Recovering Civil War Flags
It is common knowledge that many flags were captured during the War Between the States, with Union soldiers capturing Confederate flags during certain battles and vice versa. Most would assume that after the war ended, the flags were returned to their rightful owners. This was the intention at the turn of the twentieth century, and laws were enacted to ensure that captured flags would be returned. However, over the years, certain flags fell between the cracks and were never returned, even though the states in possession of them were required to do so.
One such example is a flag that resides in the basement of the State Capitol Building in Des Moines, Iowa. After participating in a reenactment in Mason City last year, we were told by the Confederate camp that the state had a Rebel flag in its possession. After researching and contacting local historians, we found the rumor to be true. However, Iowa refuses to return the flag because it is a tourist attraction for the state.
The flag was captured at Gettysburg, and rightfully belongs to the Mississippi 17th. It is in dire need of repair, so it sits boxed up in the dark cellar of the Capitol Building, waiting for attention. Estimated repair costs range from $5-10,000. The Sons of Confederate Veterans are willing to save up for repairs, but they are having difficulty obtaining the flag.
There are other such cases as well. In the process of investigating the Iowa flag, we learned that there are two in Ohio that belong to the Confederacy. Southern states are reluctant to pursue the issue, as it will undoubtedly be a costly venture, and political ambition always seems to prevail. One can only hope that, perhaps someday, the flags will be returned to their rightful places.