Confederate statue time capsule reveals secrets, sparks further mystery

Washington (AFP) – A US time capsule buried 130 years ago in the base of a statue of a Confederate general revealed its secrets on Wednesday but gave rise to another mystery.


The shoebox-sized container was found last week in the granite pedestal of a statue erected in 1890 of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War.

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.

According to an 1887 newspaper article, a time capsule hidden in the massive stone base of the bronze statue contained relics from the Civil War such as buttons and bullets, Confederate currency, maps, a Bible, a picture of assassinated president Abraham Lincoln in his coffin and other items.

But the time capsule opened on Wednesday at the Department of Historical Resources in Richmond contained no such items, only three water-logged books, a photograph in a soggy cloth envelope and a coin of unknown origin.

One of the books was the 1875 American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, a guide for astronomers, surveyors and navigators.

Another was a book published in 1889, two years after the time capsule referenced in the 1887 newspaper article was reportedly buried, sparking questions about its whereabouts and even whether it ever existed.

The book -- "The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion" -- was written by a C.P.E. Burgwyn, who lists himself on the title page as a consulting engineer with the Lee Monument Association.

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.