From the Richmond Examiner, 1/17/1866, p. 3, c. 4
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE BASIN – BURNING OF A WAREHOUSE – FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS WORTH OF PROPERTY DESTROYED. – About 4 ½ o’clock yesterday morning, flame and smoke were discovered issuing from the third story window of the extensive warehouse owned by James H. Grant, Esq., situated on Tenth street, between Byrd and Canal streets, and occupied by the United States Government as a repository for captured property. The third story was filled with baled cotton, tobacco in the leaf and box, and a large quantity of salt. The flames spread rapidly downward to the lower floors, also heavily stowed with property, and through the roof, soon lighting up the entire city with the glare of flame. The alarm was promptly given, and Captain William A. Charters, Chief Engineer of the Fire Brigade, hastened forth, followed by the department. But such was the nature of the streets, heavy with slush and mud, and the circumlocutive route the engines had to take to reach the scene of the conflagration, that the flames had well nigh wreaked their worst on the doomed building before a stream could be put on the burning building. The up town steam fire engine “stalled” on Seventh street bridge, and had to be assisted to the fire by the strong arms of the men. So too with the hose wagon. Once on the spot and at work, the streams were directed mainly to the saving of the surrounding property. The large and well filled warehouse of Messrs. Wilson & Glazebrook, adjoining on Tenth street, was already in flames along the cornice, and the window frames were in a blaze. The hose was carried to the roof, and a combat of the two elements – fire and water – resulted in the rescue of the warehouse and an hundred thousand dollars worth of property from the very jaws of the flames. The two floorings of the burning warehouse gave way in succession – first, the third, then the second, and both with their hundred tons weight of storage, descended with a tremendous crash upon the first floor, and the flames leaped out of the crater of walls thus created, and shot up in a pyramid, holding as it were a great torch over the city. At the same time the rear walls on the canal fell out into the canal, crushing and sinking a canal boat. The boat was captured property, belonging to the United States Government, having been built by the Confederate Government for canal transportation purposes. Some shedding belonging to the Towing Company was also saved by the untiring exertions of the firemen, who deserve great praise for their conduct.
The loss of the United States Government will reach, if it does not exceed, $75,000. The building was valued at $14,000, and is insured in the State of Virginia Insurance Company and the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia, but to what amounts we did not learn. For many years previous to the war the warehouse was occupied by Messrs. Ludlam & Watson, shippers and forwarding merchants. The building proper was about one hundred feet in length by sixty feet in width and three stories in height, substantial in every respect. The walls alone remain.
As to the origin of the fire there are several opinions expressed. Some contend the fire was of incendiary origin; while others, who have a theory on their side, say it was the result of spontaneous combustion among the cotton.