Vermont Coat of Arms
The first Vermont coat of arms was an engraving for use on military commissions, made in 1821 when the original state seal was revised by rearranging some of the features in pictorial form. It placed the picture in a shield surmounted by the stag's head crest, with the motto beneath, and the whole was put under the outspread wings of the American eagle with full panoply of war. The crest was a new feature, possibly invented by Secretary of the Governor and Council Robert Temple, or by the Boston engraver who designed the commission. Although no law provided for a coat of arms, it was in official use in this form, with slight modifications, until 1862.
When the Civil War began, a
coat of arms and crest for military purposes was needed. The crest had been used
for some years on military buttons, but search for an authentic description of
the Coat of Arms revealed that there was no law making this provision. Professor
George W. Benedict of Burlington wrote a description in quasi-heraldic terms,
and this was incorporated into the statutes by No. 11 of the Acts of 1862.
The law does not specify any particular mountains or view. The shield may be of any shape, with any sort of border or none. There must be a landscape of natural color in the foreground or base, with high mountains of blue above and extending into a yellow sky. There must be a pine tree of natural color extending from near the base to the top; sheaves of grain three in number and yellow placed diagonally on the right side; and a red cow standing on the left side of the field. The motto, badge, crest, and scroll must conform to the description.
The Revised Statutes of 1840 has a title-page vignette of a Coat of Arms much like that of 1821, but with the addition of crossed pine branches beneath the shield. These are said to represent the pine sprigs worn by Vermonters at the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814. A version which appeared on commissions issued about 1858 replaced the pine branches with plumes, and appears to have followed the carving over the desk of the Speaker of the House in its original form.
Probably the carving over the painting of the "Battle of Cedar Creek" by Julian Scott in the State House most clearly represents what the 1862 Legislature had in mind. At that time a painting made by Charles R. Heyde of Burlington, and intended to be the official version, was placed in the custody of the Secretary of State. It was replaced by the present painting in that office dated 1898, and Heyde's painting appears to be lost. A description by Professor Benedict soon after the painting was made states that the high mountains are Camel's Hump and Mansfield, traced in outline from a point opposite Burlington. This viewpoint was selected because it was thought Samuel de Champlain first saw the Green Mountains from that vicinity, and also because it was thought that travelers on the Lake would remember that view.