Relics dating from the Civil War, but no treasure: the time capsule buried for one hundred and thirty-four years under the base of the statue of Confederate General Robert Lee in Virginia unveiled its mysteries, Tuesday, December 28, in Richmond, without satisfy the hopes of American collectors.
Inside, technicians from the Department of Historical Resources of the State of Virginia found, among other things, Minié bullets (Civil War ammunition between 1861 and 1865), notes and coins issued by the Confederate government, newspapers and magazines, an almanac dating from 1887, books, a bible, and documents from Masonic lodges in the region.
Two small wood carvings – the Masonic symbols of the set square and the compass – and a Confederate flag were in an envelope. Experts say the wood carvings were carved from the tree that housed the tomb of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general. A bookmark with the drawn profile of General Lee was placed in one of the books. The box also contained a fragment of a bomb used in the Battle of Fredericksburg, won by the Southerners in 1862.
The most striking document remains a drawing representing a kneeling woman meditating in front of the coffin of Abraham Lincoln, assassinated on April 14, 1865. It had been published in the central double page of the review Harper’s Weekly two weeks later. Observers, however, hoped to discover a photo of the American president presented as historical and which could have panicked the collectors market.
“In much better condition than we expected”
The three-inch-square copper box buried in 1887 contained some sixty items listed in a Richmond newspaper that year. Its content “Is in much better condition than we expected”, said Kate Ridgeway, head of the Department of Historic Resources for the State of Virginia, gently opening the metal box. Items “Were wetter than we expected, but not as bad as they could have been”, she explained at the end of the intervention, which lasted more than two hours and was broadcast live on television and on social networks.
A time capsule is a receptacle containing objects or documents representative of an era, intended for future generations. It was found at the base of the plinth of the imposing equestrian statue of General Robert Lee, head of the Confederate army who notably defended slavery during the Civil War. It was inaugurated in 1890 in Richmond, the former capital of the secessionists.
Seen as a symbol of the country’s slavery past by many Americans, the statue had become the target of anti-racist protests after the death of African-American George Floyd, killed by a white policeman in May 2020. It was debunked in September. , in a context of questioning of Confederate monuments, and its base has been moved.
A first box had been recently unearthed from the pedestal, but it contained only three books and a cloth envelope with a photograph, all damaged by water, as well as a coin of unknown origin. This capsule seems to have been placed in the base by workers who participated in the erection of the statue.
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Civil War relics found in a time capsule in the United States