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 1st Minnesota on July 3, 1863 during the repulse of Picket’s Charge. The 1st 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:
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.
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.
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.