Symbols and Images
In a strict and literal sense, Captain Preston (Battle of Lexington and
Concord April 19, 1775) and his comrades envisioned their ideas of liberty
and freedom. They tended to represent their visions in the form of symbols
and images. A symbol might be understood as a vehicle for thinking and
as a devise for transporting thought from one mind to another. More than
that, an image does not merely communicate a vision. It can also create it,
transform it, and persuade others to adopt it. Some images take on the character of sacred objects. When that happens, symbols become icons, which not merely signify but sanctify thought. They are regarded with reverence and protected from pollution.” --“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 14 (words in parentheses added)
Symbols and images hold a significant role in America’s rich heritage. From the moment the first Pilgrims set foot on the shores of the New World, seeds of liberty and freedom were planted. These seeds of liberty and freedom took root in America in the form of flags, words, songs, symbols, and images. Gaining insight to the original meanings of liberty and freedom opens the doors of our thinking in appreciating the symbols and images that define America.
Liberty & Freedom
“Our English word liberty comes from the Latin libertas and its adjective liber,
which meant unbounded, unrestricted, and released from restraints. A synonym was
solutes, from the verb solvo, to loosen a set of bonds. These words were similar to
the Greek eleutheria and eleutheros, which also meant the condition of being
independent, separate, and distinct. The Greeks used these terms to describe
autonomous cities, independent tribes, and individuals who were not ruled by
“Freedom has another origin. It derives from a large family of ancient languages in
northern Europe. The English word free is related to the Norse…, the German…,
the Dutch…, the Flemish.., the Celtic…, and the Welsh…. The English words freedom and free have the same root as friend. Free meant someone who was joined to a tribe of free people by ties of kinship and rights of belonging.” --“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, pages 4-5
From this heritage, we begin the American journey of flags, words, songs, symbols, and images.
“In the Name of God” - to - “An Appeal to Heaven”
The first priority of the Pilgrims before leaving the Mayflower was to agree
upon the governing terms of the new colony - a local government of majority
rule and working together for the good of the colony. The Mayflower Compact
begins with the pilgrims giving glory to God.
“IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten…
by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland…
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith…”
The Mayflower Compact, 1620
As more and more people ventured to the New World, Colonial Flags revealed early images of a faith-based people desiring liberty – courageous people desiring to separate from the restraints of the old world. Red flags bearing the King’s Colors of England (the crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew) in upper left-hand corner were modified by deleting the King’s Colors and leaving the union as white.
By the late 1600s or early 1700s, a green pine tree had been added to the white union on red Colonial Flags. During the pre-Revolutionary War years, the words, “An Appeal to Heaven” - “Liberty and Union” – “Liberty or Death” – “Don’t Tread On Me” – “Hope” were painted or sewn on flags of red, blue, or white which also bore images of pine trees (New England Colonies), rattle snakes, and half moons (Southern Colonies).
The Liberty Bell
In 1753, a 2,080 pound bell was hung in tower of the Statehouse in Philadelphia
in honor of the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges,
the original Constitution of Pennsylvania. The bell was known as The Statehouse
Bell until 1837 when Abolitionists first identified the bell as the Liberty Bell.
The Liberty Bell remains today as one of America’s most impacting symbols of
liberty. Forged around the top of the bell are the biblical words:
“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto
all the inhabitants thereof.”
The Liberty Tree
“The story of the Liberty Tree begins in Boston, early on the morning of August 14, 1765. The inhabitants were up before the sun, as was their Yankee custom. It was Thursday, market day, and farmers were streaming into town. Heavy carts rumbled along Orange Street (now Washington) past the house of Deacon Jacob Elliot and his grove of old elm trees.
“In the half light of dawn, a passerby glanced at the largest of these
trees and was amazed to see a body hanging from a branch. People
began to gather around the tree. As the light improved, they discovered
that the body was an effigy, marked with the initials A.O., which
everyone took to be Andrew Oliver, a Boston merchant who had agreed
to collect the new Stamp Tax that Parliament had levied on the colonies.
Pinned to the effigy was a verse: Fair Freedoms glorious cause I’ve
meanly quitted, For the sake of self; But ah! The Devil has me outwitted.
And instead of stamping others, I’ve hangd myself.”
…“The governor asked who had done this thing and was told that it
was the work of a small club of Boston Whigs called the Loyal Nine.
He would have known them, for they were men of property and standing.
One was Benjamin Edes, printer of the Boston Gazette. The others
included merchant Henry Bass and ship’s captain Joseph Field, jeweler
George Trott and painter Thomas Crafts, braziers Stephen Cleverly and
John Smith, and rum distillers Thomas Chase and John Avery. They were town-born men, descended from the Puritan Migration. The Loyal Nine owed their loyalty not only to one another but to a close-knit community that was five generations old in 1765.
... “All of them would be liable for stamp taxes of two pounds on any school diploma, four pounds on “any grant of any liberty, privilege or franchise.” Liberty itself was taxed by the new Stamp Act, which was more than a revenue measure. It was a crude attempt at social engineering by British leaders who believed that the American colonies had too many newspapers, schools, lawyers, and liberties.” --“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, from pages 19-21
“As a symbol of the cause, the Liberty Tree instantly became a Boston institution... The example of Boston’s “venerable Liberty-elm” inspired other Liberty Trees in New England…Liberty Trees appeared in Cambridge, Petersham, Roxbury, Norwich, Newport, Providence, and many other towns. In southeastern New England some were buttonwoods. Connecticut preferred oaks. Boston, Providence, Roxbury, and Cambridge chose elms. Whatever the species, New England’s Liberty Trees were giants of old growth, deeply rooted in the soil of the New World. The Liberty Elm in Providence was so big that it was dedicated from a large platform in its upper branches.”
--“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 23
“By Uniting We Stand, by Dividing We Fall…”
In 1768, seven years before the onset of War for Independence, political tensions were escalating. John Dickenson’s contribution to the cause of liberty was to put his passion for liberty to music. He wrote The Liberty Song. His song of uniting together was frequently sung at political gatherings. Though this song is rarely noted today, every American knows one line.
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall…”
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.
The Liberty Song, John Dickenson, 1768
The Liberty Pole and Lady Liberty
In 1766, New York became the home of the Liberty Pole, a creation of John Lamb, Joseph Allicocke, and Alexander McDougall, all sea merchants, and Isaac Sears, an oysterman. All were strong believers in the rights of liberty and property. –reference: “Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 39-40
“Together they invented the Liberty Pole as a symbol of liberty and freedom…The
symbolism of the Liberty Pole began with an ancient image that was familiar throughout
the English-speaking world in the eighteenth century. Political cartoons on both sides of
the Atlantic commonly represented liberty as a Roman goddess of libertas, a timeless
figure of great dignity, dressed in a long garment called a stola and a cloak called a palla.
She was distinguished from other Roman goddesses by the things she carried: a long wand
called a vindicta in one hand, and a soft cap called a pileus in the other…both were symbols
of emancipation. Roman slaves were released from bondage by a ritual in which a praetor
touched them with his wand and gave them a stocking cap as a token of their liberty.
--“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 23
And so it was that a Roman goddess took on the image of Lady Liberty – an American Icon
of liberty and freedom. Since her introduction into colonial patriotism, her image has changed
to reflect ever changing eras of history. Her image has been engraved on items such as
government seals, coins, powder horns, flags, statues, political banners, home decorations,
war posters, and adornments on WWII aircraft. In many of her appearances, she still holds the symbols of liberty - a wand and pileus cap. (note a wand and pileus cap on the picture of the book Liberty and Freedom at top of this page)
“We Trust in God” – Words from the song Chester
Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And slavery clank her galling chains.
We fear them not, We Trust in God,
New England’s God forever reigns.
From Song: Chester, William Billings, 1774 or 1775
The song, Chester, written by William Billings in the pre-Revolutionary War years, is
considered to be America’s first unofficial national anthem. When researching “Chester
1776 era,” one finds information concerning the Chester Tea Party.
On May 23, 1774, Patriots of Chester, Maryland (now Chestertown) boarded the
brigantine “Geddes” in broad daylight and threw its cargo of tea into the Chester River.
Though resources do not specifically correlate the song, Chester, to the Chester Tea Party,
by Billing’s own words, he tells of a defiant stand by the young nation against tyrannical
powers and veteran soldiers and generals.
Songs were commonly written about events and undoubtedly, some significant event inspired Billings to pen the song. Many of the orators of the era spoke of slavery in reference to the Colonies being enslaved to the King of England.
United States of America
On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress formally replace the term “United Colonies” with “United States” of America. The delegates agreed, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the “United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”
The song, Yankee Doodle, was originally sung by the British as a taunting and demoralizing
effort – an emotional pounding - an attempt to psychologically degrade the Colonists who
they saw as simpleminded and unsophisticated. Instead of succumbing to the bullying, the
Americans took the song, rewrote the words, and made it the rallying song of the Continental
Army and patriots alike. As drummers played cadences and musicians played the cheery tune
on their fifes, the Patriots began a tradition for a nation to communicate its patriotic spirit in
On October 19, 1781 following the Battle of Yorktown (Virginia) General Cornwallis’ men
laid down their guns, their regimental flags, their fifes and drums in a formal surrender to
General George Washington. The tables were turned. The American soldiers now held the
honor of taunting the British regiments by singing Yankee Doodle.
On September 13, 1814, sixteen British ships of war attacked Fort McHenry on Baltimore
Harbor, Maryland during the War of 1812 (the Second War of Independence). The 25-hour
bombardment ended before sunrise on the morning of September 14, 1814. “At dawn’s early
light,” the huge 30’ by 42’ Stars & Stripes Flag could be seen flying majestically above the fort.
The American soldiers, militia, and townspeople, though severely outnumbered in manpower
and canon power, refused to lower the Stars and Stripes flag in defeat. The men celebrated in a
similar manner as their ancestors at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781 – they fired their guns and sang
From this proud heritage, Americans, to this day, are viewed around the world as ‘Yankees’.
The Treaty of Paris
The Treaty of Paris, the treaty between the victorious new nation, The United States of America, and the British was signed on September 3, 1783. The treaty begins as did the Mayflower Compact penned one hundred and sixty-three years earlier by honoring God:
“Declares the treaty to be "in the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity,”
states the bona fides of the signatories, and declares the intention of both parties
to “forget all past misunderstandings and differences” and “secure to both perpetual
peace and harmony.”—Excerpts from the Preface of Treaty of Paris, Sept 3, 1783
Stars & Stripes Flag
A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation’s flag, sees not the flag only,
but the nation itself…the Government, the principles, the truths,
the history which belongs to the nation. –Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
“On June 3, 1777, an unexpected petition was laid before the Congress assembled at Philadelphia.
It was a request on behalf of the Indian Nation for “an American Flag.” To expedite matters with it
came “three strings of wampum” (beads made of shells) intended to cover the cost… The Indian
request may have spurred Congress to action, for eleven days later the now-famed Flag Resolution
was enacted: “Resolved, That the Flag of the united states be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red
and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
“The brief sentence – thirty words tucked in almost haphazardly in the overcrowded agenda of a
wartime council – was deemed sufficient to announce a “happening”…”
--Boleslaw and Marie-Louise d’Orange Mastai, Copyright 1973, page 43. (words in brackets added)
Note that the Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777 does not specify an arrangement of the stars, or how
many points on each stars (5, 6, 7, or 8), or the size of the stars, or the angle of the stars, or the width
of the stripes, or the number of stripes on the upper and the lower sections. There is no written record
of a Stars and Stripes Flag actually being flown in Congress on the day the Flag Resolution was approved.
However, flags with 9 red and white vertical stripes – flags with 13 red and white horizontal stripes - flags with blue, yellow, green, black, and silver stripes had been hoisted high on colonial sailing vessels and flown in the Colonies as liberty flags of resistance long before the Flag Resolution of 1777. The British even referred to the Colonies as “The Rebellious Stripes” prior to the onset of the War of Independence. In approving the Flag Resolution, Congress merely set the standard for the number of stripes, the colors, and a vague description of the blue union with 13 stars.
Davis Hackett includes two entries in his book Liberty and Freedom concerning the creation of the Stars & Stripes Flag. Together, the two paragraphs paint a more complete picture of how America’s most endearing symbol of liberty and freedom, the Stars & Stripes Flag, was created.
(1) “The American Flag is unique in its symbolism, and also in the process by which it was created. The Stars and Stripes were not copied from an ancient source, or handed down by a single leader or a small elite. As a national symbol of liberty and freedom, the flag was invented in an appropriately free and open way. Many Americans played instrumental roles: Sons of Liberty, an American Indian, seamen, soldiers, their commanding general, a widowed seamstress, members of Congress, state officials, and others of every rank and region.” --“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 152 (2)“The Stars and Stripes developed from the striped flag of Boston’s Sons of liberty, and the blue and white star-spangled standards of George Washington’s army. It evolved from the advice of a Quaker seamstress, the prompting of an American Indian, the timely intervention by Pennsylvania politicians, the inspiration of Francis Hopkinson, and a resolution of the Continental Congress.” --“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 163
Perhaps one of the first true freedoms the Colonists enjoyed was the “freedom” to interpret the Flag Resolution and create, as each flag-maker envisioned, their country’s flag of liberty and freedom. This “freedom” continued until 1912 when President William Howard Taft signed a law specifying the design of the stars and the stripes.
American Bald Eagle
In 1789, George Washington became the first President of the United States. In
the same year, Congress declared the American Bald Eagle as the official
emblem of the United States. Like Lady Liberty, the Bald Eagle is an image that
stirs the deepest spirit of American patriotism.
"The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected
the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and
proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength
and freedom of America." --President John F. Kennedy
The Great Seal – An Eagle, a Shield of Colors, and Providence
The process of designing and accepting The Great Seal of the United States involved the work three congressional committees, many congressional votes, and a time period of six years. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress, submitted the final design in June 1782, one year following the end of the War for Independence. His description and report to Congress follows;
“The *Escutcheon is composed of the *chief & *pale, the two most honorable
*ordinaries. The Pieces, *paly, represent the several states all joined in one solid
compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole & represents Congress.
The Motto alludes to this union. The pales in the arms are kept closely united by
the chief and the Chief depends upon that union & the strength resulting from it for
its support, to denote the Confederacy of the United States of America & the
preservation of their union through Congress.
“The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America;
White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the colour
of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and
arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress.
The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other
sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle
without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to
rely on their own Virtue.
“Reverse. The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Era, which commences from that date.” –source: Great Seal of the United States, Wikipedia – (* added with word definitions below)
*Escutcheon – a shield or shield-shaped emblem, displaying a coat of arms
*chief – Heraldry - the upper third of a shield (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
*pale – Heraldry – a vertical band forming the middle third of a shield
*ordinary – Heraldry – a reference of stars (“The Stars and The Stripes,” page 31)
*Paly – Heraldry – divided into four or more vertical stripes of equal width, in alternating colors: said of the field a shield
*Heraldry – art or science having to do with coats of arms, genealogies
During the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson (1766-1854), a meat packer from Troy, New York, was
employed by the government to supply the American Army with barrels of beef. The meat was highly
salted and not a favorite of the fighting men.
The barrels were marked with the letters “U.S.” for United States. However, the men began associating
the well marked “U.S.” barrels as those of Uncle Sam. The nickname stuck – a legion was born – and
thus was the beginning of a figure icon representing the U.S. federal government.
Political cartoonist, Thomas Nast (1840-1902) popularized the image of Uncle Sam during the Civil War
and in the years that followed. Eventually, Nast drew the figure with a white beard and wearing a suit made
of a stars and stripes pattern. Uncle Sam became a popular political cartoon figure throughout the 1800s.
During WWI, James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) used an image of Uncle Sam in a highly popular
war effort poster. Uncle Sam was seen wearing a tall top hat, blue jacket, and pointing his finger straight
forward. Words on the poster read, “I Want You For the U.S. Army.”
Samuel Wilson died in 1854 at the age of 88. He is buried in Troy, New York, the town known as the
“Home of Uncle Sam.” Samuel Wilson was honored by the U.S. Congress in September 1961 as America’s
“And This Be Our Motto: “In God is Our Trust””
In 1814, Francis Scott Key was so awe struck upon seeing the massive 30’ x 42’ Stars and Stripes flag still flying majestically above Fort McHenry “at dawn’s early light,” he felt inspired to pen the first verse of a poem he titled The Defense of Fort McHenry. (Today known as The Star Spangled Banner) All that we sing in The Star Spangled Banner, Key witnessed and experienced during the 25 hour bombardment by 16 British ships of war. In the 4th verse, Key gives God the glory for victory won and freedom secured.
“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Star spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, 1814
On March 3, 1931, one hundred and seventeen years after the Battle of Fort McHenry, President Herbert Hoover signed a law making The Star Spangled Banner the official national anthem of the United States of America.
Patriotic Songs of the 1800s
“One good song is worth a dozen addresses and proclamations.”
--Joel Barlow, American poet and diplomat (1754 – 1812)
Songs and music have been an outward expression of deeply rooted patriotism and/or faith
since the Pilgrims first brought the “Old Hundredth” (today we know as the Doxology) to the
New World in 1620. Music, patriotism, and flag waving go hand in hand. Many of the well
known patriotic songs of America were written during times of war or times of religious revival.
Countless songs were written by songwriters of both the north and the south during the Civil War.
The following list of songs is mere sampling of America’s wealth of music written during the 1800s.
“Amazing Grace” - John Newton, 1773 – highly popular during the 2nd Great Revival of the early
1800s and still widely sung today
“My Country ‘Tis of Thee” – Samuel Francis Smith, July 4, 1832
“Battle Hymn of the Republic” – Julia Ward Howe, 1861 (Civil War)
“Navy Hymn” (“Eternal Father”) - William Whiting, 1861 (Civil War)
“Taps” – General Daniel Butterfield - 1862 (Civil War)
“God of Our Fathers” – Daniel C. Roberts – first performed July 4, 1876, Centennial of Declaration of Independence
“America the Beautiful” – Katherine Lee Bates, 1893
“Stars & Stripes Forever” – John Phillip Sousa, 1896 (Sousa wrote many patriotic marches)
In God We Trust 1864 – 1867
Religious sentiment flourished during the first half of the 1800s. In response to this sentiment,
Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864 (during the Civil War) allowing “IN GOD WE TRUST”
to appear on the 1864 two-cent coin.
Construction of The United States Chambers of Congress was completed in 1867. The words IN GOD
WE TRUST are boldly affixed above the speaker’s podium. Whenever Congress is in session or
whenever the President of the United States speaks to Congress, the person speaking stands beneath
the words, IN GOD WE TRUST.
Statue of Liberty
“The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World…) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture
on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frederic Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28,
1886. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure
representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet
evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence,
July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an icon of freedom and of the
United States.” —source: Statue of Liberty - Wikipedia
“Yet another theme emerged in the pose of Bartholdi’s (sculptor of the statue). Liberty is represented as moving forward. It is a dynamic image of an idea in motion, advancing through the world. Bartholdi developed this kinetic theme in his choice of the monument’s site. In New York harbor he placed the monument in such a way that the impression of movement is strongest when the statue is seen from the ships entering the harbor. As one comes abreast of the statue, the illusion changes from dynamism to stability, with America behind her. Then, as one continues on toward Manhattan and sees the statue from the Battery, she appears to be looking outward from America to the world. The result is an ingenious integration of figure, pose, setting, and message. The effect is also to create a double dynamic: one in the monument itself; the other in the observer, moving from one perspective to another.”
--“Liberty and Freedom” by David Hackett Fischer, page 371
Armed Forces Theme Songs 1907-1939
All of the five Armed Forces’ theme songs were written in the early 1900s. These high-spirited
songs added to the escalating patriotic enthusiasm of the American people.
Navy – “Anchors Aweigh” - 1907
Army – “The Army Goes Rolling Along” - 1908
Marine – “Marine Hymn” - 1918
Coast Guard – “Semper Paratus” - 1926
Air Force – “Off We Go” – 1939
Patriotic Songs 1900 – 1945
A patriotic spirit was never so evident in America as during World War I and World War II. In WWII, women came to the forefront to fill jobs that their husbands and sons had been doing prior to the war. Women, men unable to serve in the military, or too old to fight worked at jobs producing the endless needs of ships, planes, and weapons of war. Everything from scrap metal, used nylons, cooking fat, and razor blades were collected and recycled into some sort of ammunition or bombs. Children pulled wagons around neighborhoods and gathered items to be recycled. They brought pennies to school and bought war bonds. Women, men, and children knitted thousands of items for soldiers, the wounded, and refugees.
Countless songs were written. American citizens, musicians, and the military
sang of the American Flag, love of country, patriotism, and faith in countless
songs that rallied the nation together during times of uncertainty. Listed here
are merely a few.
“Yankee Doodle Dandy” – George M. Cohan, 1904
“You’re A Grand Old Flag”– George M. Cohan, 1905
“Over There” – George M. Cohan, 1917 (World War I)
“God Bless America” – Irving Berlin, 1938 (World War II was raging in Europe)
“This Is My Country” – Don Raye, 1940 (World War II raging in Europe)
“American Patrol” – Glenn Miller
In God We Trust – 20th & 21st Centuries
In the 1900s, Congress passed laws allowing IN GOD WE TRUST to be printed on all gold and silver coins. However, some coins were minted without the wording. In response to public demand, on May 18, 1908, Congress passed Law 31 U.S.C. Section 324A which allowed IN GOD WE TRUST to be printed on all currency and coins that previously bore the wording.
It was not until June 7, 1955, that H.R. 619 was introduced in the House. This bill
provided for the inscription of IN GOD WE TRUST on all United States Currency
and Coins. The bill passed.
On July 30, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law making
In God We Trust the official motto of the United States.
There is an ongoing effort to have In God We Trust removed from U.S. coins and
currency. In March 2010, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the use of the words
IN GOD WE TRUST on U.S. money.
In the following year, on November 2, 2011, the U. S. House of Representatives reaffirmed that IN GOD WE TRUST is the national motto of the United States. The vote was 396-9.
Patriotic Songs Post World War II to 1999
In the years following World War II, the music industry exploded with American Folk music and Country-Western musicians. By the 1960s, American airwaves were filled with the revival of American Folk singers, a variety of jazz, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and so much more.
As the United States was drawn into the Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam War (1959-1975), Cuban
Missile Conflict (1962), USS Liberty Incident (1967), Cambodian Campaign (1970), Grenada and
Panama (late 1980s), Operation Desert Shield (1990), Operation Desert Storm (1991), plus several other
Operations during the 1990s, a trend of singing traditional patriotic songs decreased. Meanwhile, songs
were being written that focused more and more on the military and artists verbalizing their feelings
concerning America, involvement in foreign wars, and the American Flag.
Listed here are merely a few of the patriotic songs from 1945 to 1999.
“This Land is Your Land” – Woodie Gunthrie, written 1940 – popular in the 1970s
“Ballad of Green Beret” – Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, 1966 (Viet Nam War)
“Ragged Old Flag” – Johnny Cash, 1974
“In America” – Charles Daniels, late 1970s
“Song of the Patriot” – Johnny Cash, 1981
“God Bless the USA” – Lee Greenwood, 1984
“America” – Sammy Johns, 1984
Patriotic Songs and Videos Early 21st Century
On September 11, 2001, America experienced firsthand the hatred and wrath of terrorist as two planes flew into the World Trade Center, a 3rd crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, and yet a 4th hit the Pentagon. In the days that followed, the Members of Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol Building and sang, “God Bless America.” A patriotic spirit soared throughout United States – American Flags were everywhere – people filled churches. Patriotic and faith-based songs reaching back through the centuries were sung with passion.
Sadly, the outward and visible patriotic fervor across the country waned in the years following 9-11 – waned even as America’s Armed Forces bravely served, continue to serve, were wounded, and gave their lives in heroic efforts to curb the tide of terrorism.
As with the Patriots of the War for Independence, the singing voices of America cannot be silenced. Musical artists have turned to social media to express patriotic tributes and songs. Videos honoring the United States of America and the brave men and women of the United States Military have been shared, and continue to be shared, on the internet. God Bless the American spirit! A few of these songs and videos are listed below.
“Only in America” – Brooks & Dun – early 2001
“America Will Always Stand” – Randy Travis
“In America” – Charles Daniel Band – written in 1970s – popular after 9-11
“Where the Stars & Stripes and The Eagle Fly – Aaron Tippin – post 9-11
“America Will Survive” – Hank Williams Jr. – post 9-11
“Red, White, Blue – Lynard Skynard
“Letters from Home” – John Michael Montgomery – 2004
“American Boy” – Eddie Rabbit
“If I Don’t Make It Back” – Tracey Lawence – 2006
“I Just Came Back from a War” – Daryl Worley 2006, 2010
“In God We Still Trust” – Diamond Rio - 2006
“Some Gave All” – Billy Ray Cyrus
“Arlington” – Trace Atkins - 2007
“It’s America” – Rodney Atkins – 2008
“Citizen Soldier” – 3 Doors Down
“G. I. Joe and Lillie” – Joe Bonsall Jr., about 2009
“If You’re Reading This” – Tim McGraw - 2010
“If My People”
The final category of songs brings us full circle to America’s faith-based heritage and America’s
need for reliance on God. The following lines are from two of the modern day songs being sung
by artists who understand that faith and freedom go hand in hand - “humbling themselves and pray”
(If My People by Michael A. Brook) and “forgive our sin and heal our broken land” (Heal Our
Land by Jamie Rivera).
In times past, crowds of grateful Americans gathered to welcome home America’s finest. People
lined parade routes and hailed those in uniform with Yankee Doodle (War of Independence and
War of 1812) – The Battle Hymn of the Republic & When Jonny Comes Marching Home Again
(Civil War) – Over There (World War I) – and God Bless America (World War II). Children sang
the words in schools – people sang with passion in churches, and after the invention of the radio,
patriotic music filled the airwaves.
It is time that the people of America once again cheer on the Military of the United States when
they return home from locations of war or calm. It is time we raise our voices and S-I-N-G and
wave the Stars and Stripes proudly!!!
Quotes of George Washington and Ronald Reagan
It seems fitting to conclude this page with quotes by General George Washington and President Ronald Reagan, men who stood firmly on the ideals of liberty and freedom.
Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being,
in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions.
The Eyes of all our Countrymen are upon us, and we shall have their blessings,
and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny
mediated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other,
and shew the whole world, that a Freedman contending for LIBERTY
on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
-- George Washington, General Orders prior to the Battle of Long Island,
July 2, 1776
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.
It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same,
or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's
children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
President Ronald Reagan
God Bless America!!!
Information for this page was compiled from various sources by Shelley G. Jones, 2014