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December 17, 2007

28th Virginia Infantry Battle Flag Captured at Gettysburg

Filed under: Podcasts and Slideshows — Matt Anderson @ 4:35 pm

Objects Curator Matt Anderson takes a look at the Virginia battle flag captured by the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. (3 min. 15 sec. / 8.42 MB)

icon for podpress  Virginia Battle Flag [3:16m]: Download (4557)
icon for podpress  Virginia Battle Flag [3:16m]: Download (4557)

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22 Responses to “28th Virginia Infantry Battle Flag Captured at Gettysburg”

  1. Norma B. Prince Says:

    We really enjoyed this wonderful presentation.
    Please be kind to send this entire news feature to our daughter, Cathryn J. Prince cjs...@optonline.net
    She is the author of 2 non fiction History Books.
    Shot From the Sky Naval Institute Press
    Burn the Town and Sack the Banks Carroll & Graf
    Confederates Attack Vermont

    Thank you so very much,
    Norma and Marvin Prince

  2. Glenna Anderson Says:

    What a great presentation and such an interesting story. Thanks, Matt, for sharing it with history lovers!

  3. barbara james Says:

    we just recently came back from all the battle fields out east.we spent 5 days alone in gettysburg.i remember back a few years ago we requested to see the flag and was told it was under lock and key. we were able to make an appointment to see it one of the kids asked why is it locked up and not displayed so every one could see it.we were told you are trying to preserve it for the future generations my question why cant the kids from this generation see it?theres always a way to display it heck they display the orginal mona lisa.why cant we display our history.and yes we were honored by the way we were told how minnesota played a huge part in the picketts charge.to bad minnesota doesnt have a memorial to the civil war soilders from minnesota.thanks to gettysburg for having 3 of them for our honorable troops that served.
    barbara james

    Matt Anderson reply on April 15th, 2008:

    The flag is very fragile from years of exposure to changing light, humidity and temperature. Unfortunately, we need to limit its time on public display to prevent further damage. The flag does come out on exhibit from time to time, though. It is on display right now in the “MN150″ exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, and will remain on view through May 11, 2008.

    Matt Anderson

  4. AJ Says:

    This flag should be returned back to it’s rightful state, here in Virginia. The war has been over for 145 years! We are all Americans and to keep the flag as a trophy of war is just outrageous in thought alone. The 28th Va was the first unit to take the field during Pickett’s Charge and suffered 90% casualties, that flag has Virginian blood on it from the bloodiest war in American history. It represents the men who died for what they truly believed in. Rather or not you believe they indeed had a rightful cause or not, we can come to a consensus, from a Yankee and Rebel perspective, that flag meant the world to them and to loose the flag in combat could only come about when no one is left to carry it. They fought behind that flag, our fore-fathers did. That flag means more to us here in Virginia, than it ever will in Minnesota!!

  5. Mark Thorson Says:

    I have been a student of the American Civil War for 50 years and I have often thought about what is the right thing to do with the 28th Virginia Infantry Battle Flag. It is my personal belief that it should finally be returned to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. To this day I get goose bumps when I think of the courage displayed by the men of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. I believe that the men of the 28th Virginia Infantry were equally brave. We have hid the flag away for the last 145 years as of yesterday. It is time to send it home now.

  6. AJ Says:

    I just got back today from Gettysburg, spent the weekend at the 145th Anniversary Reenactment there. Thank you for your comment Mark. I am a member of the 28th Va. Infantry Reenactment group. Those boys came from the very same place I live. In Pickett’s Charge we took 90% casualties as I said before. 28 dead, 79 wounded, and 105 captured. This documentary was wrong about one thing though, the Battle Flag of the 28th Va. Inf. was not captured in battle. It was found afterwards in the field. There were simply no one left to carry it. After the battle, the 28th was so decimated that they were sent to Richmond to pull guard duty until they received enough men to move out back to battle about a year later. at the beginning of the war there were approximately 1,700 men in the 28th Va. Inf. Once General Lee, the Gray Fox, surrendered at Appomattox, there were only 75 men left who were not killed, wounded, or captured. It is ashamed this clip did not cover that little bit of history. Even I could of told you who found our flag. One last thing that the video did not tell you is that Col. Roberts of the 28th Va. Inf. Died in battle with the flag. A true warriors death. All I wish to see is the flag returned to Virginia. It is not a treasure for Minnesota to display as a medal, we are all Americans. The flag though is a treasure to Virginians the same way a heirloom is. Longstreet’s Corps, Pickett’s Division, Garnett’s Brigade! The 28th VIRGINIA!

  7. R Haupert Says:

    As a Minnesotan I too believe it is time to return the flag to Virginia. The war has been over a long time and we can return one of the spoils of war to our Virginia friends.

  8. Steve Holbrook Says:

    This was a good presentation. The photography of the flag in the presentation allowed you to see some details of the flag. The flag appears to be in good shape for its age. The Minnesota Historical Society has taken very good care of the Virginia flag. Many of the Northern states (but not all) have returned captured Confederate battle flags to their original states. If Minnesota elects to keep the flag it would be great to see them conserve it properly. If conservation is not possible, then it would be good to give it back to Virginia provided Virginia agreed to conserve the flag for future generations. As an author of a Civil War battle flag book and researcher of all Civil War battle flags it is great to see the passion for the battle flag even today 145 years after the capture of the flag. Let us not forget the most important thing about the 28th Virginia battle flag – it exist and needs to be properly conserved.

  9. Chris Mathis Says:

    My ancestor was in the 28th Virginia Inf. He was wounded during Pickett’s charge. His name was 1st Lt. William Jesse Gooldy.

    My family would appreciate it if the curator would arrange to return the flag to the good people of Virginia where it belongs.

    I get emotional just looking at it on the internet because I know my ancestor followed that flag into many tough battles and saw his compatriots fall all around it as they were wounded and killed in combat.

    A good Virginia museum will protect that sacred flag with humidity controls and keep it away from damaging ultraviolet light. It will be at home in Virginia where the descendants of the 28th Virginia Confederate soldiers can come and visit it, knowing how much it meant to our ancestors.

    It is the right thing to do to return it to Virginia and my ancestor would thank you for doing so.

  10. Chris Mathis Says:

    Matt Anderson- A few questions please.
    1) What person or organization currently makes the decision to keep the flag in Minnesota?
    2) Is this decision to keep the flag in Minnesota periodically reviewed or up for discussion at some point or is the decision to keep the flag final?
    3) What are the reasons for not returning the flag to its home state at this time?
    Thank you for answering.

  11. Chris Mathis Says:

    The 28th Virginia flag was captured by the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg.

    AFTER its capture…

    First, after the flag was captured at Gettysburg it was turned over to the proper Union Army authorities who then sent the flag to the U.S. War Department for processing. This flag was received at the War Department and catalogued into a log book of other captured Confederate flags and assigned a WD number (as were all flags received by the War Department, in this case #58, which is clearly stenciled on the flag itself). Please note that not all captured CS flags ever made it to the War Department. Many went home with individual officers or soldiers and many were sent to Northern state governors.

    Since the 28th Virginia flag was sent to the War Department, it then became the property of the Federal government as a spoil of war. Over the years after the war, these flags were sometimes lent out to various Union veterans groups for their reunions. This is what happened with the 28th Virginia flag. It was LOANED to the veterans of the 1st Minnesota (as entered in the WD captured log book, of which I have a copy) on the implicit instructions that the flag was to be returned to the War Department when they were done with their reunion. The Secretary of War did this with quite a few flags – most of which never came back either (and some are now lost while others were sold on the private market).

    Mr. Caveness did some research into the “loaning” of these trophies and found that the Secretary of War did not have the legal authority to loan these flags – but did anyway.

    That being said, the flag was a “loan” – not a “gift” to the 1st Minnesota veterans and they were supposed to return it. They did not, thus stealing, basically, Federal government property. The entry in the log of captured flags states “loaned, never returned.”

    Since the War Department no longer exists, the Federal agency that needs to step in to get the flag back through whatever powers of Federal domain they can use, is the Department Of The Army. They could issue a demand for the return and back it with a Federal level suit that Minnesota would have to comply with. The flag would then go to the Department of the Army who would then, following the wishes of Congress in 1905, return the flag to the state it came from (as they did hundreds of others at that time from the War Department). The Virginia flags went to the Confederate Memorial Literary Society – which is now the Museum Of The Confederacy.

    It is my understanding that a few Virginia Federal congressmen are working to get the Department Of The Army to go after that flag so that it can be sent to where it was legally supposed to go in 1905 – the Museum of the Confederacy.

    Minnesota troops also captured three other CS flags during the war that did get sent directly to the state itself. These are trophies of war that the state received directly and they can keep them as such (even though they are doing nothing to conserve them). But the 28th Virginia flag is an different matter entirely. It is stolen Federal property that needs to be handled as such and sent back.

  12. Jeff Eiffler Says:

    How about compromise and give the flag to the Smithsonian so all Americans can view it?

  13. AJ Says:

    Thanks Chris I did not know all that about the flag. A federal suit should be taken against the state of Minnesota and allow Washington to make the call, so in a sense it is the country’s wish and not just one state. The flag is a part of Virginian history more than any other. How can anyone try and compromise on something that does not belong to them in the first place? The flag in my belief should be return to Virginia like all other flags by Federal mandate. The flag’s home is not Washington, D.C. or Minnesota. It’s home is in Virginia, no where else. I cannot bargain or compromise on history of our fore fathers.

  14. Ray Says:

    So it doesnt matter that Virginia was in a state of rebellion at the time and that Union soldiers died in the process of securing that flag? It seems that that flag is a much part of Minnesota’s history as it is Virginia’s.

  15. AJ Says:

    In Lincoln’s eyes we were still part of the Union. Need I remind you that the Emancipation Proclomation. I am not debating that it is not part of Minnesota’s history, but we are not enemy’s anymore. The war was over 140 years ago. The 28th took on disastorous casualties on the day of July 3, 1863. After the battle for the longest time they never saw battle until the end they took such a large hit. What I believe is the flag should be return to the Commonwealth of Virginia and for the Commonwealth to officially thank the State of Minnesota for the act. Let bygones be bygones. The flag is stamped with 28th Va. It is not a spoil of war, nothing from the Civil War, the war between the states and families, should be considered a spoil or trophy. I just wish to see it returned to Virginian soil where it was created and originated with the pride of Virginians willing to follow it with their beliefs. Is that wrong?

  16. Matt Anderson Says:

    I’ve been reading all of these comments on the flag and I am glad to see that there is so much interest in this important object. Thanks to all for posting them.

    Chris Mathis asked some specific questions, and I want to answer them.

    1.) What person or organization currently makes the decision to keep the flag in Minnesota?

    The flag remains at the Minnesota Historical Society after a review of its status by the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General. The decision was reaffirmed by the State Legislature and the Office of the Governor.

    2.) Is this decision to keep the flag in Minnesota periodically reviewed or up for discussion at some point or is the decision to keep the flag final?

    There are no plans for another review of the flag’s status.

    3.) What are the reasons for not returning the flag to its home state at this time?

    The actions of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry at Gettysburg, particularly during its charge on the second day, are one of the proudest moments in our state’s history. We are fortunate to have a few pieces in the Society’s collection associated with these soldiers. However, this flag is the only item we have associated directly and unquestionably with the First Minnesota’s actions at Gettysburg. We do not consider the flag as a trophy or a war prize; rather we consider it a link to that remarkable moment.

    Matt Anderson

  17. AJ Says:

    Thanks Matt, I understand the position of the State of Minnesota, but would like to say one more thing and this is probably my last post. The flag in Minnesota depicts the remarkable efforts of one day. What about the remarkable moments for the Virginians behind that flag throughout the war. Charging across a field at Gettysburg eating up artillery fire and musket fire yet still pressing on. Taking the field at Chancellorsville, Manassas, and other great moments throughout the war that the 28th Va. Infantry regiment experience that we do not have items for to relate to?

  18. Glenna Anderson Says:

    It makes sense that this Virginia Civil War flag is an
    important link between Minnesota’s Civil War soldiers and the Battle of Gettysburg. I agree with Matt that it should remain in Minnesota where I am sure is maintained
    with the proper archival protection.

  19. Chris Mathis Says:

    Hi Glenna? Related to Matt?

    Matt Anderson admits in the video that the flag has deteriorated. Doesn’t seem like it’s being treated with the “proper archival protection” to me.

  20. Richard Johnson Says:

    We in Minnesota are very proud of the great sacrifice made by the 1st and that flag is a direct link to their finest moment, which was at the battle of Gettysburg.

    I can understand why some Virginians want the flag, but you lost the battle and the war. Did we send all the Nazi and Japanese flags back when the war ended?

    I am proud to know our government in Minnesota is dedicated to keeping the flag in its rightful place. It will serve as a lasting reminder to future generations of the brave soliders who fought to save the Union, instead of ripping it apart.

  21. Matt Anderson Says:

    Thank you to everyone for sharing your comments in this thread. It is encouraging to know that museum objects can inspire so much conversation. Many viewpoints have been shared, and I believe we can close the discussion now. I think we would all agree that the flag is a significant piece of American history, and we are all fortunate that it survives. Thanks again for posting your thoughts.

    Matt Anderson

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