A SO CALLED American Civil War fanatic is staring down the musket of a suspended sentence this week, after he was discovered with an arsenal of illegal weaponry.James Kerr Herron ( 40 ) of Winter Gardens, Omagh, who claimed he is a collector of military memorabilia, is also a leading member of the Tyrone-based living-history group called ” The Rising Sons of Dixie,” which re-enacts American Civil War battles.
In Omagh Crown Court on Thursday Herron admitted charges of possessing firearms and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possession of a prohibited weapon – the weaponry was uncovered when premises belonging to Herron in Seskinore were searched by police on April 3 last year. Among the armoury was a modern muzzle loading gun, component parts of firearms and magazines, three 12 bore shotguns, 180 rifle magazines and an improvised ‘ zip gun ‘ without a firing pin.The court heard how he had also been storing more than 3,500 assorted cartridges, a self loading pistol and magazine and a blank firing revolver which discharges gas.
The defendant, who had served in the Royal Irish Regiment ( RIR ) for 15 years, received a glowing reference from his Captain in the 22nd North Carolina Infantry Regiment. The ” Regiment ” is an organisation of Civil War historians based in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the USA, who carry out re-enactments of battles.
Judge David McFarland accepted there was ” no malicious ” element to the possession of the weapons and sentenced the defendant to one year in jail, suspended for two years. He referred to the letter sent to the court by the self- styled battalion Captain Cardell of the 22nd North Carolina Infantry Regiment which spoke of the defendant in glowing terms. The judge noted that the letter stated that Herron’s battalion had been ” wiped out at Gettysburg.” Judge McFarland remarked : ” That says it all.” Judge McFarland told Herron he has an ” unhealthy ” interest in military activity adding : ” There was little chance you were going to use these weapons in a malicious way but having them in the community could have led to a theft or burglary by a criminal element and then that would be a problem. There were stun gun bullets which are very dangerous if they fell into the wrong hands.”
A disposal order was made for the weaponry, except for a shotgun which will be returned to it’s owner. When he first appeared in the court in April last year, Herron also faced charges of possessing an explosive and possessing a submachine gun, a magazine and a quantity of 9mm ammunition. It was also alleged he had articles likely to be of use to terrorists, including thunder flashes and flares, a flak-jacket and a PSNI uniform. But those charges were not proceeded with in the Crown Court.
WITH MANY THANKS TO : ROISIN GORMAN, SUNDAY WORLD.
- Fenian Casualties at Gettysburg (irishamericancivilwar.com)
- Onward Catholic Soldiers: The Catholic Church during the American Civil War (acton.org)
- Absolution at Gettysburg: Father William Corby, C.S.C. (patheos.com)
- The Sharps Rifle (broeder10.wordpress.com)
- Civil War Reenactors to Set Up Camp at Arlington Church (arlnow.com)