National Geographic : 1917 Oct
motto of the State, "Hope," on the center of the field, this regimental banner of Rhode Is land easily takes high rank as an attractive flag; nor is it lacking in interesting historic associations. Carried safely through the in tense struggle of Brandywine, at Trenton, and at Yorktown, it now rests in the State House at Providence, mute witness to the heroism of those who bore it to final victory (see 313). 397. LINKED HAND.- Thirteen mailed hands grasping the thirteen links of an endless chain formed one of the early representations of the spirit of unity in the colonies. It recognized the sentiment of "United we stand," and fore shadowed the "E Pluribus Unum," soon to ap pear as our motto. The number thirteen was prominent on many of the early standards. A common variation shows a mailed hand grasp ing a bundle of thirteen arrows. THE RATTLESNAKE LAGS 398. GADSDEN FLAG. 400. SOUTH CAROLINA NAVY. 405. CULPEPER MINUTE MEN.- The rattlesnake device was seen again and again on our early flags. One writer of the time quaintly stated that as the rattlesnake's eye exceeded in brightness that of any other ani mal, and she had no eyelids, she might there fore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance; that inasmuch as she never began an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrendered, she was therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. We are bound to suspect, however, that it was the deadly bite of the rattler, that was foremost in the minds of the revolutionists who used the banners. The "Don't tread on me," seen on all four of the rattlesnake flags (365, 398, 400, and 405), lends color to this view. But it was not only the qualities of the snake itself, but also the ease with which symbolism could be added, illustrated in the use of the distinctive thirteen rattles, that in creased the number and variety of the rattle snake flags. "'Tis curious and amazing," in the words of the writer quoted above, "to ob serve how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and how firmly they are united together. One of the rattles, singly, is incapable of producing a sound, but the ringing of thirteen together is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living." Flag 398 was presented by Colonel Gadsden to Commodore Hopkins to serve as the latter's flag as the commander-in-chief of the fleet con structed by Congress, and was hoisted at the main mast of the Alfred December 3, 1775. At the same time John Paul Jones hoisted the union striped flag (364) at the stern (see his tory of Stars and Stripes elsewhere in this number). On the same day 365 was hoisted as the jack of the navy. Thus 364, 365, and 398 are the most historic flags of the U. S. Navy prior to the adoption of the Stars and Strikes. The Southern colonies seemed especially fond of the device. South Carolina adopted for her navy the red and blue stripes crossed by the gliding snake, as seen in 400. Loyal and energetic enthusiasts in the cause of liberty, the people of the Piedmont region of Virginia rallied to the support of the Con- tinental Congress. Culpeper County was a center of organization and her minute men typified on their spirited banner (405) their fearlessness and independence. THE LIBERTY AND PINE TREE FLAGS 399. LIBERTY TREE FLAG OF 1776. 401. MASSACHUSETTS NAVY. -In all early accounts of colonial activities, liberty poles and trees bear an important part. A wide-spreading live oak in Charleston, near the home of Christo pher Gadsden, made a shelter under which the leading spirits of the day often met to discuss political questions, and there the Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of the city. The Sons of Liberty, meeting under the fine old elm in Hanover Square, gave Boston her Liberty Tree. Under its shade a notable meeting was held just previous to the destruction of the tea, which led Gen eral Gage to order that it be hewn down. In asmuch as the felling of a venerable tree al ways touches tender chords in the thoughtful, it is not surprising that the loss of this one fanned into flame the very embers of discon tent that Gage had hoped to stamp out by its destruction. On flag 399 appears the well-loved and fa mous Liberty Tree. This was an emblem often used. The solemn motto, "An Appeal to God," tells us of the quiet firmness with which our forefathers "highly resolved" to claim the birthright of freedom for themselves and their children. The sentiment first appeared in the "Address of the Provincial Congress of Mas sachusetts" to Great Britain, the closing sen tence of which began, "Appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause." Through the long years that have passed since they won their victories, the greater task has developed for us, not only to hold with equal steadiness and firmness the great principles upon which our nation stands, but also to fight with equal fortitude and sacrifice that these gifts may be extended to the oppressed of all nations. When in 1652 the colony of Massachusetts first established a mint, the general court or dained that all pieces of money should bear on one side a tree, thus bringing into being the famous pine-tree shillings. In April, 1776, the Massachusetts council passed a resolution as follows: "Resolved, That . . . the colors [for the sea service] be a white flag with a green pine tree and the inscription, 'An Appeal to Heaven.' " Flag 391 had previously become familiar on the seas as the ensign of Washington's cruisers. The English newspapers of the time contain many references to this striking ensign. In 401 an extra significance is added by the coiled snake at the foot of the tree and the oft-used "Don't tread on me." 400. (See 398.) 401. (See 399.) 402. The Westmoreland County Battalion of Pennsylvania was raised in 1775 by John Proctor and is still preserved in New Alex andria, Pa. It is a British ensign of red silk, with the addition of the coiled rattlesnake and the familiar legend, "Don't Tread On Me."