A cigar lit by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. A scarf worn by one of his former secretaries. A likeness of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Those were among the relics believed to be unearthed Monday when construction crews found a time capsule that had been buried under the Confederate monument near the University of Louisville for 121 years.
But it’s hard to tell. Much of the contents found in the brass box aren’t likely to have survived. The box, which sat six inches beneath the memorial, was waterlogged and covered in mud.
Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted that the water had “destroyed” the contents.
“It’s hard to say at this point whether the box was sealed at all,” said Sarah Lindgren, the city’s public art administrator, who was there when the brass box was opened at the memorial’s site on Third Street. “It certainly isn’t now and pieces are falling apart.”
Lindgren said that several initial items found in the box were connected to the Civil War, including memoirs, an Oxford Bible and Confederate currency. She said the city’s archives staff will dry out and clean the items to determine if any can be salvaged.
Fischer ordered this year that the 70-foot-tall memorial be removed, sparking a citywide discussion on race, slavery and the need to preserve history. A lawsuit was filed to block the statue’s removal, but a judge ultimately ruled that the memorial belonged to the city.
The dismantling of the monument, which cost $400,000, began on Saturday, and the time capsule was discovered Monday.
The monument, which was installed 30 years after the Civil War ended, was donated by the Kentucky Women’s Confederate Monument Association. It is being moved to Brandenburg, Ky. — which is about 44 miles downriver from Louisville — where it will be used as part of that city’s Civil War re-enactments.
In May 1895, the Courier-Journal reported the time capsule contained items associated with “the South’s great men and her lost cause.”
Lindgren said the items reflect what people found important back then.
Besides the cigar, scarf and likeness of Lee, the CJ article said the time capsule was to contain Confederate soldier badges and colors; several thousands of dollars in Confederate money; and a photograph of Susan Hepburn, who led the fundraising campaign to build the monument and was sister to a rebel general.
Lindgren said if any of the items are recoverable, they will be donated to the Filson Historical Society for a possible exhibit.