There are many symbols, images and phrases that instantly evoke strong emotions in many Americans. This is especially true for those of us that believe strongly in liberty and individual rights! Perhaps no two items evoke stronger emotion that the Gonzales Flag and the Gadsden Flag. However, how many Americans can actually speak intelligently on the history and meaning of these famous flags? We thought it might make sense to take a moment and remember what made these flags such powerful symbols in our great country!
GONZALES FLAG - "COME AND TAKE IT"
The Gonzales Flag became famous during the Texas Revolution in 1835. However the story starts four years earlier, back in 1831. Early that year, the colonists of Gonzales, TX (near San Antonio) were being regularly attacked by hostile Indians in the area. In March, the Mexican Army granted a small cannon to the people of Gonzales to help them fend off these attacks. The cannon soon became a symbol of Texas pride.
Over the next four years, the political situation in Mexico deteriorated. Several states revolted as unrest spread across the region. The Colonel of the Mexican army in Texas decided that steps needed to be taken to disarm the rebels in the area. The original request for the cannon's return was in writing, to which the colonists replied "Come and Take It". In September of 1835, he sent a small group of men to recover the cannon. The citizens of Gonzales realized the true intent of the request, and refused to give up the weapon.
|Two ladies in the town, Cynthia Burns and Evaline DeWitt, painted|
a flag on cotton cloth, depicting the cannon, the lone star of Texas,
and a clear challenge to the enemy "Come and Take It"
Shortly after, 100 mounted infantry were sent back to Gonzales to demand the cannon unconditionally using peaceful means. The soldiers neared Gonzales on September 29, but the colonists used a variety of excuses to keep them from the town, while secretly sending messengers to request assistance from nearby communities. Within two days, over 200 Texans gathered in Gonzales, all determined not to give up the cannon. Citizens mounted the cannon on a wagon and moved it into position. On October 1, settlers voted to initiate a fight and moved forward approaching the Mexican camp. The Mexican soldiers opened fire in the early morning hours of October 2nd. After several hours of desultory firing, Mexican soldiers withdrew.
The skirmish would become known as "The Battle of Gonzales" and was the first battle of the Texas Revolution against Mexico. Stephan F. Austin joined the group in Gonzales, and on October 12th, the march on San Antonio began!
GADSDEN FLAG - "DON'T TREAD ON ME"
The first use of the snake as a symbol of unity can be traced to Ben Franklin. In 1754, during the French and Indian War, Franklin published his famous woodcut of a snake cut into eight sections. It represented the colonies, with New England joined together as the head and South Carolina as the tail, following their order along the coast. Under the snake was the message "Join, or Die". This was the first political cartoon published in an American newspaper.
The use of the snake symbol combined with yellow color was first used during 1775. In the fall of that year, the United States Navy was established to intercept incoming British ships carrying war supplies to the British troops in the colonies. To aid in this, the Second Continental Congress authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines to accompany the Navy on their first mission. The first Marines enlisted in the city of Philadelphia, and they carried drums painted yellow, depicting a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, along with the motto "Don't Tread On Me." This is the first recorded mention of the future Gadsden flag's symbolism.
Benjamin Franklin's original "Join, or Die" cartoon
Colonel Christopher Gadsden represented his home state of South Carolina at the first Continental Congress . He was one of seven members of the Marine Committee who were outfitting those first naval missions. Before the departure of that first mission in December 1775, the commander-in-chief of the Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, received the yellow rattlesnake flag from Gadsden to serve as the distinctive personal standard of his flagship.
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