From the Richmond Whig, 1/28/1862, p. 3, c. 3
EXPLOSION AT THE GOVERNMENT LABORATORY. - Yesterday, about 12 o'clock, M., an explosion occurred at the Confederate Laboratory, on Byrd Island, which occasioned great excitement for the while in the vicinity. The particulars as far as we cold ascertain them are as follows: Eight persons, worthy youths, were employed in one corner of the lower story of the building, nearest the Petersburg railroad bridge, in filling fuses for shells. The department in which they are thus engaged is styled the "Sea coast Ammunition Room." The fuses are made of stiff paper, and filled with an explosive composition, driven into the paper cases by means of a mallet and punch. One of the employees, named Peter Branders, was occupied in filling a fuse, when the composition exploded, and communicated fire to two or three hundred finished fuses, near by, producing an explosion which seriously injured several of the operatives whose names are John Fitzpatrick, Charles Shope, John Harman, Robert Robertson and Michael Bryan. Three other persons present, Peter Branders, Robert Coleman and William K. Smith, escaped with but comparatively slight injuries. As soon as the explosion occurred the operatives rushed out of the building, several of them with their clothes afire. One or two ran into the river, and extinguished the fire, others ran into the vacant space north of the building, where persons went to their relief and stripped them of their burning garments. Two or three, whose names we could not learn, were so disfigured and burnt by the explosion, as to be unrecognizable at the time, and it is believed that at least one of the number must have lost his eyesight, but we found it impossible to ascertain the facts, as the sufferers were immediately conveyed home, or elsewhere.
The report of the explosion alarmed the women and girls - several hundred in number - employed in the adjoining building in making cartridges, and they fled from the premises in wild dismay and confusion. It is fortunate, indeed, that none of them were crippled by the sudden exodus. The building in which the explosion occurred was but slightly damaged - a few panes of glass broken by the extent of the injury.
The bells promptly sounded the alarm of fire, and the brigade arrived in good time at the locality, but fortunately their services were not required.