Archaeologists and conservators carefully cracked open a time capsule Thursday that had been buried in the cornerstone of the Confederate Soldiers Monument at the State Capitol grounds since 1894.
But being buried more than 125 years showed its toll, and rust on the metal box that housed the items. The contents of the box were “severely damaged by the elements,” according to the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
So far, they have recovered a wooden box, a stone believed to be from Gettysburg, two buttons attached to a textile and a strand of what they believe to be horse hair.
The department is opened the capsule in a lab setting and is doing preservation work on the objects that have been discovered, the department said in a news release.
Gov. Roy Cooper ordered the statue’s removal, along with the removal of two other Confederate monuments on Capitol grounds. The governor cited public safety in issuing his order June 20, hours after protesters toppled two bronze statues of soldiers from the base of the tallest Confederate statue.
The time capsule was discovered Monday as the remainder of the base was removed.
What’s inside the time capsule?
In video and photos provided by the department, workers use a flashlight to peer into the metal capsule, as if excavating treasures from a cave. The wooden box is covered in a mud, and the buttons appear to be rusty. Workers carefully lift items with tweezers from sludge and place them in a tray to be rinsed off for identification.
A newspaper clip from the Charlotte Democrat, dated May 25, 1894, lists the objects that were placed in the box under the monument. The list was originally published in the Raleigh Observer.
The list includes items typically seen in a time capsule: newspapers from across the state, a map of Wake County, speeches from the monument dedication and a North Carolina almanac.
But it also includes artifacts of the Civil War era.
Items include a strand of hair plucked from the tail of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s horse, named Traveler; a button from Lee’s dress coat; Confederate money, song books and flags; and addresses given during pivotal battles.
There also was a bullet that killed the horse ridden by Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, when Pettigrew was captured.
And there was a box, which contained a lock of Lee’s hair, which the newspaper says was cut in Pettigrew’s tent.