During yesterday's Capitol sendoff for a group of Minnesota Civil War reenactors who are headed to Pennsylvania to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, Governor Mark Dayton said it would basically take another civil war for Virginia to reclaim a Confederate flag that was seized by Minnesota soldiers during the 1863 battle.
The Virginia 28th's blood-stained, bullet-pierced flag is currently on display at the Minnesota History Center, but some Virginians, including Governor Bob McDonnell, want it returned to its state of origin.
[jump] Though most surrendered or captured Civil War battle flags were returned to their original states early in the 20th century, the Virginia 28th's remained in Minnesota. But "[t]he Virginia Historical Society asked for the flag back in the early 1960s, and a group of Civil War re-enactors from that state threatened to sue to get the flag back in 1998," MPR reports. Recently, Virginia Governor McDonnell asked Minnesota officials to "loan" the flag back to his state for a period of time.
But yesterday, Dayton said the flag will stay in St. Paul as long as he's living in the governor's mansion.
"The third day of Gettysburg, the 47 Minnesotans that survived the day before, rejoined the battle and that was the day that they captured the flag of the regiment of Virginia... which resides in the Minnesota Historical Society to this day," Dayton said. "The governor of Virginia earlier this year requested that the flag be loaned, quote, unquote, to Virginia to commemorate -- it doesn't quite strike me as something they would want to commemorate, but we declined that invitation."
"It was taken in a battle at the cost of the blood of all these Minnesotans," Dayton continued. "And I think it would be a sacrilege to return it to them. It was something that was earned through the incredible courage and valor men who gave their lives and risked their lived to obtain it. And as far as I'm concerned, it's a closed subject."
Later on, retired Mankato teacher and Civil War reenactor Arn Kind told reporters that if Virginia is going to bellyache about their lost flag, then Minnesota should hound Texas for a 3rd Minnesota flag that was surrendered in Tennessee.
"The last I heard that [flag] belongs to a Texas ranger, but you don't hear us crying about it," Kind said.
With reenactors like that, let's the Gettysburg commemoration doesn't spark some sort of Red State-Blue State conflagration!