Minnesota Has Been Refusing to Return a Captured Confederate Flag to Virginia for More Than a Century


Digital scan of 4x5 transparency.

Here’s a fun bit of history for a Wednesday morning that you might have been aware of but I wasn’t.

Last night I stumbled across this City Pages article about the presence of Confederate flags at the Minnesota State Fair despite Minnesota a) fighting on the side of the Union in the war between the states and b) being so far north it’s practically Canada.

But in that article are the details of a fight between Minnesota and Virginia over a captured Confederate flag which has been going on for more than a century. “In the state of Minnesota, there is but one Confederate icon: a ratty old flag, no longer on public display,” Hannah Jones writes. “It came into Minnesotan hands in 1863, when First Minnesota Private Marshall Sherman captured it during the bloodbath at Gettysburg.”

She continues:

And for 100 years, Virginia has been asking for it back—even suing for it, as a bunch of Virginian re-enactors tried to do in 1998. Then Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III told them to go fly a kite.

In 2000, Virginia legislators got involved, asking Governor Jesse Ventura to return their captured icon.

“Why?” he asked. “We won.”

In 2002, the U.S. Army chief of military history declared that a wool flag like the 28th Virginia should be housed in a Virginia military history museum. Minnesota thought it should be housed in the proud halls of Step Off, Virginia, It’s Never Going to Happen. Tim Pawlenty turned the Virginians down once more in 2003, and Mark Dayton did it again in 2013.

Years and years of bipartisan agreement that Virginia can go pound sand.

You gotta love it.