RICHMOND, Virginia -- The stolen battleflag of the 14th Louisiana Infantry has been returned to Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans. The Confederate battleflag was recovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after receiving a tip that it was in Virginia.
Stolen in the 1980s by a former volunteer at Confederate Memorial Hall, it was returned to board members of the New Orleans museum in a ceremony at the Museum of the Confederacy Wednesday.It was expected to be back in New Orleans by last Friday.
The investigation revealed that a collector had purchased it in 2004 without knowledge it had been stolen. The collector voluntarily turned it over to the FBI.
According to a spokesman for the museum, the flag was stolen in the mid 1980s by a former museum volunteer (now deceased) and efforts made by the museum for its return were unsuccessful until last week when the FBI's National Art Crime Team received a tip that the item may have been at a home in Caroline County, Va. The flag was in the possession of a collector who purchased the flag in 2004 without knowing that it was stolen. He cooperated with the FBI and immediately turned over the flag.
The flag was issued to the unit in the spring of 1862. It is known as a first bunting flag of the Army of Northern Virginia pattern. This was the first "battle flag" carried by the regiment. It saw action at the Battle of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862, near Richmond. Two color bearers were killed while carrying it and the entire Color Guard became casualties of that battle, the spokesman said.
The flag remained in service until the color bearer, Frederick Sontag, was captured with the flag at Gettysburg. Rather than surrender the flag, Sontag concealed it under his clothing. Sontag kept his secret until he was released from prison and he returned to the regiment with the flag, the spokesman said.
In the meantime, the regiment, thinking its flag has been captured, acquired a new one. The old flag was placed in storage where it remained until the final surrender at Appomattox. The flag was given to a young lady for safe-keeping. She kept the flag until January, 1889, when she returned it to the former commanding officer of the 14th Louisiana, Col. David Zable, who presented the flag to the Army of Northern Virginia Association, a veterans organization located in New Orleans. It was then donated to Memorial Hall.
The flag draped the coffin of Jefferson Davis and was said to be the last Confederate flag he ever touched, the spokesman said.