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May 20, 2018 05:21 PM

South Carolina Hopes To Keep Flag From Iowa Collection Permanently


Buried deep in Iowa's state historical museum, there's a treasure trove of artifacts.

A stuffed rooster auctioned off at a Red Cross fundraiser during World War I that raised $40,000 at the time.

There's also a collection of 210 flags Iowans captured during the Civil War, including a large red flag adorned with the South Carolina Palmetto on it, known as "Big Red." But that flag has been housed in South Carolina since 2010.

"At times we’ve loaned them out to Iowa museums and museums across the United States," said Leo Landis, state curator at the museum in Des Moines. 

Now South Carolina wants to keep it indefinitely. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster penned a letter to Governor Kim Reynolds in April asking for the flag to remain in the state permanently, calling the flag "embedded into tradition and history" of the Citadel cadets.

Landis says evidence shows the flag was captured by Iowan Willard Baker, reportedly from a home near Mobile, Alabama, in 1865 and took it back to Iowa, eventually donating it to the state. Researchers in South Carolina contend the flag was captured at the Cadet Battery, Landis says, which is why proponents of the permanent move feel that "Big Red" should remain in South Carolina.

The flag was given to the Citadel in 2010 on loan through 2021.

“They thought there was a good chance that the Citadel cadets had used in 1860 and 1861," Landis said of the flag in question.

But Landis says “Big Red” ought to come back to Iowa because the state’s large collection of flags is a key part of Iowa’s history

“It really is an example of how Iowa troops fought because we have flags from most of the states in which Iowans were fighting during the civil War," Landis said. “If ['Big Red'] not here, we can’t share that story with Iowans."

Governor Kim Reynolds spokeswoman Brenna Smith said in a statement that Reynolds has not had any conversations with Governor McMaster yet because there are a few years remaining before the loan expires.


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