Home News Stories 2007 January

Civil War Battle Flag Returned

Art Crimes
War Relic’s Sale Raised Red Flag

Recovered Civil War Flag
The 6-foot-by-6 -foot flag of the 25th Indiana Volunteer Regiment was
returned Monday to the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis.


01/30/07

A Civil War battle flag that accompanied a regiment of Indiana Union soldiers at the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg and on Sherman’s March to the Sea was returned to its rightful owners Monday, more than a decade after it mysteriously disappeared from the Indiana War Memorial Museum.

The 6-foot-by-6½-foot flag of the 25th Indiana Volunteer Regiment went missing from the museum’s inventory in the mid 90s. Early last year during a business liquidation, an antiquities expert spotted the regimental flag and contacted the museum, which is home to hundreds of historic flags.

“He brought this to the attention of the museum, which then approached the FBI,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, manager of the FBI’s Art Theft Program.

The Art Crime Team, which includes 12 specially trained FBI agents and three Department of Justice trial attorneys, was notified in September that the flag—estimated to be worth $50,000—was part of a liquidation sale. The team arranged the flag’s return to the museum, citing, for example, federal laws .that establish that flags such as this are property of the United States Government.

Here’s a little background: During the Civil War years, state infantry regiments each had their own flag. As the state regiments entered the Civil War, they became Union troops—the U.S. Army. When the fighting ended, the regiments disbanded, and their flags—still technically federal property—were entrusted to the individual states.

“We helped negotiate the return of the flag from the people who possessed the flag to its rightful custodian – the State of Indiana,” Magness-Gardiner said.

Keith Lourdeau, special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office, officially returned the flag to the Indiana War Memorial Museum during a ceremony Monday.

Since the inception of the Art Crime Team in 2004. it has helped locate more than 850 items worth over $65 million, including:

  • Rembrandt’s Self Portrait (1630), stolen from the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm in 2000;
  • Three 19th-century paintings by German artist Heinrich Buerkel that were taken at the end of World War II;
  • Approximately 100 paintings stolen from a Florida family’s collection, including works by Picasso, Rothko, and Matisse; and
  • Four rare books—including rare pencil sketches by John James Audubon and a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species—stolen from a university in Lexington, Kentucky.

In June, the Art Crime Team escorted President Theodore Roosevelt’s stolen Colt revolver—the same one he used to charge San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War—back to its rightful owner at Sagamore Hill on Long Island.

Resources:
- FBI Art Theft program
- Art Theft stories
- Roosevelt’s Stolen 1895 Revolver Returned