From the Richmond Dispatch, 1/28/1863, p. 1, c. 6
Serious Accident – Falling of a Bridge and Drowning of several Paroled Abolition Prisoners – Yesterday morning, shortly after 3 o’clock, 797 of the paroled Abolition prisoners, recently captured at Murfreesboro’, Tenn., started from the Libby prison, corner of 20th and Cary streets, in charge of Lieut. Bossieux, en route for the Petersburg Depot, where the men were to take the cars for City Point. The rear cars had been backed down 8th street till within a few feet of the southern side of the James River and Kanawha Canal, the engine being near the gate of the bridge spanning James river. The head of the column had reached the car next to the engine, and the men were being put aboard, when suddenly an awful crash was heard, succeeded by screams and cries for help. It was found that the iron bridge crossing the canal where it intersects 8th street had yielded to the weight of some 75 of 100 Abolition soldiers who had crowded on it, and breaking in two parts had, with its living load, been precipitated a distance of twenty-five feet in the surging waters of the canal below it. The struggling men were rescued with all the haste that could be used, considering the darkness that at the time enveloped everything. Some who were adept in swimming struck out boldly into the basin, and were only recalled after considerable exertion; but the majority seized on everything that presented a chance for escape from the danger that menaced them. As soon as the men could be gathered together they were put on board the cars and the train proceeded in the direction of Petersburg. During the day, in the city, after the catastrophe became known, the wildest rumors got afloat. The number of Abolition soldiers drowned was at first stated at not less than fifty, but towards night the number was reduced one-half. Included in the number said to have met a watery grave, were three of the guards, but if any did fall in they were rescued, as none were missing. It is probable that by this catastrophe five or six persons lost their lives. On calling the roll of Yankees, at City Point, five were found missing. A boy, who was selling bread to them, was on the bridge, and, as his basket and stock in trade was seen floating in the canal, he may have been drowned. The coroner gave orders that the water should be let out of the canal, which was accomplished by 3 o’clock, when the bodies of two of the Federal soldiers, Geo. Ephart and Daniel LaRuke, of co. K, 30th Indiana, were recovered. At the same time was recovered the body of a man in an advanced state of decomposition, apparently a Georgia soldier who had been in the water for two months. The body was covered with sand and was not recognized. Efforts will be made to-day to obtain the bodies of the other drowned parties, when Coroner Sanxay will hold an inquest on them. In addition to those who lost their lives, two had their heads broken, two their arms, and minor bruises were inflicted on a number.
It may be as well to remark that the bridge which had been in use for seven years, was made in Cincinnati and imported into Richmond.