Appeal to heaven? There’s a much richer history behind the Pine Tree Flag

Written by The Likely Voter

June 6, 2024

Recent news surrounding Justice Samuel Alito’s vacation home flying the Pine Tree Flag has grabbed the attention of many across the country, as some believe the flag to be controversial.

So, what’s the actual history of the Pine Tree Flag?

Prior to the Revolutionary War, many of the colonies flew a flag with a red ensign. Often, St. George’s cross, or the flag of England, was positioned in the canton (top left corner of the flag). As an act of discontent under British rule, the canton was defaced with a pine tree.

In an act of resistance to the Royal Navy using New England pine trees to bolster their ships, the colonists started what was coined the Pine Tree Riot, in Weare, N.H., when townsmen cut down trees reserved for use by the Royal Navy.

Following the riot, the pine tree became a symbol of colonial resistance and independence.

A flag depicting a pine tree and a red ensign would later be used in the Battle of Bunker’s Hill in 1775.

Later that year, it became the official flag of six colonial military ships, including the USS Harrison, a ship chartered by then-General George Washington.

By 1776, the Massachusetts General Court established the Pine Tree Flag as the official flag of the state navy.

Today, the New England Revolution, a team in Major League Soccer, flies the Pine Tree Riot flag at games, and even has a variation of it for their kits (uniforms), citing it as a symbol of New England “pride and passion.”

The history and cultural significance of the Pine Tree Flag is important to New Englanders and should be to America as a whole, as it marks the beginning of what would later become the American Revolution.

A symbol of independence, freedom and liberty, the Pine Tree Flag possesses a rich and important history that should be used in times of appreciation, not controversy.

For a more in-depth perspective on this article, read our commentary here.

Takeaways: the most important things voters need to know. For civically engaged citizens.  

  • The Pine Tree Flag gets its name from the Pine Tree Riot of 1772 in Weare, N.H.
  • The flag became the official flag of the Massachusetts Navy.
  • It is still widely used in New England today as a symbol of pride in the region.

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