Portrait of Capt. Francis Butler of Bennington is unveiled at the State House

  • Steven Lord and state Sen. Sharon Carson unveil Capt. Francis Butler’s portrait as state Rep. David Welch looks on. —Photo courtesy Steve Lord

  • This portrait of Capt. Francis Butler that now hangs in the State House. —Photo courtesy Steve Lord

  • Members of the 5th New Hampshire Regiment volunteers act as color guard in the Hall of Flags, standing before 5h New Hampshire battle flags. —Photo courtesy Steve Lord

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    Steve Lord and Ed Mottau (center) receive recognition for writing the song "I Fall For You and Country.” —Photo courtesy Steve Lord

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/6/2021 11:50:54 AM
Modified: 12/6/2021 11:50:25 AM

A Civil War soldier from Bennington was honored at the State House Friday with an unveiling of his portrait in the building’s South Back Hallway. 

“It’s just amazing to my family, because it’s such an honor,” said Steve Lord of Peterborough, great-great-nephew to Capt. Francis Butler. “The walls are already lined with portraits of governors and other heroes across the state.”

Butler was born in Greenfield in 1841 and lived most of his life in Bennington. He was set to attend Dartmouth when he decided to enlist in the 5th New Hampshire Regiment at the age of 20, becoming a captain just after he turned 21.

He served in the signal corps during the Siege of Yorktown, carrying messages back and forth between camps for 17 straight days under heavy fire. For his bravery, he was awarded a Red Star signal flag by Gen. George McClellan, one of only three such flags ever given in the Union Army.

Butler was later wounded in the knee at Petersburg, at which point he returned home to recover. His leg had to be amputated, and he died July 30, 1864, at the age of 22. A monument to him currently stands in Sunnyside Cemetery in Bennington.

Lord said that he was happy with the attendance for the unveiling ceremony, and said that it was well-received.

“It’s in a beautiful physical location within the State House,” he said. “It’s where everyone can see it; it’s part of the tour of the State House – now when they give tours it’s one of the portraits that they point out to the public.”

Sen. Sharon Carson, chair of the Joint Legislative Historical Committee, opened the ceremony and was followed by an invocation from the Rev. Jamie Hamilton. Lord and his family members, including his brother and nephew, spoke about Butler and the significance of his sacrifice for the Union. Historian Mike Pride of Bow spoke of the history of the 5th Regiment and its importance in the state’s history.

A song, “I Fall For You and Country,” written by Lord to honor his ancestor and composed by Ed Mottau, was played to close out the ceremony.

In attendance were members of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers Company A, a reenactment group that acted as Color Guard in the Hall of Flags. 

Lord said that the process leading up to the ceremony began about 10 years ago, when the state rediscovered the portrait and had it conserved. Unsure of its history, representatives of the state worked with the family to learn about the history of the portrait, and Lord began to work toward having it displayed. 

The Joint Legislative Historical Committee eventually voted to do so, and invited Lord and his family to participate.

“When I received the email from the state that the committee had voted to hang Captain Butler’s portrait, I was elated,” Lord said. They proposed the Dec. 3 date for the ceremony. “I immediately said to myself, ‘Whatever might be on my calendar, I’m going to cancel it right away.’ Upon opening my calendar, there was only one entry for Dec. 3 – Uncle Frank’s birthday.”

Lord said he teared up over that realization, and immediately emailed back to inform the committee of the happy coincidence, only to learn that they had intentionally chosen the date for that reason. 

“It just hit me so much that they were so considerate, and they took the time to understand the whole story,” he said. “They really thought it was important.”

To Lord, it’s an honor to know that the state felt the same way he did about his family history and made room for his ancestor’s portrait. 

“Those walls in the State House are pretty well covered with existing portraits, and to add this one in its rightful place really meant a lot to the family,” he said. “The portrait is there now, and that’s where it’s going to stay for the foreseeable future.”


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