Here’s What Was Found in the Time Capsule from the Robert E. Lee Statue in Richmond

A time capsule from the 19th Century was opened in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday, revealing numerous relics from the Civil War era. 

The items found inside included a Bible, several other books, documents, Confederate money, ammunition, and other artifacts, including an image from an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly.

The time capsule, which was essentially just a copper box, had been embedded beneath a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee which was removed recently as a result of the 2020 nationwide protests and riots for Black equality and justice.

The capsule is believed to have come from the year 1887. Dozens of Richmond residents may have contributed around 60 objects in this unique effort to preserve pieces of history.

Many of the paper items were damaged by water that got into the 36-pound box, and the conservation team that opened it spent several hours carefully removing and preserving each artifact. 

“They were more waterlogged than we had hoped but not as bad as it could have been,” said Kate Ridgway, the lead conservator for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Historians were hoping to discover a rare photo of President Abraham Lincoln in his casket because newspaper records had referred to such a photo. But it turns out the reference was likely regarding an image from Harper’s Weekly of a person grieving at Lincoln’s grave.
Here’s an itemized list of what has been identified so far from the contents of the copper box:

  • A small Bible,
  • Several waterlogged books including a Richmond directory,
  • Richmond Dispatch newspaper and other newspapers, 
  • “Harpers Weekly” from April 1865,
  • Envelope of Confederate money, 
  • Two carved artifacts – a Masonic symbol and a Confederate flag said to have been made from the tree that grew over Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s original grave,
  • Buttons, 
  • 12 copper coins, 
  • Minié balls (a type of bullet used in the Civil War),  
  • Badges from the Army of Northern Virginia,
  • Constitution of the Lee camp (where veterans stayed, according to WRIC)  
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