Exhibits: Lincoln Autopsy Reports, Dred Scott Painting

Dred ScottThe New York State Museum has added two important artifacts to its current exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War.

The artifacts include the notes taken by two physicians who attended President Lincoln on his death bed and the only existing oil painting of Dred Scott, the African American slave whose 1858 Supreme Court trial pushed the nation to the brink of Civil War.

The physicians’ handwritten notes, penned by Assistant Surgeon Joseph Janvier Woodward and Lincoln family physician Robert K. Stone, describe in stark detail President Lincoln’s condition after being shot by John Wilkes Booth on the night of April 15, 1865. Dr. Woodward’s notes are stained with the President’s blood. These documents are on loan from the Fenimore Museum, Cooperstown, New York.

Dred Scott gained everlasting fame as the slave whose freedom was denied in one of the nation’s most important Supreme Court cases. In 1858, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the court ruling that African Americans had no claim on freedom or citizenship and that slavery was protected by the Constitution. The decision increased tensions throughout the nation and contributed to the outbreak of war in 1861. The Dred Scott decision was overturned by the 14th Amendment in 1868. The Dred Scott oil painting is on loan from the New-York Historical Society.

An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War is open through September 22, 2013 in Exhibition Hall. As the wealthiest and most populous state, the Empire State led all others in supplying men, money, and materiel to the causes of unity and freedom. New York’s experience provides significant insight into the reasons why the war was fought and the meaning that the Civil War holds today. In addition to the physicians’ notes and the Dred Scott oil painting, the exhibition includes a brass collar worn by a slave in Canajoharie, New York, the earliest known photograph of human rights champion Frederick Douglass (on loan from the Onondaga Historical Association), Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 life mask (New-York Historical Society), a steel plate made for the USS Monitor (Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway), handmade artifacts produced by Confederate prisoners at Elmira Prison (Chemung County Historical Society), and a Ku Klux Klan robe from Greene County, New York.

More information about An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War can be found online.

The State Museum is located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.

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