tv American Artifacts CSPAN August 27, 2015 8:57am-9:26am EDT
we also have on display this bone specimen. it belonged to a private cunningham but it's notable because this bone was something that was recounted upon by walt whitman. whitman was a nurse and served in washington area hospitals and hospitals in virginia during and after the civil war. at some point the museum staff was able to associate walt whitman's writings in poems and stories from that time with specimens that were held in the collection here at the museum. and so here's a case where we're able to associate a bit of a story from walt whitman with the bone of a person he cared for in a hospital during the civil war itself. our final stop today is an exhibit on the assassination of
abraham lincoln. and features artifacts that were collected during those hours that surgeons were treating him after he was shot at ford's theater and during and after his autopsy the next day. so you might remember that abraham lincoln is shot at forth's theater at about 10:30 on friday, april 14, 1865. this is just a few days after lee surrendered to grant at appomattox. effectively ending the civil war. lincoln is at the play and is shot in the back of the head by john wilkes booth by a small lead bullet. that bullet is actually on display here and you can see it in that small glass globe. the bullet was recovered the next day at an autopsy performed at the white house. in the hours, though, just shortly after lincoln is shot,
the surgeon general, surgeon general joseph barnes, responds to the president's side. this is at the peterson's house directly across the street from ford's theater. barnes calls for something called a probe and when he founted that in the back here on display. the idea with the probe was that it would be threaded into the wound with the idea that depending on how far into the wound the probe would go might identify where the fragment or bullet was. they weren't able to do so. the bullet they found later ended up being lodged behind lincoln's right eye. but the probe was retained and eventually made its way into the museum's holdings and is part of the exhibit we have here on display. surgeon general barnes and army medical museum staff john woodward and another surgeon
named edward curtis were at the president's bedside in the hours before he died, which was about 7:22 the next morning, the 15th of april, 1865. it was decided then that a postmortem would be performed very quickly and the president's body was removed to the white house and the autopsy itself was performed in a room that today is the -- one of the president's dining rooms on the second floor of the residence. it's during that autopsy that the bullet is recovered. the skull would have been removed, the top of the skull would have been removed from lincoln's head and as the story is recounted by dr. curtis, dr. curtis lifted the brain out of the skull and held it over a china bowl and the bullet fell into the china bowl and made a tinkling sound and according to curtis' notes and notes of others in the room there was a pause, a moment of silence and
with that sound of the bullet in the china bowl is really the only sound making any noise at that exact moment. curtis reflects on it by saying something to the effect of "this is a lead ball for which we can't yet measure the calamitous effect." the autopsy is completed and some fragments of lincoln's skull were retained by surgeons who assisted at the autopsy, and in one case some fragment was stuck on some of dr. curtis' tools and as he was cleaning his surgical kit later that day he found a bit of lincoln's skull fragments stuck in one of the saws. we also have on display a bit of lincoln's hair removed from the site of the wound during the autopsy. several locks of hair are accounted for in the notes from those hours before lincoln died and during his autopsy.
these are just a few of those that were cut and given away to different people. another object, though, that's on display relates again to dr. curtis. edward curtis, a surgeon on the staff of the medical museum was an assistant at the autopsy. when he got home that night, the 15th of april, after the autopsy, he discovered that his undershirt sleeve shirt cuffs were stained with the president's blood. and mrs. curtis cut the shirt cuffs off and put them into an envelope, which they signed and endorsed, and this is one of the two shirt cuffs. both shirt cuffs are in the museum's holdings. just this one is on display. many of these objects had an interesting and diverse history. the bullet was used as evidence at the trial of the
conspirators. the fragments of bone and hair were in the care and holdings of others for many years and most were collected in the early 1950s by an army medical museum curator named helen purdle and for the most part have been on display for many decades. it's important to note that 2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of the assassination of president abraham lincoln. we hope you enjoyed this visit to our exhibit on civil war medicine and the artifacts related to the assassination of abraham lincoln here at the natural museum of health and medicine. it's important for us to share these artifacts that convey the lessons and the history of military medicine from 150 years ago, and that's the inspiration for much of the work that the museum does today to carry on that mission and legacy of military medicine today and into the future. we hope you'll consider visiting the museum if you're in the washington, d.c. area sometime soon.
>> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. here on c-span3 thursday, a look at issues on aging. our programs include a senate hearing on efforts to fight alzheimer's, that's thursday, beginning at 1:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. florence harding once said that she had only one hobby and that was warren harding. she was a significant force in her husband's presidency and adept at handling the media. despite hardships, scandals, her husband's infidelities, his death in office, and her own poor health, he would help define the role of the modern first lady.
florence harding this sunday night on first ladies influence and imaging, examining the public and private lives of first ladies. from martha washington to michelle obama, sundays at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. next we travel to independence national historical park in philadelphia to visit the assembly room inside independence hall where both the declaration of independence and the u.s. constitution were debated and eventually signed. this program featuring national park service ranger matthew eiffel is about one hour. >> we are in a building that is built in the 1730s, about 40
years before there was any such thing as the united states of america. and at that time, of course, pennsylvania was a british colony. and this was its capitol building. they would make laws for pennsylvania. each of the 13 colonies has its own governments. these are the issues that will lead to the creation of the united states, most of which is going to happen in this room because the colonies as time goes forward or at least many people of the political class in these colonies will start to grow dissatisfied with the way the british government is treating them, is affecting their lives locally, and, of course, one of the other side issues is americans living in the colonies do not get to vote in british elections. when the parliament in london makes laws for americans, of course the most famous being the various taxes and such that you all get to learn about in school, we're going to say this is taxation without representation. and it's that idea that you're not getting the voice. thomas jefferson would right in
the declaration of independence about government existing without the consent of the governed and americans are feeling like they aren't getting that consent. and especially when it starts disappearing locally as well as connected with the home country in london and britain, that they are really going to get this growing dissatisfaction. so this room is long in use by pennsylvania, but by 1775, pennsylvania will essentially be inviting the continental congress into their space. the continental congress had met in philadelphia about a year earlier, although they chose not to meet here at independence hall that year. they met down the street at carpenter's hall. now, the first set of meetings, what we call the first continental congress, is the first real sit-down of these different colonies and this idea of expressing to the british government what would be under british sort of constitution bill of rights at that time.
this notion of redressing grievances that we'd have as british subjects and ultimately go right to the king and say, look, we are loyal british subjects here in america, but these things are happening that we have these grievances over, these loss of rights, this loss of our connection with the government. the fact that they're taking away some of our local government, they're closing down our local courts. they are giving us these rules to follow that we have no say. so they write this letter to the king which, again, perfectly within your rights under british law, and they also agree as a group on an association that these 13 colonies will kind of work together in future on these big issues. so what's going to happen is they go home after that set of meetings in the fall of 1774
because obviously commuting across the ocean in the late 1700s is going to take a little while. so they're not going to come back to philadelphia until the spring of 1775. however, things have changed in those few months in the area of boston, you'll have battles at the towns of lexington and concord in april. so when congress is coming back here to philadelphia, this is sort of the news. they're actually finding out in some way about some of the conflict that has begun. so suddenly things being a lot more serious leads to a lot more serious circumstances when congress starts to meet in this room in may. the first big thing they're going to tackle is this notion of, again, working as a group, but the idea of maybe fighting for those rights, of actually taking that militia minuteman army up around boston and making it an american army. they would call it the continental army. in june of 1775, one of the
first really big steps that's going to be taken as far as changing the world is going to be creating this continental army. this american army. 13 separate colonies that have always run their lives separately and for years had not necessarily resisted working together but it never particularly worked out that they all wanted to work together at the same time. they'd finally create this army, june 14th, 1775, taking the beginnings of the army up in boston, that had fought against the british already, making it the american army, and to me, most importantly, picking george washington to be the commander of that army. i think that is really one of the most important decisions made in this room. if you think about the way this war will go for the young united states, it's 8 1/2 years. george washington will be the only commanding general we will have for all of those years. at the end, he will succeed. back in 1775, they are still
figuring out exactly what they are fighting for. that leads to one last letter to the king. we call this one the olive branch petition. and it again, like they'd done before, starts off with the idea that we are loyal british subjects fighting for our rights. again, going, following the chain of command in britain to the king to ask that he assist us in redressing these grievances. the other thing they'll write is a declaration called the declaration of the causes and necessity of taking up arms. both of these will be written in july, putting out there to the world what we are looking to do to basically correct this situation that we feel has gone against us and that our rights are being threatened or taken away. well, unfortunately, the british government in london will decide that they're not going to really communicate with the continental congress.
the king himself will announce that there is this rebellion in america, and the british government will essentially issue this letter to americans that says if you're going to be involved in this rebellion, we're going to view you as a traitor. and the crime of treason, of court as serious then as it is now, could very well lead to a death penalty. so by early 1776, that news gets to philadelphia. so we're now half a year plus into the war, and it's getting very clear that negotiating, talking, isn't particularly solving anything. and, of course, you do have this very radical bent of men that are in this room that are pushing more and more towards this idea of independence. and finally you get the last big push which is thomas payne's book "common sense" actually
published here in philadelphia in january 1776, selling tens of thousands of copies through the colonies. and payne's simple argument is we don't need those guys. we can run america better than the british ever could. and so this idea of independence kind of swells through that spring. by june, virginia introduces a resolution for american independence. but they decide to not address it right away in june. they are going to want to consult their home governments, their colonies or states, if we want to start calling them that because we're getting to that point. but at the same time they kind of want to put something on paper. so while they are each consulting home to see what home says they should do, they are also going to form this five-man committee. john adams of massachusetts, who is probably in a lot of ways one of the most significant guys in congress those early days. he's really pushing for that creation of the army in 1775.
also the navy in the fall of 1775. he's pushing in the spring of 1776 that each of the colonies write its own constitution which is, again, another step towards independence that each colony sort of getting rid of that old charter they had from the british government. their old constitution, so to speak, and creating a new independent constitution. he's one of the leaders in a lot of this movement. also on the committee is robert livingston of new york who goes back ten years to the meetings held over the stamp taxes. you have a man from connecticut named roger sherman who is going to end up signing not only the declaration of independence, the united states kons constitution but also the article of confederation.
only two men who can make that claim. benjamin franklin from right here in philadelphia, which is far and away the most famous american at the time. 70 years old. oldest man in congress. and then one of the younger guys in congress, our fifth member, thomas jefferson. 33 years old. the growing reputation for his writing and his political thought. and the committee sitting, deciding what to say, decides jefferson should be the writer. he works for about 17 days on the declaration of independence, and he will especially go to john adams and benjamin franklin for some of their ideas and critiques of his writing. but generally it's his work. he's building on a lot of other things that both he and others had written. some of the grievances they'd already been talking about make up a big bulk of that declaration of independence. by june 28th, the declaration is sort of back here in the assembly room. but that's a friday. they'll wait until the next monday to start debating. so july the 1st begins debate on
independence. the first thing they'll debate is not the declaration but the idea. they'll start discussing, is this really the best thing for us to do. should we become these free and independent states? most of the men in the room are at that point they're ready to make this step. but there are others that -- they're not loyal. they'll not have loyalists in the continental congress. they wouldn't want anything to do with it. but they are men that are more conservative saying this may not be such a good idea. john dickinson is probably the most important of them. he was, years earlier, the author of the letters of a pennsylvania farmer, which is again against some of those various taxes and acts, stamp taxes and so on. he's probably one of our best known political writers of the day. but he's sort of pulling back saying the idea is, how are we going to win a war against the british? this doesn't seem like the best idea to declare our independence
because this completely cuts off any chance of negotiating with the british. others might look at the idea we don't really have anybody helping us. britain is one of the great powers of the world. america is maybe 3 million people and certainly a good chunk of them remaining loyal to the crown. there will be battles in this war after all with just americans on both sides. so there's some saying maybe we should slow down, but most of the men are ready to move forward. on july 1st, they'll hold a nonbinding committee of the whole vote. the vote is on the question of being free and independent states. now, here's how voting works in the continental congress. you have 13 states or colonies, depending on your time period. each gets an equal vote. so one vote per state. they have different numbers of men at each table. some states allow their delegates to decide amongst themselves. some states will give their delegates specific instructions.
so here in the room on july 1st, you're going to have nine of the delegations voting yes, that we should be free and independent states. two will vote no, and two will be either divided or not voting. new york is still waiting for their formal instructions from home, so they're not going to technically vote at all. delaware is divided. they have two of their delegates in the room. one for, one against. so they're divided. pennsylvania and south carolina are going to vote no. so on the rest of the first and into the second, because the second is the day they want to take the binding vote, the official vote, the politicking is we want to try to make this unanimous. new york they're going to sort of ignored because they haven't gotten any instructions. new york's going, we have to wait until they tell us what to do.
delaware has a third delegate. he's at home. they call for him to get here. he rides overnight through the storm. if you did the state quarters, you would notice that delaware's quarter has a guy riding on a horse. his name is caesar rodney. so he gets up here from delaware on the 2nd to vote and break the tie and make delaware's vote a yes for independence. then pennsylvania and south carolina -- south carolina has three delegates. we assume that it's 2-1 and they manage to get one of the guys to switch his vote. south carolina will be on board. and pennsylvania is a little bit more complicated. they've got one of the bigger delegations. so when that vote goes south for pennsylvania, they'll convince two of the guys to sort of walk away when they're ready to make the final vote so it can be unanimous. they don't have to vote against how they feel. john dickinson is one of those guys that actually will not vote amongst the pennsylvania
delegates. so instead of a one-vote loss, it becomes a one-vote win and now it's 12-0. we ignore new york at the moment. so july the 2nd of 1776 they'll vote more or less unanimously, with new york waiting, to approve the notion of being free and independent states. that's a day john adams would write to his wife the next day and say, this is what we should celebrate with parades and fireworks and speeches. sadly for poor july 2nd is never gets remembered because the rest of that day, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th are the days of debating on the declaration of independence. the declaration, jefferson's draft, is about four pages long. they'll go through more or less every word. they'll make a significant number of changes, but they'll not change the basic nature of a lot of what he writes. they'll add some words here and there.
the opening -- the most famous part for most of it is the opening paragraph or two. most of that remains intact. the early listing of grievances, the things that we've been talking about for several years as far as what we're worried about the british doing, most of that remains intact. probably the most famous section that gets changed is the section about the slave trade. specifically slave insurrections is another part of that. one of the big arguments is -- that virginia makes is, their good afternoon had essentially said in the leading days of the war that slaves should basically kill their masters and seek their own freedom, which for a slave-holding state is -- slave insurrection is a very frightening thing. that's very much on the minds of jefferson and others. this idea of slave insurrections, bringing more
slaves into america becomes part of that. we don't want more slaves we have to worry about in these kind of days. so he goes after the slave trade, blames the king for importing these folks, and that is a bit controversial in this room. you do have a fair number of slave holders and slave holding states that kind of don't want to talk about this. it does get put aside. it's not really an attack on slavery, so to speak, but slave trade and some of these things we're worried about the british doing that would affect lives in america. so at any rate as you get into july 4th, they are going through pretty well every bit of that declaration of independence, but they finally, you know, taking a little out, adding words here and there, they get to something that all of the men in this room representing all of the 13 states can agree. and they are ready to vote.
on the 4th it's 12-0 with, again, new york waiting and so july 4th becomes, for americans, our day of independence because it's the day we literally had something concrete to hold up to the world. this was the day we said, here's what we're fighting for. there's a long list. and again, when we look at the declaration of independence, we focus on that top, that opening section. all men are created equal. the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. for them, really, it's that list of reasons why they were doing this. it justified independence. it justified a war against their own government, which essentially is what this started out being. and it basically said it's the british fault for this. this is all the things they did that are really not legal by the british constitution and british bill of rights. we're just acting the way we have to act because we can't -- we got to this point where we
can't stay under this rule anymore. they had something on july 4th they voted yes and voted right away to send it out. we want this to go to states and the army and let people know what we're fighting for. that's really what they needed. if you pull back to the big picture in the summer of 1776, we're not winning the war. the british army is invading new york that summer, massive invasion. hundreds of ships, tens of thousands of men sweeping down through long island into manhattan and new jersey. by the fall of 1777, the british army is sitting in this very room. they capture philadelphia. washington and his army spend their winter at valley forge. so those early years, those early days are not good ones for the young united states. but we had a declaration of independence that we could hold and announce to the world what we're fighting for. and we had a general in washington that would keep going in those difficult days. we had an army that managed to survive those bad winters at places like valley forge, and we managed to keep ourselves going
long enough that we can make changes. before we get to that, one other thing about our declaration of independence about this room that people expect is that i will tell you that they signed the declaration of independence right behind me on the 4th of july. well, sadly, they didn't. it probably -- the simplest explanation is nobody thought about it that day. they hadn't gotten to the point of preparing a nice fancy handwritten one. they wanted the words agreed to. they wanted it voted on and they wanted people to read it. they sent it to a printer. the oldest declarations of independence are presented on a printing press and have no names on them. one of the men here in july will make a proposal that we -- the word they use is engross the declaration of independence. you make a formal written version and then it be signed by the delegates. i'm sure most of the men said, why didn't we think of that sooner?