Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Article: "An Appeal to Heaven" Flag: A Symbol of Revolutionary Spirit and Timeless Patriotism

An Appeal to Heaven Flag

"An Appeal to Heaven" Flag: A Symbol of Revolutionary Spirit and Timeless Patriotism

The Pine Tree Flag, often known as the "An Appeal to Heaven" flag, stands as a proud emblem of American resolve and unity during the Revolutionary War. This banner, featuring a pine tree with the rallying cry "An Appeal to Heaven" or occasionally "An Appeal to God," is more than just a piece of cloth. It represents the early American spirit of defiance and the quest for freedom.

Origins and Symbolism

The flag's origins trace back to October 1775, when General George Washington, then commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, commissioned a squadron of six schooners to intercept British supply ships. These ships, known as Washington's Cruisers, sailed under the Pine Tree Flag. This emblem was more than a naval ensign; it was a declaration of the colonies' determination to seek justice and liberty, drawing inspiration from the pine tree, a traditional symbol of New England.

The phrase "An Appeal to Heaven" has its roots in John Locke's "Second Treatise on Government." Locke, a British philosopher, wrote about the right to revolution in situations where justice cannot be attained on earth. This idea resonated deeply with the American colonists, who felt their rights were being trampled by the British Crown. By adopting this phrase, the flag carried a powerful message: when all earthly recourse is exhausted, one must appeal to a higher power for justice.

Design and Adoption

The Pine Tree Flag's design is both simple and profound. It typically features a white field with a green pine tree and the inscription "An Appeal to Heaven." This imagery was suggested by Colonel Joseph Reed, Washington's secretary, in a letter dated October 20, 1775. The flag quickly became a symbol of the fledgling American navy and was adopted by the Massachusetts Council in April 1776 as the standard for the state's naval vessels.

Historically, a variant of this flag—a red flag with the cross of St. George and a green pine tree in the first quarter—was used in New England as early as 1704. This variant is believed to have flown at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. The pine tree had long been a symbol of New England, representing endurance and strength, making it a fitting choice for a flag symbolizing resistance and hope.

The Pine Tree Flag in Historical Context

The Pine Tree Flag has appeared in various forms throughout American history. An 1885 American school textbook depicted it alongside other revolutionary banners like the Gadsden Flag and the Grand Union Flag. These flags collectively represent the diverse yet unified struggle for American independence.

The phrase "An Appeal to Heaven" was not new to the Revolutionary War era. It had been invoked by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in several resolutions and by Patrick Henry in his famous "Liberty or Death" speech. The phrase also appeared in the Second Continental Congress's Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, and it was echoed in the Declaration of Independence. This continuity of usage underscores the deep philosophical and moral convictions driving the American Revolution.

The Pine Tree Flag's Legacy

The legacy of the Pine Tree Flag extends beyond the Revolutionary War. It has been used as a maritime ensign for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, albeit without the original script since 1971. The pine tree symbol itself has deep roots, possibly even predating the arrival of European settlers, as it may have been used by the Iroquois League.

During the 17th century, colonists in New England adopted the pine tree on flags and currency. It appeared on the coinage produced by the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1652 to 1682. The pine tree's association with wealth and power stemmed from its significance as a source of timber for ship masts, crucial to the Royal Navy.

The Pine Tree Flag remains a powerful symbol of American history and the enduring quest for liberty and justice. Its roots in New England's colonial past, its prominent role during the Revolutionary War, and its philosophical underpinnings in the writings of John Locke all contribute to its status as a revered emblem of American independence. The flag's true legacy lies in its original message: when all earthly avenues are exhausted, one must appeal to a higher power for justice and liberty.

This flag, with its simple yet profound design, continues to inspire a sense of patriotism and a reminder of the core values upon which the United States was founded. As we reflect on its history, let us remember the courage and conviction of those who first raised the Pine Tree Flag in their fight for freedom.

Associated products:

Appeal to Heaven T-shirt

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

All comments are moderated before being published.

Read more

Two Towers, One Hero: The Valorous Voyage of Rick Rescorla

Two Towers, One Hero: The Valorous Voyage of Rick Rescorla

You know Rick Rescorla was a total badass when he's front and center on the cover of Moore and Galloway's book "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young." Rick Rescorla was born in England on May 27, 1939...

Read more