Grover Cleveland tried to return the flags to the Southern states during his first term, which ended in 1889. Emotions were still so high among the Union vets that the proposal failed, and I have actually seen that cited as a major reason he lost the election of 1888 (remember that he was the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, being elected again in 1892). It was not until Teddy Roosevelt became president and Commander-in-Chief that the nation had healed enough--or enough grudge-carrying Yankee veterans had passed on--for the repatriation to succeed.
I have been told that 40 years ago the walls of the Mississippi Capitol were lined with them--now most are in storage, awaiting restoration, and all are inaccessible due to the damage caused to the the state museum by Hurricane Katrina.
A few flags were loaned out to GAR chapters or for veterans' funerals, etc. and not returned, and eventually ended up in private hands. Can the Feds come take them back? Probably, since statutes of limitations do not run against the government.
I read with regret in American Heritage Magazine that the MOC is closing--I was there last summer, and it is just about impossible to get to due to hospital construction on all four sides. Does anyone have any idea where the collection will be moved to?
Thanks, Mr. Martin, for the opportunity to access this wonderful board.