Origins of "DTOM"
The Gadsden Flag is a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Positioned below the snake is the legend "Dont Tread On Me." The flag was designed by and is named after American general and statesman Christopher Gadsden. It was also used by the U.S. Marine Corps as an early motto flag.
In fall 1775, the U.S. Navy was established to intercept incoming British ships carrying war supplies to the British troops in the colonies. To aid in this, the Second Continental Congress authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines to accompany the Navy on their first mission. The first Marines that enlisted were from Philadelphia and they carried drums painted yellow, depicting a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, and the motto "Don't Tread On Me." This is the first recorded mention of the future Gadsden flag's symbolism.
At the Congress, Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden represented his home state of South Carolina. He was one of seven members of the Marine Committee who were outfitting the first naval mission.
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. It was displayed at the mainmast.
Gadsden also presented a copy of this flag to the Congress of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina in 1776. This was recorded in the South Carolina congressional journals:
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 rattle-snake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, "Don't Tread on Me!"