Umm, why have I never heard of the "Joint Resolution to Return to the Proper Authorities Certain Union and Confederate Battle Flags" that was passed on February 5, 1905 and is recorded at 33 Statutes at Large 1284? I know this will surprise you given the title of the joint resolution: it deals with "Union and Confederate Battle Flags." Pretty interesting to see what happened to the flags in the possession of the War Department -- those of the United States that couldn't be matched to a state were sent to West Point; those of the South that couldn't be matched to a state were sent to the Confederate Memorial Literary Society in Richmond. About which I knew absolutely nothing. I now learn that it owns the Museum of the Confederacy. I think Eric visited that place when he was in Richmond a while back.
Here's the text of the resolution, by the way:
Resolved ... That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized to deliver to the proper authorities of the respective States in which the regiments which bore these colors were organized certain Union and Confederate battle flags now in the custody of the War Department, for such final disposition as the aforesaid proper authorities may determine.
That "now in the custody of the War Department" part makes the claim on Virginia's flag in the Minnesota Historical Society mighty rickety. But leaving the flimsy claim aside, what really interests me is (1) why isn't this more a part of the literature on reconciliation and memory of the Civil War? I mean, I get that historians of memory all too often ignore law -- despite Glory McLaughlin's efforts to the contrary. But shouldn't this be part of the story? And (2), holy cow. This is another example of a claim for repatriation of cultural property. It's just like NAGPRA, only it relates to Civil War flags. Or, as I'm fond of saying, this is another example of a claim for reparations for the era of slavery, just not of the kind we usually think about today. I rather suppose that this claim will go the way of other reparations claims -- when people realize there is no legal claim (which anyone reading the joint resolution surely will understand), that will be the end of the discussion.
The flag used here is in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.