History of the An Appeal to Heaven Flag
(Much of this material was taken from a July 5, 2017 posting on texaseagle.org by Dr Thomas Schlueter.)
The American Revolution was beginning in 1775. The British, the most powerful military in the world, was occupying Boston and problems in the colonies were rising. George Washington and the Continental Army were besieging British-held Boston at the time. The British troops were trapped in the city and the only way to receive food and supplies was by sea. Washington wanted to harass and capture as many ships bringing supplies to the British troops as possible, so he formed a small squadron of ships, outfitted at his own expense, for the task. Each schooner was to have a special flag flown from its mast. This flag, also known as “Washington’s cruiser flag,” had a white background with an evergreen tree in the middle and the words An Appeal to Heaven stitched across it.
It should also be noted here that all white pine trees of 24 inches in diameter were considered property of the British crown as they were highly desirable in making masts in shipbuilding. The American settlers and mill owners often rebelled against the enforcing of this law, and so the pine tree had long been a New England symbol of Colonial resistance to British rule.
On November 29, 1775, the USS Lee captured the British brigantine, Nancy, which was bringing tons of ammunition and weapons to the British troops in Boston. Not only was this the greatest prize captured in the entire Revolution, it also inspired all of the founding fathers and caused the birth of the United States Navy as we know it today. The schooners bearing the Appeal to Heaven flag continued capturing British ships for the remainder of the war.
In addition to flying over the schooners, the flag was established as the flag of the Massachusetts State navy, was flown on floating batteries, river banks, in towns, on battlefields and in Philadelphia, our nation’s capital.
The pine tree, also known as the “Tree of Peace,” has been regarded as sacred by the Iroquois Indians for over a thousand years in America. At a very troubling time in their history, a peacemaker united six large tribes from the Great Lakes area and established unity. Their covenant of peace was symbolized by burying their weapons under a pine tree.
Our founding fathers and early settlers were very much influenced by the Iroquois and invited them to attend a Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia around the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Soon after this, the “Tree of Peace” became known as our “Liberty Tree,” and was used in flags of all kinds, especially those flown in the fight for our freedom.
The phrase, “An Appeal to Heaven” comes from John Locke from England. He, like other philosophers of his time, was also influenced by the American Iroquois method of attaining peace. John Locke advocated a system of justice for all mankind that was judged by our Creator rather than by rules of society. He stated that in cases where there is a dispute between the people and the government, and there is no higher human advocate who can mediate, the only appeal left is to “Appeal to Heaven” and trust God to judge who is in the right.
There is also a strong biblical significance to the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, as Dutch Sheets points out in his book, An Appeal to Heaven.
In Genesis 21:33, Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God. The tamarisk is an evergreen tree.
Beersheba, meaning “the well of the oath,” had already been the place where God had saved Ishmael from death and made covenant with him, promising to make of him a great nation (Genesis 21:18). Also in Beersheba, Abraham had made a covenant of peace with Abimelech, ruler of Gerar, and with his generations, healing the contention that had arisen between them (Genesis 21:32).
So we see that when Abraham plants the evergreen tree in Beersheba, the very place of the covenant oath, and appeals to heaven by calling on the Lord, he is standing on the promises of those covenants and declaring his alliance with, and dependence on the Lord, the everlasting God.
Quoting from Dutch: “What is the significance of the evergreen tree? Always maintaining green leaves or needles, the evergreen has symbolized eternity as far back as Abraham. At times, this ‘eternal’ symbolism was expanded to include an everlasting or life-long commitment to a covenant. When Abraham planted the evergreen tree, he was establishing a witness or memorial to his covenant relationship with Everlasting God. The tree’s message was: ‘[God] has proven Himself faithful to His covenant with me time and time again. I now declare my covenant faithfulness to Him. I will forever honor my covenant with Everlasting God.’”
This flag, used in the founding of our nation, has resurfaced at this momentous time in our history when once again we should listen to its message and Appeal to Heaven. How desperately we need relief from the spiritual attack that threatens the life and liberty of each heart and home.
May the Lord cause His Church to rise and pray as never before for a spirit of repentance to overshadow His people, and that another Great Awakening may come to our land. May the church be revived and the lost saved by the great mercy of our Savior!
Let us once again fly the banner of resistance to our spiritual enemy and call on the Lord, our everlasting God. Let us together Appeal to Heaven.