Don’t Tread on Me

This flag has been getting a lot of attention lately as a symbol of today’s Tea Party movement. It’s history goes back to the American Revolution where, among other things, it was the first flag ever carried into battle by the United States Marine Corps.

It also has a connection to St. Augustine.

The flag is known today as the Gadsden Flag because it was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a Patriot from South Carolina. Gadsden served in the First and Second Continental Congress, leaving in 1776 to take command of the 1st South Carolina Regiment. His military service lasted until 1778 when he was named Lieutenant Governor of the South Carolina colony.

When Charleston fell to the British in May of 1780, Gadsden represented the civil government in the surrender. He and others arrested by the British were given parole and allowed to return to their homes. But in August he was arrested again, along with about twenty others, and marched to a ship which brought them here to St. Augustine.

Christopher Gadsden

Christopher Gadsden

When they arrived, Governor Tonyn offered them freedom of the town if they would give their parole. Most of the others accepted this offer, but not Christopher Gadsden. He stated that the British had violated their parole in Charleston so he could not give his word to a false system. As a result, he spent the next 42 weeks in solitary confinement here at the Castillo de San Marcos.

In 1781, he and the other South Carolina Patriots were put on a ship to Philadelphia. It was there they learned of Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown. Gadsden returned to Charleston to help restore the city’s civil government. His health was impaired by his stay at the Castillo, but he was still able to serve in the state convention of 1788 and voted for ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He died in 1805.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia.

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