Legal War Brews between States; Minnesota Won't Cede Battle Flag
Byline: Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Virginia Civil War heritage groups and state officials are pledging to use the law as a weapon in their fight to force Minnesota to return a Confederate battle flag captured by Union troops during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Asking nicely hasn't worked for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a group of re-enactors from Roanoke Valley, and state officials including Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat.
"Asking will not do the trick," said Brag Bowling, national officer with the SCV. "The SCV has gone as far as requesting the attorney general work with the federal government and sue if need be to get it returned."
Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, wrote a letter outlining his opinion that the flag is legally Virginia's property.
"There is clear legal authority that directs Minnesota to return it," Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.
A congressional resolution and executive order from 1905 ordered the War Department to return all Civil War flags to their original states. The flag, however, was not in the possession of the War Department at the time, so Minnesota officials said the ruling does not apply in this case. The Department of Defense is the successor of the War Department.
"[The 1905 action] was meant to be an act of regional reconciliation and showing that the nation could be brought back together," Mr. Bowling said. "Even today, Minnesota refuses to reconcile."
Minnesota officials have rejected repeated requests to return the 140-year-old flag, which is guarded in temperature-controlled storage at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.
Mr. Bowling said his group also will try to persuade U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, to get involved and to urge the Justice Department to sue to determine who owns the flag. Mr. Warner is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the senator, said yesterday Mr. …