Home News Video: Civil War relics found in 1887 time capsule

Video: Civil War relics found in 1887 time capsule


Buried there for more than 130 years, the time capsule discovered under the recently unbolted statue of Confederate General Robert Lee in Virginia has finally revealed its secrets. Relics from the Civil War have been found, but no treasure, much to the chagrin of American collectors.

Relying on period newspaper accounts, the latter hoped in particular to see exhumed a rare photo of US President Abraham Lincoln after his death, in his coffin. But, instead, technicians from the Department of Historical Resources of the State of Virginia discovered Minié bullets, ammunition used between 1861 and 1865 during the Civil War.

Confederate government issued notes and coins also slept in this time capsule, as did newspapers and magazines, an 1887 almanac, books, a Bible, and documents from Masonic lodges in the area. A bookmark with the drawn profile of General Lee was slipped into one of the books, and the box also contained a fragment of a bomb used in the Battle of Fredericksburg, won by the Southerners in 1862.

In an envelope, technicians found two small wooden sculptures, representing the Masonic symbols of the square and the compass for one and a Confederate flag for the other. Experts believe the items were carved from the tree that grew near the grave of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general.

Finally, the most striking discovery is undoubtedly this drawing showing a woman kneeling in front of the coffin of Abraham Lincoln, assassinated on April 14, 1865. Two weeks after the death of the American president, this image had been published in central double page in the Harper’s Weekly magazine.

Objects in “better condition” than expected

Filmed and broadcast live, the opening of the capsule could be followed online and on American television. According to Virginia Department of Historic Resources official Kate Ridgeway, the contents of this copper box buried in 1887 “are in much better condition than we expected”, although the objects ” were wetter than we expected ”.

Intended for future generations, the time capsules are intended to bring together objects or documents representative of an era. This 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 seems that this copper box of about thirty centimeters on the side was placed in this place by the workers who participated in the erection of the statue, 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 monument has been the target of anti-racist protests, especially after the death of George Floyd, a black forty-something who was killed by a white policeman in May 2020.

Unbolted last September, the statue had already revealed a first time capsule, discovered in the pedestal. It contained only three books and a cloth envelope containing a photograph, as well as a coin of unknown origin. The majority of these items were damaged by water.