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May 21, 2024

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West Point Discovers Time Capsule In Kosciuszko’s Monument Base

WEST POINT, N.Y. – The U.S. Military Academy opened and unveiled the contents of a nearly 200-year-old time capsule during a ceremony on August 28, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. in Robinson Auditorium at Thayer Hall.
The sealed lead time capsule measuring about one square foot was discovered in the Thaddeus Kosciuszko monument’s base during recent renovations. Academy officials determined the capsule was placed in the base of the Kosciuszko monument 26 years after the academy’s founding by cadets in 1828.
The one-cubic-foot lead time capsule from 1828 opened by the U.S. Military Academy’s archeologist team contained six American silver coins and a commemorative medal.

Six coins and a medal were embedded within the matrix, dating from 1795 to 1828 include:

                Liberty dollar coin, 1800, 1.564 inches in diameter

                50-cent coin, 1828, 1.276 inches in diameter

                25-cent coin, 1818, 1.066 inches diameter

                10-cent coin, 1827, 0.745 inches in diameter

                5-cent coin, 1795, 0.643 inches in diameter

                1-cent coin, 1827, 1.114 inches in diameter

                Erie Canal commemorative medal 1826, 1.763 inches in diameter

“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,” said U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland. “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.” 

During Monday’s live event, the U.S. Military Academy’s Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Shane Reeves articulated. “This is an incredible story that involves so many of West Point’s heroes and many of them are the Army’s and our nation’s heroes. We should reflect upon and be inspired by our history to pause and realize we have the immense honor and responsibility to continue the legacy that Kosciusko started, and that West Point continues to live up to his vision from so long ago,” he said. “There is no better opportunity to take a moment and be inspired by our Army and academy’s connection through time that is represented by that capsule and one of our nation’s true heroes.”

The original base and column were designed by John H.B. Latrobe, an ex-cadet from the Class of 1822, and paid for by cadets. The eight-and-a-half-foot bronze statue of Thaddeus Kosciuszko was mounted on the column 85 years later and donated by the Polish Clergy and Laity of the United States in 1913.

In 2021, during an inspection, the column and base had structural cracks and the statue was removed and placed in storage. The capsule was found in 2023 when the monument’s base was removed from the site.  X-rays of the container conducted by the academy’s Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering were inconclusive. 

The academy plans to continue the tradition by placing a time capsule into the rebuilt base of the monument.

The historical preservation process will continue, and updates will be provided when new information is available.


About West Point:
The U. S. Military Academy at West Point is a four-year, co-educational, federal, liberal arts college located 50 miles north of New York City.  It was founded in 1802 as America’s first college of engineering and continues today as the world’s premier leader-development institution, consistently ranked among top colleges in the country. Its mission remains constant-to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the U. S. Army. For more information, go to www.westpoint.edu.

About Thaddeus Kosciuszko:
Andrzej Tadeusz Bonaventura Kościuszko (1746-1817), more commonly known as Thaddeus Kościuszko, was a Polish general, military engineer, and revolutionary. He fought in the American Revolutionary War, as well as an uprising in his home country. He was known for his bravery, kindness, patriotism, likeability, and unwavering strength of character.

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