6 Civil War paintings will return to Minnesota Capitol

- Six controversial Civil War paintings will stay at the Minnesota State Capitol. After back-and-forth recommendations by different preservation groups, the Minnesota Historical Society’s executive council voted unanimously Thursday to return the paintings to the governor’s reception room and anteroom.

It was Gov. Mark Dayton who originally raised the issue of possibly replacing some of the Civil War paintings. He believes that there’s more to Minnesota history than the Civil War, but the Historical Society had the last word.

Gov. Dayton walked out of a heated Capitol Preservation Commission meeting last month after accusing Republican lawmakers of politicizing the idea replacing Civil War art in the reception room.

The first painting depicts Minnesota soldiers fighting in the battle of Nashville. The second is a painting of the 4th Minnesota Regiment entering Vicksburg. There’s also the 2nd Minnesota’s valiant stand at Missionary Ridge at Gettysburg, and the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg.

Two more paintings are hung in the governor’s anteroom -- the 3rd Minnesota Regiment entering Little Rock and the 5th Minnesota at Corrinth.

Capitol architect Cass Gilbert commissioned each one for display inside the Capitol, and the Historical Society’s executive council believes they should stay there.

“The 6 paintings are really kind of an en suite set, and we did not see a compelling reason to move away from that historical integrity,” said Historical Society executive director Steve Elliot.

Gov. Dayton issued a short statement on the decision, simply saying, “It was their decision to make and I accept their decision.”

Earlier this year, the Historical Society had made the decision to remove two paintings from the governor’s reception room – a painting of Father Hennepin at St. Anthony Falls, and a painting of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux -- largely because both are historically inaccurate.

Those paintings will now be moved to other parts of the Capitol, allowing for better interpretation of the art. That creates new space inside the reception room to meet the governor’s desires to include art that reflects more of the state’s history.

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