Colonel John Symington commanded the Allegheny Arsenal at the time of the explosion. However, questions linger about his health, ability and desire to command the arsenal. Less than a month prior to the disaster, the U.S. military's retirement board denied Symington's request for retirement. Rumors also circulated that Major Symington, the commandant of the arsenal, harbored Confederate sympathies. These fears held some merit. Symington's own son joined the Confederate forces and his daughter married Confederate General William Boggs. These incidents inflamed community sentiments. Symington's contentious relationship with the surrounding neighborhood and the divisions within his own family likely informed his request for retirement just weeks prior to the fateful explosion.