|The First Navy Jack is the current U.S. jack authorized by the United States Navy. The design goes back to the firstU.S.naval jack flown in the earliest years of the republic. The jack has traditionally been depicted as consisting of thirteen red and white stripes charged with an uncoiled rattlesnake and the motto “Dont Tread on Me.”
The rattlesnake had long been a symbol of resistance to the British in Colonial America. The phrase “Don’t tread on me” was coined during the American Revolutionary War, a variant perhaps of the snake severed in segments labelled with the names of the colonies and the legend “Join, or Die” which had appeared first in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754.
The rattlesnake (specifically, the Timber Rattlesnake) is especially significant and symbolic to the American Revolution. The rattle has thirteen layers, signifying the original Thirteen Colonies. And, the snake does not strike until provoked, a quality echoed by the phrase “Don’t tread on me.”
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