From the Richmond Sentinel, 5/16/1863
Disastrous Fire. - Soon after 2 o'clock yesterday morning a fire broke out in the extensive factory building of the Crenshaw Woolen company, situated on the south side of the Canal, nearly opposite the foot of 3d street, and spread with such rapidity that the building was destroyed in a short time, together with a portion of the Tredegar Foundry, owned by Anderson & Co., adjoining on the West. The flames lighted up the whole city and the country for miles around. About 3 o'clock the interior portion of the Crenshaw mill, five stories in height, fell with a tremendous crash, leaving the bare brick walls standing. The entire machinery of the mill, together with some manufactured goods, ready for delivery, and doubtless a quantity of unmanufactured stock, were destroyed. The fire was accidental, having, it is believed, bee caused by friction from the picker, in the rear portion of the mill. This machine was kept going day and night, and it is stated that the man who attended it left the room for a moment for the purpose of procuring oil, and when he returned the room was in flames. The watchman immediately put the force pumps of the mill in operation, but it was found that they had not sufficient length of hose to play upon the spot where the flames were raging, and the mill had to be abandoned to its fate. By the time the firemen arrivned upon the spot they could do no more than prevent the destruction of valuable property in the neighborhood.
The mills were owned by a joint stock company, and most of the work done was for the Government. About one hundred and fifty operatives, male and female, are thrown out of employment. The company were insured for $171,500, in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama offices; not over $10,000 in any one office.
With regard to the losses at the Tredegar Works, the reporter has obtained the following particulars: A portion of the machine shops and blacksmith shops, and also one of the buildings in which gun-carriages were finished, were destroyed. The fire also consumed a large number of old patterns; but the gun patterns were saved, together with the new building for casting and the machinery for boring heavy guns, and this operation will be resumed in a few weeks. It is gratifying to know, further, that the rolling mills and spike factory, as well as the foundries for casting shot, shell and car wheels, and all the ordnance on hand, were saved. The property was partially covered by insurance, in the Mutual Assurance Company, Richmond Fire Association, Virginia Fire and Marine, Old Dominion, Merchants and Alabama Insurance Companies.
It is impossible at present to give a correct estimate of the total amount of loss.