Author donating Civil War painting to Vermont Statehouse

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MONTPELIER >> A Vermont author who specializes in the state's role in the Civil War is donating to the Statehouse a painting of Vermont troops at the Battle of Bull Run.

The art will be hung in a room that commemorates the state's role in the first major clash of the war, which lasted four years and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Howard Coffin, of Montpelier, said the painting is by 19th-century landscape artist James Hope, who commanded a company of the 2nd Vermont Regiment, which fought at the Virginia battle in July 1861.

The painting, called "The Second Vermont Regiment at Bull Run," depicts the Vermont troops firing at a distant enemy. It will be hung in the Statehouse's Cedar Creek Room, named for a different Civil War battle. The room features other Civil War art and commemorations of Vermonters who fought in other wars.

Coffin, 74, said he is donating the painting, which has been appraised at $35,000, because he is getting older and is trying to decide what to do with stuff he has collected over a lifetime.

"The Cedar Creek Room is where it should be," Coffin said.

A Statehouse ceremony to mark the donation is scheduled for Jan. 25.

The painting being donated by Coffin is an echo of the much larger painting done by Julian Scott of Vermonters at the Battle of Cedar Creek, which gives the room its name, said Mary Leahy, president of Friends of the Vermont Statehouse.

"These Vermonters who, like so many other Vermonters, were there in the Civil War giving their all, as the whole state did, and then to record it visually like this ... it's very meaningful," Leahy said.

Hope, the artist, was born in Scotland but came to Vermont as a young man. He taught at Castleton Seminary, a predecessor of Castleton University, where he also had a studio. After the outbreak of the war, he helped organize a unit called the Castleton Company, which became a part of the 2nd Vermont Regiment.

Coffin didn't know when the piece was painted but he believes it was shortly after the war. Hope died in 1892.

Coffin, a former journalist who has written four books about Vermont's role in the Civil War, said he bought the painting about 25 years ago. It has hung in his living room for much of that time but it was also display at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in 2011, the 150th anniversary of the battle.


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