United States Marine Corps and the popularism of far right provocateurs of insurrection, to suggest a symbolic association of the Corps with their anti-government radicalism and violence against the government’s constitutional authority.

The Gadsden flag is named after General, politician and slave owner Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805), who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution. It was used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag along with the Moultrie or Liberty flag, designed by Colonel William Moultrie under commission for the pending war with Great Britain. (below).

The Moultrie flag was flown by his troops in the successful defense of Sullivan’s Island against the British fleet in June 1776. Moultrie’s forces (primary the 2nd South Carolina Regiment) after 10 hrs. of bombardment and siege, forced the British to withdraw, saving Charleston. 

Going through Marine bootcamp at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot), Paris Island, SC and ITR (Infantry Training Regiment), Camp Lejeune, NC, we were indoctrinated in Marine Corps history, organization, discipline and fighting philosophy. The goal was to turnout a fully fledged combat Marine. We learned about and dedicated ourselves to follow in the footsteps of iconic Marines, not the least of which was Lieutenant General Lewis B. ‘Chesty’ Puller – the highest decorated Marine in the Corps’ history. Whose five Navy Crosses and one Army Distinguished Service Cross attest to. With all the trappings reminding us constantly of our inheritance and mission, there was no mention of the Gadsden Flag. Evidently a relic of the past relegated to the dustbin of history for recorded continuity.

The first time I got wind of the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag represented as an iconic standard (ceremonial flag carried on a pole or hoisted by rope) of Marine Corps lore, I’d never heard of this association. Ironically, it was a retired Army officer that voiced that connection. I had never seen it on any Marine base, duty station or Marine basecamp in NAM. One thing for certain, Chesty would not have brooked the insurrection witnessed on Jan. 6, 2021 with his Marine Corps. What happened that day, that day of infamy was the rattle snake swallowing its own tale in trying to destroy the very nation for which Chesty earned all of those medals.

He would have seen what happened as a travesty of unpatriotic criminal activity against the United States of America, a treasonous act of terrorism. One requiring the maximum punishment equivalent to the actions of individuals that took part.


– Carl Hitchens