Virginia's request for flag's return is rebuffed
Minnesota votes to keep the flag
March 29, 2001
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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 Departments possession. He also ruled that the group had no legal standing to request the flag.
Minnesota refused to return the flag.
Last year, Virginias Legislature and governor signed off on a resolution urging the Minnesota Historical Society to facilitate the flags return to Virginia.
The Historical Society again refused.
The flag does not tell a one-sided story, said Ian Stewart, the organizations deputy director. This artifact is important to Minnesota and should stay where it is.
One reason the flag is so coveted is the high casualties suffered in the battle, which may have turned the tide of the war. The July 1863 battle -- during which the vastly outnumbered Minnesota 1st mounted a bayonet charge to stop the Confederate attack and later assisted in the repulse of Gen. George Picketts furious final push -- left 80 percent of the Minnesota 1st and 90 percent of the Virginia 28th dead.
The worn wool flag is believed to be blood-soaked and bullet-riddled, although Adam Scher, a curator of collections at the Minnesota Historical Society, says that has not been verified.
Minnesotas Pvt. Marshall Sherman snagged the flag during the third day of battle between Union and Confederate forces near Gettysburg, Pa., the northernmost point of conflict during the war. Sherman received the Medal of Honor for the act.
The flag currently is stored in a secure underground storage area in a steel cabinet kept at 70 degrees and 50 percent humidity year-round at Minnesotas History Center Museum in St. Paul.
The resolution urging the Historical Society to keep the flag zipped past the Senate Agriculture, General Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee on a unanimous voice vote and now goes to the Senate floor. No action has been taken in the House.