To Fly the Flag of Liberty
THE FIRST FLAG OF THE PA STATE NAVY was a green pine tree in the center of a white field, with the motto, “Appeal to Heaven”. This flag or variations of it, sometimes known as the “Floating Batteries Flag” because it was first used by the floating batteries in the Delware River, was used by most state navies, including the Pennsylvania fleet.
The PSN “Appeal to Heaven” flag was made by Mrs. Bridges from a copy submitted to her. A somewhat conflicting picture as to what colors were used is revealed in a letter of WIlliam RIchards, ship husband, to the Committee of Safety, Aug. 19, 1776: “I hope you have agreed what sort of Colours I am to have made for the Galleys &c., as they are much wanted.” (P.A., First Series, Vol. V. p. 13, Richards to Committee). Richard requests repeatedly that the Council establish a design acceptable to the State Navy. It would appear that the PSN wanted their own flag outside of the one standard in use by all the colonial state navies.
This may have prompted the decision to ask Betsy Ross to design a flag for the fleet — a request that was granted 5 months later in 1777. The exact design of her flag that was flown by the PSN is unknown as she made several for the fleet, although it may have been the flag flown by Fort Mifflin or the 13 bars alternating red and white which was in use by colonial merchantmen and privateers as well. In May 1777 Ann King made colors for the fire ships. See Penna. MSS, RG-4; Military Accounts, Box 2, “Accounts of William Webb, paymaster Navy Board,” and “John Nicholson’s Remarks on the Revisal of William Webb’s Accounts.”
Sources: F.E. Schermerhorn, “American and French Flags of the Revolution, 1775-1783”; J.W. Jackson, “The Pennsylvania State Navy, 1775-1781”; P.A., First Series, Vol. V; Penna. MSS, RG-4; Military Account, Box 2.
When the PA Navy turns out at various events we fly either of these two flags, depending on the appropriateness of the event we are attending.