Workers dismantling the pedestal of a statue of a Confederate general discovered a copper box on Monday believed to have been buried 130 years ago, the second apparent time capsule unearthed at the site.
“They found it!” tweeted Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for.”
According to an 1887 newspaper article, a time capsule hidden in the base of the statue of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, contained relics such as buttons and bullets, Confederate currency, maps, a rare picture of assassinated president Abraham Lincoln in his coffin, and other items.
A shoebox-sized container found in the base of the statue was opened by conservators last week but was clearly not the time capsule mentioned in the 1887 newspaper piece.
The governor’s tweet was accompanied by pictures of the copper box.
Lee’s statue in Richmond, the Virginia city that was the capital of the South during the bloody 1861-65 conflict, was taken down in September, one of a number of monuments to the pro-slavery Confederacy removed in recent months.
The first box discovered contained three water-logged books, a photograph in a soggy cloth envelope and a coin. The items appeared to have been mementos left behind for posterity by some of the workers who erected the statue.
The time capsule found on Monday is about twice the size. Northam said that conservators would study it and it would not be opened on Monday.
Lee’s statue in Richmond became the focus of protests for racial justice last year following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a white police officer in Minnesota.
During the Civil War, the Confederate South seceded from the United States and fought to maintain slavery, which the rest of the country had abolished.