From the Richmond Dispatch, 7/2/1861, p. 2, c. 6

Destructive Fire. - The alarm of fire at six o'clock yesterday evening was caused by a dense volume of smoke proceeding from the interior of the Penitentiary, which was found to be caused by the burning of the carpenter shop attached to the institution, and the flames spreading, in the absence of any means for its prevention, soon set fire to the other large shops located in proximity to the above, which, after burning for several hours, were, with their contents, reduced to ashes. The loss to the State we should judge to be at least fifty thousand dollars, the greater part of which might have been saved had water been abundant. The location of the State's prison is peculiarly unfortunate in respect to its means of obtaining water for extinguishing conflagrations that may be set agoing by the machinations of convicts. The fire yesterday evening was the work of some one of the inmates, no doubt. - The prisoners at the time of the above casualty were doing good service to the State and Southern Confederacy, by manufacturing goods for the use of the army. We presume that their exertions will be put at an end for some time to come. That is the reason, no doubt, that incited some one of them to fire the building. The burning of the Penitentiary workshops is a great loss to the State at this juncture - more so than such an occurrence could possibly have been happening at any other time. - We did not hear of the escape of any of the prisoners. Col. Pendleton, the worthy Superintendent, exerted himself with zeal and effect to prevent the spread of the flames. He was aided by a large number of volunteer citizens, as well as soldiers. It will be impossible, we presume, to supply the loss of looms in the weaving departments, the machines having been obtained in New York. A violent rain which fell during the fire, tended a little to stay its progress.

Go to top