The monument has since been removed and sits in storage at undisclosed location. Thursday was the final phase of deconstruction, which included the search for the time capsule, sealed in the monument more than a century ago.
And after more than 102 years, it was out of the darkness and back in the light of day.
“As we were jackhammering around, we vibrated it. It popped loose,” said Mark Trout, director of the Missouri Civil War Museum.
Trout said they found a concrete tablet covering a small underground pit in the monument’s foundation. The pit contained the time capsule.
“It was like Indiana Jones. Lifted it up and there was the box,” he said.
It was waterlogged but still sealed, Trout said.
The museum took the City of St. Louis to court to stop its demolition of the monument. The two sides then struck a deal calling for its removal and reconstruction at a battlefield, cemetery, or civil war museum outside of St. Louis city and county.
The memorial had been the target of vandalism in recent years. Critics saw its placement in a public place like Forest Park as an acceptance of racism. Debate aside there will be great interest in what’s in the box.
Archives show it contains documents from the Daughters of the Confederacy, which turned over ownership of the monument to the museum. Archives also show it contains at least one other item.
“We know the last thing put in the box was a magazine place in there by one of the soldiers of General Pickett’s (Confederate) division at Gettysburg; the famous ‘Pickett’s Charge’,” Trout said. “He held it up at the ceremony saying, ‘Hey look, we’re in the magazine. Put this in the box.’ When we open that box the first thing laying on top should be the ‘Star’ magazine that the soldier placed there.”
There may also be war medals and perhaps something to mark the controversy that has shadowed the monument from its construction and dedication in 1914. Opponents then didn’t want it Forest Park either, but took the high ground.
“Their exact words were, ‘Let them build them as wide as they want, as deep as they want, and as tall as they want. They will stand as milestones to see how great the Republic has come from the dark days of civil war,’” Trout said. “Those were the men who fought these men and they had that take on it.”
The time capsule will be unsealed privately in the coming days, Trout said, with the contents being revealed at a fundraiser for the Missouri Civil War Museum preservation fund.