June 24, 1861
CAPTURE OF ARMS AT BETHANY. – On Saturday night a squad of eighteen men from Capt. Owens’ Plummer Guards, under command of the first sergeant of the company, went up to Bethany and took possession of fifty stand of arms in the charge of a disbanded military company some of whom are secessionists. Each member of the company had possession of his own musket, so that the U. S. soldiers, after taking possession of the town and guarding its streets had to go around to the different houses and take the guns. – No resistance was offered, and the squad returned to Camp Carlile the same evening with the muskets. Some of the secessionists had repeatedly averred that they would die before they would give up their arms. The people of Bethany were at first greatly surprised at the unexpected visit, but the matter was soon explained and nearly all were well satisfied.
June 25, 1861
The Bethany Expedition – Capture of Secession Arms – Nobody Hurt.
Editors of Intelligencer:
According to established custom, especially since the commencement of the present war, a special correspondent or reporter accompanies every expedition that pertains in any manner to the furtherance of the cause.
I avail myself of the privilege which this custom guarantees me, and shall proceed to narrate with a few embellishments (not cuts) the facts connected with the expedition to Bethany in search of arms reported to be in possession of Secessionists in that place and vicinity.
Being the only party in the number who will make a report, you need feel no alarm at receiving future communications. We had no vaunting Colonels in our squad, and each man preserved his presence of mind sufficient to know precisely what transpired. Again, we were all picked men, your correspondent included, (excuse my modesty) and of course our courage could not be doubted, being so evenly mated, individual jealousy or rivalry was out of the question. Gov. Peirpoint authorized Captain E. M. Erton to take command of a detachment of 20 men belonging to the Plummer Guards, Sergeant A. B. Rook having charge. Capt. Norton selected three of his friends as aids who were anxious to earn their spurs on the battle field before receiving the honors of Knighthood.
At 4 o’clock P. M. we started in two omnibuses and a light wagon for the seat of war.
On the route, several carriages were ordered to drop behind our conveyances, which they seemed very reluctant to do, and it became necessary for Capt. Norton to impress the individuals that this was no joke, but must be complied with. One gentleman, however, took advantage of us, when a few miles on the route, to drive ahead, promising to stop at a certain point. We discovered that he did not stop, when Capt. Norton, suspecting the intentions of the party, mounted the horse of a gentleman in our rear, and galloped rapidly in pursuit, and succeeded in overtaking the party, who afterwards submissively took his proper position in the rear.
A list of the secessionists, with the number of muskets, &c,. in their possession, was furnished by a gentleman on the route, which proved of great service to us.
We reached Bethany about 9 o’clock P. M., having secured four muskets on the route to town, from different parties. One of these was taken by climbing through a window, the house apparently being uninhabited. A light was struck, which revealed the instrument of destruction banging against the wall. The bayonet could not be found, but four epaulettes and a bowie knife were taken as hostages, and were the means of securing the delivery of it afterwards.
We made our head quarters at Lieut. Lockhart’s, a good Union man, who delivered to us the arms in his possession, and rendered us great assistance in obtaining the remainder.
Intense excitement prevailed among the inhabitants. Such a sight was never seen there before. Muskets came in, one, two and three at a time, and as fast as examined, the name of the party was checked on the list in possession of one of the aids. It was interesting to see the look of astonishment the aid received, when each named was called, and to hear the individual speculations as to how we knew who had muskets.
One party said he had six or seven balls in his musket, and was determined to shoot the same number of men who should attempt to take it. We notified him politely that we must have the gun at all hazards, which request he, after hesitation, complied with.
One lady, the wife of a party who had three muskets, was ___” and desired to know by whose authority we demanded the arms. She was informed by the order of Gov. Peirpoint, whom she considered as an usurper, believing that a gentleman with an exceedingly floral complexion, derived from the essence of certain grain grown in many actions of the U. S., and whose residence was Richmond, was the only party having power to make the demand. A slight intimation was thrown out by one party, that Gen. Wise commonly called Foolish, would turn the tables on us shortly, but it seemed to have no effect. It must be recollected that the Land of Canaan was never occupied by those who worshipped the golden calf; neither will Western Virginia be occupied by those who have raised up a genuine calf, and a rather lean one to boot.
Sergeant Rook and his men are deserving of great credit for their calm, dignified and gentlemanly deportment.
They knew nothing of their destination, what they would have to meet, or the object of the expedition. They expected a fight and were prepared to do their duty. Had it not been for the precautionary measures taken by the commander, the cutting off of all communication, thereby rendering the surprise complete, and the judicious disposition of his command, together with the promptness in executing all commands, our little troop would have had a lively time; but not a gun was fired, the dying shriek was not heard, the yell of rage and despair broke not the stillness of the night.
We returned to West Liberty about one o’clock A. M. and were greeted by national airs discoursed with fine taste and splendid execution by the brass band of the town.
After partaking of a supper prepared for us we marched for home, happy in the success of our project, happy that we had no mortality list nor had our opponents a casualty to report. We reached Wheeling at 5 o’clock A. M. and were instructed by Attorney General Wheat to deposit the arms in the Custom House.
If Gov. Peirpoint has any other work to do, there are many who are willing and anxious to take part, expecting no other remuneration than that which is more reliable than gold or silver, the innate con[s]ciousness of having done their duty in a glorious cause.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1861