Lyndeborough’s Lafayette Artillery marks ‘Lafayette Day’ in Concord

  • Lyndeborough's Lafayette Artillery attended Lafayette Day in Concord on Friday, marking the anniversary of the farewell tour of Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was a key leader in the American Revolution. The artillery fired its historic cannon three times on the State House lawn. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN HUMPHREYS—

  • Lyndeborough's Lafayette Artillery attended Lafayette Day in Concord on Friday, marking the anniversary of the farewell tour of Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was a key leader in the American Revolution. The artillery fired its historic cannon three times on the State House lawn. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN HUMPHREYS—

  • Lyndeborough's Lafayette Artillery attended Lafayette Day in Concord on Friday, marking the anniversary of the farewell tour of Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was a key leader in the American Revolution. The artillery fired its historic cannon three times on the State House lawn. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN HUMPHREYS—

  • Lyndeborough's Lafayette Artillery attended Lafayette Day in Concord on Friday, marking the anniversary of the farewell tour of Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was a key leader in the American Revolution. The artillery fired its historic cannon three times on the State House lawn. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN HUMPHREYS—

  • Lyndeborough's Lafayette Artillery attended Lafayette Day in Concord on Friday, marking the anniversary of the farewell tour of Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was a key leader in the American Revolution. The artillery fired its historic cannon three times on the State House lawn. PHOTO BY KATHLEEN HUMPHREYS—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/23/2022 2:17:06 PM

On Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu commemorated a new historic marker on the State House grounds, marking a visit made by the Revolutionary War hero Gen. Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. Also there to mark the occasion with a literal bang, was the Lafayette Artillery of Lyndeborough, along with their pre-Civil War cannon.

May 20 is celebrated in New Hampshire, along with other states, as Lafayette Day, commemorating the death of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1834. To mark the occasion on Friday, Sununu unveiled a red, white and blue – the color of both the American and French flags – marker as part of a project to commemorate stops made by Lafayette during his farewell tour to the United States in 1824 and 1825.

“It was really an incredible experience, I’ll say that,” said Walter Holland of Lyndeborough, the captain of Lyndeborough’s Lafayette Artillery, who attended Friday’s ceremony.

The Lafayette Artillery fired three rounds from the 1844 cannon to mark the occasion – with reduced charges, Holland assured.

“Everyone enjoyed it, and luckily we didn’t break any windows,” Holland said.

The company was honored to be part of celebrating its namesake, Holland said. Lafayette was so popular a figure and played such a crucial role in the American Revolution, he is honored with many namesakes throughout the former colonies. Holland said while on vacation in Mexico, while wearing a Lafayette Artillery T-shirt, he was greeted by a man who was a firefighter with the Lafayette Fire Department in Louisiana. It’s a name that connects people, he said.

Holland has been a member of the Lafayette Artillery since 1992. As an Army veteran, a friend encouraged him to join the company, which marches yearly in the town’s Memorial Day observances. Holland agreed to join, and said he has come to enjoy the camaraderie of the group and the connection to state and national history.

“It has a pretty glorified history,” Holland said of the artillery company. “Our heritage and our history is very rich, and if we don’t remember it, we’re apt to repeat it. It’s an old cliche, but it’s important to remember that history and the traditions that come with it.”

As part of connecting that present and past history, Holland gifted Friday’s presenters, as well as Sununu, with buttons featuring the state seal, made by the Waterbury Button Company of Connecticut, the same buttons the artillery wears on its uniforms. The company has been in business making metal buttons since 1812 – when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant met Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse at the end of the Civil War, they were both wearing Waterbury buttons. They were the primary supplier of uniform buttons for the armed forces in World War I, made a range of products for the Allied forces in World War II and their buttons were included in the costuming for films such as “Gone with the Wind” and the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”

They also gifted the governor with a book of history on the Lafayette Artillery.

Who are the Lafayette Artillery Company?

The Lafayette Artillery Company for the 22nd Regiment of the New Hampshire State Militia was established in Peterborough in 1804, and its remnants remain in Lyndeborough to this day, making it one of the oldest continuously active militia units in the United States.

The company moved to Lyndeborough in 1833, and has remained there ever since. It was part of the state militia from 1804 to 1866, and became part of the 1st Regiment of the New Hampshire National Guard when it was formed in 1866.

Today, the artillery isn’t in active service any longer – it was mustered out of service with the National Guard in 1882 – but it has maintained it organization and incorporation, and continues to meet and drill, march in parades and participate in living history events and Civil War reenactments. It also maintains the company’s Model 1841, a six-pound brass cannon that the artillery has kept since it was issued in 1844. This same gun and limber are still used today, and were fired for Friday’s ceremonies.

The trip to the State House was actually a return for the cannon, as it was the only gun in the New Hampshire state service that was fit to fire when the Civil War first broke out. The cannon was taken from Lyndeborough to Concord, at the order of Gov. Joseph Albree Gilmore, and was used to guard the capitol and fire official salutes.

During that conflict, Harvey Holt and John Hartshorn, active members of the Lafayette Artillery, were among the first to enlist from New Hampshire. Holt was killed at the first Battle of Bull Run, on July 21, 1861, as part of the 2nd Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Hartshorn was killed a year later in the Battle of Williamsburg in Virginia.

The company as a whole – 135 men – was mustered into service for three months in August 1864, serving garrison duty at Fort Constitution in Newcastle.

The Lafayette Artillery cannon

Despite its 178-year history with the Lafayette Artillery – some during wartime, the artillery’s six-pound gun has never been fired during active conflict, though it has been fired many times on holidays, and is still used during the town’s Memorial Day and Labor Day parades.

It is a point of pride for the company that the cannon has been maintained and cared for since its military retirement 140 years ago, so much so that it still functions to this day.

The barrel of the gun, made from brass and weighing 882 pounds, was cast in 1844 by Nathan Peabody Ames, of the Ames Manufacturing Company in Springfield, Mass. Also maintained were the gun carriage, which weighs 900 pounds and was made by the U.S. Army Arsenal in Watervliet, N.Y., in 1843.

The company also has a limber carriage and ammunition chest from the same time period, although the pieces don’t have a date or maker’s mark.

In its time period, the cannon would have been pulled by a six-horse team, traveling an average of 23 miles in an eight-hour day. The artillery company still uses horses to transport the cannons for its parades – but two draft horses are sufficient for the short distances nowadays.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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