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Before the departure of that first mission in December 1775, the newly appointed 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. Hopkins had previously led The United Companies of the Train of Artillery of the Town of Providence, before being appointed to lead the Navy.

The 1775 flag of the Providence Train of Artillery's featured a coiled timber rattlesnake and the motto "Do Not Tread on Me" along with an anchor, cannons and the motto "In God We Hope" on a gold background.

It has a white field, rather than yellow, and the additional motto "Liberty or Death" and the name "The Culpeper Minute Men".

The only other rattlesnake flag, the First Navy Jack, was "designed by" the English artist Thomas Hart as background art.

The traditional version of the First Navy Jack has an uncoiled rattlesnake and the same motto as the Gadsden flag, on a field of 13 horizontal red and white stripes.

The John Proctor's Regiment flag of 1st Battalion Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, had a coiled rattlesnake shown on its flag.

The United Companies of the Train of Artillery of the Town of Providence already used a coiled rattlesnake on a field of gold with the motto "Do Not Tread On Me" on its flag.

Before Esek Hopkins was named the first Commodore of the American Navy by the Continental Congress he served as a Brigadier General of the Rhode Island Militia Artillery, and would have been familiar with the design of the flag.

All four of the American-designed "Rattlesnake Flags" show a coiled rattlesnake.This was recorded in the South Carolina congressional journals on February 9, 1776: Col.Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American Navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, "Don't tread on me." The Culpeper Minutemen flag has a coiled rattlesnake and the same motto as the Gadsden flag.In fall 1775, the Continental Navy was established by General George Washington in his role as Commander in Chief of all Continental Forces, before Esek Hopkins was named Commodore of the Navy.The Navy began with seven ships, often called "Washington Cruisers", that flew the "Liberty Tree Flag", depicting a green pine tree with the motto "Appeal to Heaven".The flag presented to Hopkins as Commander of the Continental Navy is a simplified version of that design.Gadsden also presented a copy of this flag to the Congress of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina.The flag is named after American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805), who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution.It was used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag, along with the Moultrie flag.The rattlesnake, like the bald eagle and American Indian, came to symbolize American ideals and society.As the American Revolution grew, the snake began to see more use as a symbol of the colonies.

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