United States: Civil War relics found in 1887 time capsule

BACK TO THE FUTURE – On Tuesday, a time capsule more than a hundred years old was opened in the state of Virginia. It contained many objects dating from the Civil War that tore the United States apart from 1861 to 1865.

Underground since 1887. Tuesday, December 28, the time capsule, a receptacle containing objects or documents representative of an era and intended for future generations, buried for 134 years under the statue of Confederate General Robert Lee in Virginia unveiled its mysteries to Richmond, without satisfying the hopes of American collectors. Indeed, relics dating from the time of the Civil War have been found, but not the treasures hoped for by many collectors and history buffs.

Inside it, 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 area.

No photo of Lincoln

Two small wood carvings – the Masonic symbols of the set square and compass and a Confederate flag – were in an envelope. Experts say they were cut from the tree that grew near the grave 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 of a kneeling woman meditating in front of the coffin of US President Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated on April 14, 1865. It had been published as a central spread in the journal Harper’s Weekly two weeks later. Observers, however, hoped to discover a photo of the American head of state presented as historical and which could have panicked the collectors market.

134 years underground

Buried in 1887, this copper box contained some sixty objects listed in the Richmond town newspaper the same year. It seems to have been placed in the plinth by workers who participated in the erection of the statue. Its content “is in much better condition than we expected”, said Kate Ridgeway, head of the Department of Historic Resources of 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.

Buried in the former secessionist capital

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 George Floyd, killed by white policeman Derek Chauvin in May 2020. It was debunked in September, in a context of questioning of Confederate monuments, and its base has been moved.

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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.

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