Returning Confederate Flags. 301
as signed by the President, which he did without hesitation or de- lay.
In obedience to this law, the Secretary of War returned to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia sixty-two flags that had been captured during the war, or at the surrender of our army at Appomattox.
This action on the part of the United States marks an epoch in American history; for it most certainly indicates a change of senti- ment in the North and West. It is no secret that the action of the government in failing to carry out the order made in 1887 was due to a popular demand, voiced in great part by the Grand Army of the Republic, that these flags should not be returned. The mem- bers of this organization were approached in 1905, and those high in authority expressed themselves in approval, saying the time had come for the return of these ensigns. The war with Spain had been fought. The sons of men who wore the blue and the sons of men who wore the gray, had marched shoulder to shoulder in a conflict which, however unfortunate, had gone far to unite the two sections. Officers who had served with distinction on the side of the South for four years had cheerfully answered the call to arms and partici- pated in the short struggle with old Spain. The names of Fitz Lee and Wheeler had become as familiar to the minds of men as those of Miles and Shafter.
Public opinion had been silently moulded by English and Southern writers. The word "rebel" had been changed in histo- ries and essays for the more euphonious term "Confederate." The houses of York and Lancaster in the New World were drifting close together through the logic of events. The time was ripe and the appeal was answered gracefully. The report of the House Committee said in part:
" Thus it will appear that the administration in 1887 advised the return of these flags to the properly constituted authorities of the States, and that former Secretaries of War had before that time re- turned 44 of these flags and that most likely all would have been returned but for the fact that the Adjutant General in 1887 called attention to the matter and the President decided that final disposi- should originate with Congress.
" The reasons given for this action in 1887 apply with more force to-day. Nearly twenty years have passed since that time. The