Second Time Capsule Found Under Robert E. Lee Statue, Raising Hopes It Could Be Interesting

Second Time Capsule Found Under Robert E. Lee Statue, Raising Hopes It Could Be Interesting
Workers recover a box believed to be the 1887 time capsule that was put under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's statue pedestal in Richmond, Va., Dec. 27, 2021. (Photo: Eva Russo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, AP)

Workers dismantling the pedestal of a Robert E. Lee statue that’s currently being removed in Virginia discovered a second time capsule on Monday, raising hopes that the box from 1887 could contain something interesting. The discovery comes after a different time capsule was opened at the site last week but was filled with nothing but boring documents and soggy envelopes, a sadly common occurrence for many time capsules opened here in the 21st century.

The statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general and traitor to the United States, was removed in September and workers have been dismantling the site, including a pedestal where a time capsule was rumoured to have been. Workers now believe this second time capsule that was discovered on Monday is the one that could contain some interesting pieces of history, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The time capsule will be opened at 1:00 p.m. ET, according to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. The Governor’s office notes that a live video will be provided, but it’s not clear where people might be able to watch the event.

What could be inside this strange time capsule? Historians believe there might be roughly 60 items from the Confederacy, including a rare photo of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln lying in his coffin. Why would a bunch of Confederate losers put a photo of Lincoln in his coffin inside a time capsule that was honouring Lee? Because they were celebrating the warped ideals of the Confederacy, most notably slavery.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Historians have described the articles as Confederate propaganda. The image of Lincoln in his coffin was one more way for the South to spite the Union and carry on the idea of the Lost Cause, said Dale Brumfield, an author and historian who has studied the capsule’s history.

Only one genuine photo of Lincoln after his death exists, Brumfield wrote in a 2017 Richmond Magazine article. It was taken in 1865 in New York by Jeremiah Gurney while Lincoln’s body was on its way for burial.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a list of possible items in the time capsule that were discovered in a newspaper article from 1887, when the capsule was first interred, including:

  • A picture of Abraham Lincoln lying in his coffin donated by Pattie Leake;
  • A history of Monumental Church donated by George Fisher;
  • A collection of Confederate buttons from Cyrus Bossieux;
  • A copy of Carlton McCarthy’s “Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia” given by J.W. Randolph & English publishers;
  • A guide to Richmond with a map of the city and a map of Virginia;
  • Three bullets, a piece of shell and a Minié ball lodged in a piece of wood from a Fredericksburg battlefield, given by Frank Brown;
  • A Bible from Thomas J. Starke;
  • Statistics of the city of Richmond from J.B. Halyburton;
  • A battle flag and a square and compass made from a tree over Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s grave from J.W. Talley;
  • A $US100,000 ($138,160) Confederate bond from John F. Mayer;
  • An English penny from 1812 from W.T. Moseley;
  • Oct. 26, 1887 edition of the The Richmond Dispatch.

Time capsules have a tendency to disappoint people in the future for two reasons: 1) People of the past often overestimate how fascinating we’ll find their lists of prominent businessmen and political leaders, assorted coins, and countless bibles. And 2) Burying something in the ground is one of the worst ways to preserve something for history. As a result, they’re often a soggy mess because water typically penetrates whatever box has been used, no matter how carefully constructed.

Photo: Eva Russo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, AP Photo: Eva Russo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, AP

But there’s still the possibility that this time capsule might not be the “correct” one either. The dimensions are still slightly off from the time capsule size described in a newspaper article from 1887, which said a 14 in. by 14 in. by 8 in. copper box was buried at the site. The dimensions of the copper box discovered on Monday were 13.5 by 13.5 by 7.5 inches and weren’t in the exact location described in the article.

Whatever happens during today’s time capsule opening ceremony, at least Robert E. Lee is dead and his modern-day followers are crying their little tears over the removal of his statue. Former President Donald Trump, as just one example, whined about the removal of the statue.

The Confederacy is dead. Get over it, losers.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.