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Time capsule: Flags, Confederate cash, US medal

August 3, 2018
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FILE-In this Tuesday, May 16, 2017 file photo, a worker in protective gear takes down an Army National Guard flag from the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard during the statue's removal from the entrance to City Park in New Orleans. The Louisiana lieutenant governor's office says a time capsule has been found at the site where workers recently removed the pedestal that once carried the statue. The capsule will be opened Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld, File)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Turn-of-the-century tour books, lots of Confederate cash, a post-Civil War medal from a Union veterans’ group, and a flag too tattered by time to tell whether it was U.S. or Confederate were among items removed Friday from a 1913 time capsule buried beneath a Confederate monument.

The statue of the Confederacy’s first general, P.G.T. Beauregard , was among four Confederate monuments removed last year. Its pedestal was removed last week.

Stuck to the pedestal’s bottom was a copper box — a time capsule holding some items dating back to the Civil War. When the box and pedestal were separated, the box was open, according to Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. He spoke at a news conference as the box’s damp, musty contents were unpacked for the first time.

He said New Orleans’ City Park asked his office, which runs the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, to take custody of the time capsule, which was buried the year before the statue was erected.

Nungesser said records indicate that another time capsule was buried under a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which also was moved to storage last year. The other monuments were a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and a small obelisk marking a Reconstruction-era fight between city and state militia and a group called the White League.

Research is being done to find out who might own the capsules, said Nungesser, who supported proposed state legislation to keep the monuments in New Orleans, and then a proposal to move the three statues to a suburban plantation.

“We will work with the city to find out what is proper,” Nungesser said.

Two private conservators carefully removed each artifact or piece of an artifact. A flag at the top came out in clumps too delicate to unfold. It was “wet and shreddy,” textile conservator Jessica Heck said as she carried it to a nearby table.

What appeared to be the corners of a second flag peeked out from a damp mass of paper lifted from the bottom of the box. The bottom of that mass might possibly be a photo album, paper conservator Beth Antoine said.

Louisiana’s emblem of a pelican pecking itself to feed its young could clearly be seen on a medal from the Department of Louisiana and Mississippi of the Grand Army of the Republic — a post-Civil War organization of Union veterans from all military branches.

There were Confederate $5 and $10 bills, Louisiana bills of several denominations, including an uncut sheet of a dozen $5 bills dated Oct. 10, 1862; $10 bills from Mississippi, and several bonds, including a City of New Orleans bond for $1,000 with about a dozen $30 coupons still attached.

“The people that turned it over to us told us to make sure we take special care of the flags and the money, because if they are in decent shape, they could exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars in value,” Nungesser said.

Neither the Louisiana State Museum’s interim director, Steven Maklansky, nor the conservators would hazard a guess at the monetary value of the bills or anything else.

Before the unpacking began, Maklansky had said nobody knew whether they’d find “a muddy mess or a solid chunk of papier mache.”

The fact that the paper money and newspapers, including a copy of The Times-Democrat from Nov. 14, 1913, could be unfolded was a good sign, indicating that the dampness was relatively recent, said Tom Strider, registrar for the Louisiana State Museum.

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