In late 1775, as the fires of revolution and war were becoming hotter with each passing day, General George Washington commissioned two small schooners (named "Lynch" and "Franklin"), to patrol in and around Boston Harbor. Their mission: to harass the British whenever possible. Obviously this was no small task, being that the British had sent over 200 fully equipped warships to America. Obviously 2 small boats weren't going to present any major threat to the mighty British navy!
Yet despite this obvious disadvantage, Washington insisted on creating and maintaining this puny armada. The small "fleet" of ships, which eventually grew to include four additional boats, were officially commissioned by General Washington as the first "armed Vessels" of the "United Colonies of North America." In essence, this small fleet of ships became America's first Navy.
Washington himself financed the six-ship fleet out of his own pocket. Knowing that this small rabble of a Navy could never stand up to the mighty arm of the British, Washington requested that a unique banner be flown by each of these six ships. At the General's request, his navy adopted a "white flag, with a green pine tree, and the inscription, 'An Appeal to Heaven.'" In addition, Washington ordered that all crewmen of these ships be dressed in a green and white uniform.
Interestingly enough, this fleet lasted throughout the duration of the Revolutionary War, carrying out a diverse number of assignments and playing a number of different roles in the process. In addition, the "Washington Navy" became a symbol of pride for those who favored the revolution. The "Appeal To Heaven" served as a powerful rallying cry that embodied the sentiments of many who supported the "cause of liberty." In a very real sense, "An Appeal to Heaven" was every bit as important to the rhetoric of the American Revolution as was, "No taxation without representation" or "Don't Tread on Me." No wonder why Washington chose to use it for his navy!