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Rattlesnake Flags (U.S.)


Last modified: 2015-04-25 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | gadsden | culpeper | rattlesnake | jack | sullivan's life guards |
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Origin of the Rattlesnake

[Ben Franklin's Join or Die] image by Rick Wyatt, 5 April 1998
Ben Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette Sketch
9 May 1754

In 1751 Benjamin Franklin's paper carried an article recommending that a cargo of rattlesnakes be sent to England. Three years later, in 1754, Benjamin Franklin published a drawing of a snake cut into eight parts (Georgia was not included). This was to show the members of the Albany Congress the danger of disunity. By 1754 the segments of the snake had grown together, and the motto had been changed to read 'United Now Alive and Free Firm on this Basis Liberty Shall Stand and Thus Supported Ever Bless Our Land Till Time Becomes Eternity'.

The rattlesnake had become a favored symbol among pre-Revolutionary War colonists.

David S. Cohen
Dave Martucci
Rick Wyatt
          22 December 1997

Secessionist Rattlers

Several Southern states, upon the secession of late 1860, early 1861, used rattlesnake flags for secession banners - as well as for company flags.

These seem to have been most popular in South Carolina and Georgia - two of the original 13 colonies from the American Revolution. Since many Southerners considered their secession of 1861 no different from the secession of 1776 the symbolism was the same.

One South Carolina company flag that I know of had a palmetto tree on one side with a coiled rattlesnake wrapped about the trunk of the tree. There were quite a few others, some with the phrase "Don't tread on me."

Greg Biggs, 5 January 1999

Sullivan's Life Guards

[Sullivan's Life Guards flag]     
image by Rob DelRé, 29 September 2001
[Sullivan's Life Guards flag]
image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 24 October 2001

Standard of General Sullivan's Guard of the Rhode Island Militia. In this version, the arching scroll encompasses all the canton and is contiguous with one of the flag stripes.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 24 October 2001

Other Rattlesnake Flags

There were also these Rattlesnake flags:

South Carolina Navy
      Described by Ben Franklin Oct 9, 1778 as
      13 stripes with a snake.
      Traditionally, the stripes are red and blue.
2nd PA Regiment of 1777.
      White with coiled snake and motto,
      but which motto is uncertain.
Dave Martucci, 21 December 1997