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Student Faces Charges for Taking Civil War Replica to School

October 14, 2004  | 

A student in Pine Bush, N.Y., was arrested and could be expelled because a school security guard saw a replica musket in his car, which the teen says was left over from a weekend Civil War re-enactment.

Joshua Phelps, 17, left the gun, a bayonet, rolled cartridges with black powder, and a Union soldier’s uniform in his car.

Town of Crawford Police confiscated the musket, handcuffed Phelps, and charged him with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon. He could spend up to a year in jail if convicted of the crime.

“I actually thought it was kind of stupid, at first, when I heard it was about the musket,” says Phelps. “I didn’t think I’d get arrested over it.”

Police Chief Daniel McCann says this is a very serious matter, noting that the replica, which fires blanks, could have been used to fire projectiles. “I know this might appear to be a minor thing, but it’s not,” McCann says. “The musket was found in his car on the high school grounds and could have been used.”

Phelps’ mother, Valerie Michaels, says the school overreacted. She is angry at the way the situation has been handled, saying her son’s gun was merely part of a costume.

The gun, along with the replica uniform and other items found in Phelps’ car, were from a re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorville that was staged by the 124th New York State Volunteers. A member of his school’s Civil War Club, Phelps was one of many high school students recruited to take part in the re-enactors club. Phelps' mother questions why the students would be given fake guns and then be arrested for having them.

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