West Point to open nearly 200-year-old time capsule found at Kosciuszko monument

The U.S. Military Academy plans to open it on Aug. 28.
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A dedication at the base of the Kosciuszko monument at West Point, where the time capsule was discovered. (Ahodges7, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

What did soldiers in the 1820s care about enough to preserve for future generations? That might get answered soon. Historians at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York plan on opening a recently discovered, nearly 200-year-old time capsule next week. 

The U.S. Military Academy will be opening the capsule and displaying what’s inside of it on August 28 at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday, Aug. 28 in Robinson Auditorium at Thayer Hall. And West Point plans to livestream the entire event.

“This time capsule is truly a unique discovery, and we are excited to open it and see what the cadets left us nearly two centuries ago,” U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland said in a statement. “The capsule’s contents will certainly add to the West Point story and is another example of past generations of cadets gripping hands with present and future generations.”

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The time capsule was found inside the base of the statute of Gen. Andrzej Tadeusz Bonaventura Kościuszko, better known as Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko was a Polish military engineer and eventually a military leader in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s fight against Russia. But in the United States, he’s remembered as an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He also helped design several fortifications, including those at West Point. 

The time capsule was found in a hollow space inside the base of the statue of Kosciuszko. Cracks had been found in the statue, so it was taken down for restoration in 2021. During that process, teams found the lead time capsule, roughly a square foot in size. Other tests determined that the time capsule was placed in the monument in 1828, 26 years after the military academy was created. The monument’s base was set up in 1828, while the statue of the general that towers over and can be seen from the Hudson River, was added in 1913. 

As for what’s in the capsule, that’s unclear. Tests by West Point’s Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering weren’t able to determine what is inside the cache. There could be relics from the 1820s, such as flags, medals or perhaps instruction guides from the academy. It could be a peak into what life was like at West Point nearly 200 years ago.

Or it could be mostly empty — an Al Capone’s vault-type scenario. Maybe the troops of 1828 were playing a prank for the future. 

All will be revealed on Aug. 28. Meanwhile, when the Kosciuszko monument is restored, the current academy plans to put a fresh time capsule back in the base of the monument. The time capsule ceremony can be livestreamed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC03ZHYRcKYVLKV61z3Z6lDA

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