“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
With that last sentence of the Declaration of Independence put to ink, 56 men signed their names to the document, sealing their fate as traitors or heroes. Only time would tell if this courageous stand would bring forth fruits of the sacrifice.
Notably, one of the names not among the 56 who signed is George Washington. Sometimes this surprises historically casual citizens – Wasn't George Washington some kind of Founding Father? Of course he was! The absence of his name on the document did not detract from his immense commitment to support the push for independence and he contributed greatly out of his own wealth to the cause.
In the fall of 1775 as tensions with the Crown were coming to a head in the colonies, General Washington was gaining a small amount of traction with summer successes at Fort Ticonderoga and Bunker Hill. The latter battle was key to keeping the British pinned in at Boston, cut off from resupply; although a technical loss for the Americans, it showed that the fledgling forces had promise.
With the retreat from Bunker Hill, Washington knew that keeping the British naval reinforcements out of the area would greatly aid his efforts on land. To do so he needed a colonial navy and no such thing existed in even the smallest degree for the Americans. The Continental Congress was very reluctant to fund the acquisition of ships fearing that this would offend the British further. So Washington did what great leaders do – he took the matter into his own hands.
Using his own money, Washington commissioned the outfitting and retro-fitting of six American vessels to cruise the bay area of Boston to harass and hinder the British vessels working to resupply the city.
The Washington Cruisers Flag design has a rich history. The pine tree image hearkened back to the earlier stages of the revolution when the colonists had resisted the British attempts to reserve the tall and straight pine trees as masts for their ships. These conflicts lead to the Pine Tree Riot in 1772, two years before the Boston Tea Party and three years before the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Thus the rebellion over the pine tree was among the first major revolts by the colonists. The presence of the pine tree on the Bunker Hill flag was a reminder of the British tyranny; to then outfit colonial naval ships with a flag prominently bearing the pine tree was a significant display of American feelings.
The “Appeal to Heaven” sentiment was no stranger to the God fearing Americans – religious freedom was precisely what the colonies were initially created for. Their thoughts regarding the oppression they endured had them consistently looking for celestial help in their fight against an increasingly unfair, earthly king. John Locke included the words in his works refuting the divine right of kings:
“And where the body of the people, or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven, whenever they judge the cause of sufficient moment.”
Both the phrase “Appeal to Heaven” and “An Appeal to Heaven” have been written above and below the green pine tree image in different versions of the flag. The historical reports indicate that the first phrase to be adopted was “Appeal to Heaven” based on the recommendation of Colonel Joseph Reed, General Washington’s secretary, to the commanders of the first two cruisers. Reed informed them that the colonial forces had deployed floating batteries that bore this flag with these exact words and suggested to them that they adopt the same in order to identify friendly forces on the water. In the spring of 1776, the Massachusetts council passed a resolution for its colonial navy describing the uniform of the sailors and the colors (i.e. flag) the ships should bear, specifying the inscription “An Appeal to Heaven”.
Considering the state of affairs today, we would all do well to reflect on the Washington’s Cruisers Flag and consider making an appeal to Heaven. For those who pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to defending liberty, this flag summarizes that struggle well with this history in mind. Add our patch to your collection to share this history and remind others of our nation’s origin and duty.
- Hook backing
- Remastered Release: 01/07/2021