Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
December 24, 1861

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
December 24, 1861



A. W. Campbell, Postmaster, and Thos. Hornbrook, Collector of Customs, were called forward, and testified that there was a large quantity of ammunition and explosive matter in the Custom House. The former regarded the xplosive matter as dangerous, in that it is likely to explod either spontaneously or by ignition.

Mr. Hornbrook said he had received and stored the ammunition upon the written order of Gen. Rosecrans, which he exhibited.

Marshal Norton said he was aware of the existence of powder in the building, and regarded it as decidedly dangerous.

The District Attorney (Col. Smith) stated that he did not know that there was any magazine in the building, and had gone on with the business with a feeling of safety. But since the matter had been brought up, he had felt nervous and uneasy. He didn't like to live over a magazine. Although he was an old man, he desired to eke out the remnant of his days without any unpleasant sensations in connection with pow[d]er magazines. He was in favor of adjourning instanter to the County Court House.

The Court - Mr. Hornbrook, in case any accident should happen from this explosive matter you would be responsible notwithstanding that order of Gen. Rosencrans [sic].

Mr. Hornbrook - I beg leave to differ with you, Mr. Jackson.

The Court - It don't matter what you may think about it, such language as you have used is highly improper and will not be tolerated by the Court, and if you repeat it the Court will give you an unmistable evidence of its disapprobation.

Mr. Hornbrook said he did not intend to [be] offensive.

The Court ordered a rule to be issued against Mr. Hornbrook to appear forthwith and show cause why he had received and stored in the Custom House this explosive and dangerous material.

The hearing in the confiscated property cases, in which many members of the bar are to appear, was postponed until the 14th of January.

Mr. Hornbrook appeared in Court in answer to the rule but the hearing was postponed till this morning at 9 o'clock...

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
December 25, 1861


All About the Alleged Powder Peculations - Gen. Rosecrans and Gov. Peirpoint on the Stand.

The Court met at a few minutes past nine.

In reference to the matter of the storage of powder in the Custom House,

Gen. Rosecrans said: That powder in barrels or in kegs should not be kept in the Custom House. In all cases the Government is exceedingly careful in the management of powder in these forms, and the greatest precaution should always be taken. In the fixed ammunition, such as he had consented to have stored in the house, there was no more danger than there would be in an equal quantity of dry goods. The General said he had ordered no powder in kegs or in barrels to be stored in the Custom House, and it would be desirable at present to have the cartridges remain where they are.

In reference to the storage of powder in kegs in the building, and the sale of the same,

Michael Reilly was sworn and stated: There was a magazine belonging to him in an easterly direction from the city, capable of containing 10,000 kegs of powder. Mr. Hornbrook bought some seven or eight hundred kegs of powder from witness for the State Government, which he (witness) had delivered from his magazine from time to time upon the order of Mr. Hornbrook.

Mr. John Nolan was sworn and stated:

He had been buying his powder from List, Morrison & Co., but since that firm had been refused a permit, he had bought it from Mr. Hornbrook. He had seen five or six kegs of powder in the Custom House - in Hornbrook's office - at one time; at other times three and four kegs. He went to Mr. Hornbrook to get his powder, because he couldn't get it anywhere else. He would have bought his powder elsewhere, but those from whom he had been in the habit of purchasing the article, said that Mr, Hornbrook had refused to give them permits.

Gen. Wheat, who appeared for Mr. Hornbrook, asked the object of this singular examination, saying that Mr. Hornbrook answered to the rule that there was no powder in the Custom House except in cartridges. Gen. Wheat stated the reason why permits had been withheld from Mr. Reily to bring powder to the city was because he had voted for the Ordinance of Secession and still maintained the right of Secession. Mr. Morrison testified that Mr. Hornbrook had sold powder at higher rates than he had sold it. Witness stated that Mr. Hornbrook had refused to give him permits to bring powder from abroad,

Mr. Woodward, of the firm of Baily, Woodward & Co., was sworn. Witness said he was a Union man. He had bought powder from Mr. Hornbrook. Mr. Hornbrook was selling the powder for the Governor. Witness went to the Governor and the Governor admitted that Hornbrook was acting for him. Mr. Hornbrook gave him permits to bring powder to the city for his own use but now for sale.

Mr. James Warden stated that he had purchased powder from Mr. Hornbrook, and had taken it from the door of the Custom House. Five dollars and a quarter and five and a half were the usual prices, but Mr. Hornbrook sold it at six dollars per keg. In consequence of this advance in powder, the coal diggers had threatened to strike, and serious interruptions had been occasioned.

Jacob Warden said he had bought three or four kegs of powder from Mr. Hornbrook for $6 and $5.75. He got the powder out of the Custom House. The usual price was three and a half and four dollars.

A.W. Campbell had seen kegs of powder carried into the house; it was the common report and acknowledgment around the building that there was powder in the building. He had seen enough powder in the house to blow the building up. He had protested to Mr. Hornbrook against using the building as a magazine and Mr. Hornbrook replied that Gen. Rosecrans had ordered him to store the powder in the Custom house. Mr. Hornbrook had instructions from Washington in reference to articles contraband of war; Mr. Hornbrook was a very prudent and careful man.

Mr. Hornbrook here submitted his instructions from Headquarters in reference to the powder, ammunition and general contraband business.

Gov. Pierpoint was called. He said he must know what the subject was before the Court.

The rule against Mr. Hornbrook was read.

Gen. Wheat said he would again repeat that Mr. Hornbrook had answered to the rule that there was no powder in the house.

The Court intimated in reply that the powder had been removed during the night. Governor Pierpoint stated that Mr. Hornbrook had been instructed to take charge of the State powder, and occasionally small quantities had been brought into the house. If there is any particular offence in it we are prepared to be punished for it and will refuse to bring any more. The Governor said that whatever Mr. Hornbrook had done he (the Governor) was responsible for. Mr. Hornbrook had not sold a single keg of powder without the cognizance of the Governor.

Mr. Hornbrook was sworn: He stated that he had been acting as State Armorer; and had distributed arms and ammunition to the United States volunteers. He had purchased two or three hundred kegs of powder from Mr. Rielly at his (Rielly's) own price, on the part of the State, by direction of the Governor. He had no personal interest in the matter at all. He purchased two kegs from Mr. Rielly at $6 per keg, and after buying the whole lot for the State sold it at retail for the same price. He had taken every precaution to protect the powder and had procured a sort of a portable magazine for the purpose. He had not one cent of pecuniary interest in the matter, but on the contrary had done the work gratuitously. Whatever of profit arises from the sale goes to the State, but witness had never been able to discover any profit in the case.

The District Attorney asked if Mr. Hornbrook had raised the price of powder,. Mr. Hornbrook replied that he had sold the powder at the same price which he paid Mr. Rielly before purchasing the whole lot..

General Wheat and Governor Peirpoint demanded to know if the price of powder had anything to do with the case, and if the Federal Court was investigating a forstalling of the market?

The Court remarked that the question of keeping the powder in the house was the question before the Court.

Miles Reilly stated that he had frequently hauled powder from the magazine to the Custom House.

James McCuny stated that he had bought powder from Mr. Hornbrook, which came from the Custom House.

The Court inquired if there was any law authorizing the Governor to take charge of the powder for the safety of the people or otherwise?

General Wheat said that had nothing to do with the case.

The District Attorney stated that the Custom House had been used by the State Government by general consent, and he approved of it, but he did not think it should be used as a magazine.

Governor Peirpoint stated that he would be glad if even the fixed ammunition could be removed from the building, and he should take steps to have it done. The Governor further stated that there was a good deal of alarm when the State Government was first organized. It was considered advisable that the executive should take charge of the powder in the city, of which there was a great deal, that it might not fall into evil hands. People came from all directions after powder and every merchant was at liberty to sell it to whom he pleased. He had the safety of the people at heart in taking charge of the powder and had experienced the most intense anxiety of mind in its management. The powder had been sold at the retail price. Neither Hornbrook nor anybody else had ever realized one cent of profit from the sale of the powder. Hornbrook's services as State Armorer have been altogether gratuitous, and he has had a great deal of trouble and annoyance in the performance of his duty.

The Court stated that it would issue an order to have the keg powder, if any, removed from the building, and be kept from the building. As Gen. Rosecrans thinks there is no danger from the fixed ammunition the Court would make no order in reference to that matter but leave it to the General and the Governor.

The Court took a recess till 2 o'clock.


Davis H. Gilmore and Abrom Parsons applied for bail through A. B. Caldwell, Esq.

Gilmore said he had voted for secession, but from the bottom of his heart he regretted it, He was willing and anxious to support the Constitution of the United States and the restored government of Virginia.

Abram Parsons, of Tucker county, was also sorry for having voted for secession, and was willing to return to his allegiance,

Dr. Parsons, of Tucker county, bore testimony to the good character of Parsons and Gilmore. The men were admitted to bail.

[These men were brought down from Camp Chase, Columbus, O., on Monday evening, where they have been confined for some time. They both seemed unwell, and had on military overcoats, which they said were given to them by soldiers in Camp Chase.

Chas. E. Hansford, also a Camp Chase prisoner, was released on bail.

The District Attorney made a motion to rescind the order admitting to bail Wm. Compton. The consideration of the case was postponed till the 14th of January.

The Court then adjourned until the 14th of January, 1861.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: December 1861

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