The Pine Tree Flag was used by ships of the Continental Army led by Gen. George Washington, and by the navy of the state of Massachusetts.
Designed by Col. Joseph Reed, Washington's Secretary, in 1775, as a flag with a white ground and a tree in the middle, the motto AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN it was adopted my Massachusetts law in 1776 as a white Flag, with a green Pine Tree, and an Inscription, "Appeal to Heaven."
The Pine Tree was a symbol used in the colonies dating back to 1686 with the Flag of New England. The pines of the colonies supplied England with ship's masts, and the crown reserved pines over 12" in diameter for this purpose. When New Hampshire mills were found in possession of the crowns reserved pines in 1772 a riot ensued when the mill owners refused to pay the fines handed down and instead assaulted the King's men with one lashing for every tree the mill owners were being fined for as well as having their horses abused and run out of town. The event came to be known as the Pine Tree Riot. The Boston Tea Party would occur the next year due to such laws being imposed on the colonists.
The phrase AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN comes from the works of philosopher John Locke, who greatly influenced the colonial leaders. The idea is that a people who suffer injustices by their own leaders should fight against them when all other avenues for redress have been exhausted, appealing to heaven for a just victory. In the case of our Founding Fathers that appeal was heard loud and clear!