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More than a century ago, when Albemarle County officials placed a time capsule in the base of what would become their “Johnny Reb” statue, they intended it to remain there “until the angel Gabriel shall put one foot on the land and one in the sea, and proclaim that ‘time shall be no more.’”

That day for the statue, formally known as “At Ready,” arrives Saturday.

Albemarle plans to remove At Ready — a mass-produced bronze statue of an unnamed Confederate soldier — two cannons and cannonballs and give them to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

The foundation will take the items immediately to the Third Winchester Battlefield, where they will be repurposed for other displays.

But the time capsule, said to lie in a cavity in the statue’s stone and cement base, will go to the University of Virginia’s Special Collections.

Photo of the article that appeared in the Daily Progress on March 15, 1909, the day the time capsule was placed in the base of Albemarle County’s ‘Johnny Reb’ statue. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library

“When we unearth it, we’ll put it in a plastic box and bring it to UVA Special Collections,” said Emily Kilroy, a county spokeswoman. “Then they’ll, in their space, do the careful opening of the box and the caring for the objects work in their controlled setting.”

According to news reports at the time, the time capsule is a large copper box, packed with local — mostly Confederate — mementos and memorabilia.

On March 15, 1909 — the day the capsule was placed in the base and capped by a six-ton stone — a Daily Progress article reported it containing the following items:

  • Roster of the officers and members of the Albemarle Chapter Number 1 of the Daughters of the Confederacy of the County of Albemarle and a short history of said chapter.
  • Roster of all the living and dead members of the John Bowie Strange Camp of Confederate Veterans, and a short history of said Camp.
  • Brief history of the movements resulting in the erection of the Monument, giving the names of the various officers and committees and showing the amounts contributed, namely, but the County of Albemarle, $1800; but the City of Charlottesville, $600, and by the Albemarle Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, $750.
  • List of all of the officers of Albemarle County and of the City of Charlottesville.
  • List of the officers and members of the R.T.W. Duke Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans, Number 583, deposited by R.T.W. Duke, Jr., Commander of said Camp.
  • Pamphlet containing history of the County of Albemarle.
  • Pamphlet containing illustrated views of Charlottesville, VA.
  • History of the University of Virginia.
  • An address delivered by R.T.W. Duke, Jr., at the laying of the corner stone of Christ Episcopal church, containing a history of the church.
  • Southern Almanac for year 1909.
  • Copies of the Daily Progress newspaper of March 12 and March 13, 1909.
  • Proceedings of the 20th Annual Meeting of the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans, Department of Virginia, held October 23rd-25, 1907, in Norfolk, Va.
  • Envelope containing 1 Confederate note for $50; 1 Confederate note for $5; silk badge of the John Bowie Strange Camp, C.V.; brass souvenir badge, with Confederate battle flag, contributed by Micajah Woods.
  • Pamphlet containing roster of Albemarle Light Horse, Company K, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, C.S.A.
  • Pamphlet containing ordinances of the City of Charlottesville.
  • History of the County of Albemarle by Rev. Edgar Woods.
  • Postal cards giving views of the City of Charlottesville and University of Virginia and Monticello.
  • Envelope containing cut of the Coat of Arms of the State of Virginia, contributed by C.H. Walker.
  • Masonic Text Book.
  • Alumni Bulletin containing catalogues of the University of Virginia.
  • Pamphlet containing Roll and Organization of the Red Land Club.
  • History of the Albemarle Baptist Association and of the Baptist churches in Albemarle County by Rev. Jno. B. Turpin, D.D.
  • Directory of the City of Charlottesville, Va.
  • “Confederate Veteran” containing portrait of Gen’l. Robert E. Lee and lithograph copy of General Lee’s last address to the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox.
  • Three mini balls picked up on battle field in Cumberland County near Farmville by Miss Kate P. Daniel and contributed by her.
  • Official program of the 21st. Annual Reunion of the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans of Virginia held at Charlottesville, Va., Oct. 20th. To 22nd, 1908.
Photo of the Daily Progress article that ran March 15, 1909 regarding the time capsule placed in the base of the ‘Johnny Reb’ statue. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library
  • Brief History of the U.S. by Col. John Cussons of Richmond, Va., and Southern View contrasted with the Northern View.
  • University Bulletin, July 1903, containing addresses made at the University of Virginia at the General Meeting of the Alumni Association of the University of Va.
  • Speech delivered by Hon. R.T.W. Duke at Grand Master of Masons at Mt. Vernon, Va., on the 14th. Dec., 1899, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Worshipful George Washington.
  • University Bulletin of May, 1906, containing addresses of President E.A. Alderman, of Rev. Randolph H. McKim, and of Dr. J. William Jones on the presentation of the Tablets erected in front of the University Rotunda in memory of the University Confederate Dead.
  • Photograph of the scene at the grave of Washington taken on the 100th anniversary of his death.
  • Pictorial Views of Virginia Country Homes.

The UVA Special Collections team has cautioned “that it’s not uncommon for time capsules from this time period to be in a state that they’re not recoverable,” Kilroy said. “Most of the content, when you look through it, is paper based. It’s rosters, it’s drawings, it’s various documents from the city and the county government. And paper is probably the least likely to have survived over 100 years.”

Sue Donovan, UVA’s Conservator for Special Collections, who will take charge of the box, said it’s possible the items survived.

“I’m hopeful that since the time capsule under ‘At Ready’ is copper, that it might also be intact and the contents undamaged,” she said in an email. “But if there has been an infiltration of rainwater or groundwater, there could be severe damage of the contents, including mold and insect damage.”

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has yet to decide what it will do with any surviving time capsule items.

Saturday’s monument removal is not open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. The county has said it will be broadcast on its Facebook page.

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Jessie Higgins

I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.

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