Return the Flags

‘But they’re wearing blue, grandpa. They are yankees.’

‘No son. They’re Americans.’

Rough Riders (1998)

The video above matter of factly displays the flag of the 28th Virginia captured by the 1 Minnesota on July 3, 1863 during the repulse of Picket’s Charge.    The 1 Minnesota of course had its moment of glory when it delayed a Confederate attack with a charge that left 82% of the regiment dead and wounded, buying time with their blood for Union reinforcements to hold the line against the advancing Confederates, and likely saved the Union Army from defeat at Gettysburg.

One can understand the significance of the captured flag for the people of Minnesota.  Of course the flag also has significance to the state of Virginia, and a conflict has been simmering for years over the refusal of Minnesota to return the flag to Virginia:

Minnesota returned fire Wednesday when a Senate committee voted to ignore a request from the state of Virginia and keep a controversial Civil War battle flag.

The flag, which features the stars and bars of the Confederate emblem, was captured by the Minnesota 1st Volunteer Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The 28th Virginia Infantry regiment, a re-enactment group based in the Roanoke, Va., area, has tried for years to regain possession of the flag.

Members say Minnesota is obligated to return the flag under a 1905 congressional resolution that says flags captured in battles should be returned to their originating states.

In 1998, then-Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III rebuffed a request from the 28th Virginia Infantry regiment, saying the law applied only to flags already in the War Department’s possession. He also ruled that the group had no legal standing to request the flag.

Minnesota refused to return the flag.

Last year, Virginia’s Legislature and governor signed off on a resolution urging the Minnesota Historical Society to ‘‘facilitate’’ the flag’s return to Virginia.

The Historical Society again refused.

A 1905 law required the War Department to return all captured Confederate flags in Federal possession to their home states.  However many northern states retained the flags their units had captured during the War.  Over the years many of the flags have been returned, often with a fair amount of ceremony.  I think it would be a nice gesture of national unity if at the end of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in April of 2015 that all captured Confederate flags be returned to their  home states.  The great lesson of the Civil War is that we are all one people:  Black and White, Union and Confederate, and returning the flags would be a symbol of that great truth.

Published in: on February 15, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. My opinion’s sometimes get me in trouble… I consider my self a southerner, tho I am from the land in the middle. I would not ask for a flag lost in battle to be returned nor would I return one. I understand politician’s misguided attempt to soothe wounds by ordering return of flag’s a generation later, but they are wrong. The blood of Minnesota’s sons bought that flag – a debt to a state and nation that can not be repaid. Ask a mother, wife, son or daughter who has lost a loved one which they would have at home. A flag is a pitence but it is a reminder of their heroes. Leave it where it is.


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