From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/10/1904, p. 4, c. 2
The Evacuation Fire.
“The evacuation fire,” Monday, April 3, 1865, compared with the fire from which Baltimore has just suffered, seems to have been a small affair; but, considering the conditions of the two communities, Richmond’s affliction was as great as the Monumental City’s is.
The loss was from eight to ten million but it came at a time when the community was exhausted by four years of war. Not a dollar was recovered in insurance. Moreover, the city had lost its outside trade; the merchants were without credit and without stocks of goods; the people had not foodstuff to last them for a week; the slaves were all freed, and the future seemed as black as midnight.
The fire began – was kindled – in Shockoe and Von Groning’s warehouses, on Shockoe Slip. Later other tobacco warehouses were fired, and after the Confederate troops had crossed the river, upon their retreat, the bridges were also fired. All of this was done by military orders.
There was an act of Congress requiring tobacco and cotton to be destroyed before any military post was abandoned. The bridges were, of course, destroyed as a measure of military precaution. So the flames were kindled. As the day went on, and looting and pillage were freely indulged in, it is possible that deliberate incendiarism also played its part in the tragedy of the day. But the great fire originated as we have said.
The flames swept from Mayo’s warehouse, at the foot of Fourteenth Street, up to the Tredegar Works in one direction, and to Main Street in the other. On Cary Street and the south side of Main the fire extended from below Fourteenth to Ninth; on the north side of Main from below Governor Street to the corner of Eighth, and on Bank Street from Twelfth to Ninth. The State Courthouse, in the Capitol Square, fronting Twelfth Street, was destroyed. So were nearly all the buildings on the square where the Kellam Hospital now stands. The present front and columns of the First National Bank withstood the flames. The postoffice building was very little hurt. The Mechanic’s Institute (War Department), on Ninth Street, went down, and Dr. Reid’s Church, at the northwest corner of Franklin and Eighth Streets also were destroyed.
Among other structures destroyed were the Gallego Mills, the Richmond and Danville Railroad depot, the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad depot, the American and Columbian Hotels, the Dispatch, Enquirer and Examiner newspaper offices, Mayo’s Shockoe, Public and other tobacco warehouses, and the State Armory. Some tobacco warehouses between Twentieth and Twenty-second Streets, were also fired and burned, as were the Confederate Navy Yards, on both sides of the river, at Rocketts, and a dozen or more tobacco factories. The Haxall-Crenshaw Mills escaped. At one time the Capitol building was on fire, but was put out by some passers-by. The Spotswood Hotel square escaped, though the fire raged on the opposite square on Main Street.
The wind that day blew from the southeast. When the fire started at sunrise the wind was scarcely perceptible, but it soon rose, and continued brisk for some hours; but it had lulled by 11 or 12 o’clock, when, by the aid of the Federal military, the citizens were able to check the fire.