From the Richmond Dispatch, 1/28/1862, p. 2, c. 4
Terrible Explosion. - We regret that we have this morning another accident to record from the handling of materials of war, though so far as at present advised there is no loss of life. At quarter past 11 o'clock yesterday morning an explosion occurred at the Government Laboratory, at the foot of Seventh street, which, though not fatal, is very painful in its results. It appears that at the hour named there was an explosion of a very serious character, involving the serious injury of several human beings immediately in the vicinity. In the rear of the establishment, in what is generally known as the sea-coast ammunition room, a number of boys were sitting in a corner filling and ramming fuses. Probably from the fact that a vent was not properly secured the foul air got between the drift and the composition, and an explosion ensued, fearful in its effects, and quite destructive to property. Immediately after it occurred men were seen leaping from the windows, every one of which was completely shattered by the concussions, and the building itself was seen to be on fire from its effects. The boys who sat in the circle of some twelve feet square, surrounding the place of operation, were very badly burnt. One, named John Fitzgerald, was burnt about the face, and legs, and one eye seemed nearly gone. Others of the boys were injured nearly as bad; their names are Robert Coleman, Robert Robinson, Charles Shope, Michael Byron, John Harman, and Peter Branders. We are informed that one or two others are necessary to complete the list, but were unable to obtain names. Two of the boys ran in flames to the river and plunged in, and another ran up the street with every particle of clothes burnt off. At the time of the explosion they were driving fuse; yet strange to say, while a large quantity of fixed ammunition was close by, there was but little damage done to material except in the immediate neighborhood. - Boxes and kegs of Forseco's wooden fuses were close by, and numbers upon numbers of loaded bombs, and shrapnel shot, and all remained unharmed. The men of the establishment, after slightly recovering from their alarm, rushed for the water sources, and finding the building on fire, poured in bucket after bucket of water, and succeeded in extinguishing the flames. The magazine is situated within some six or eight feet of the house, and yet it was not injured in the least. It is, indeed, remarkable, considering the number of males and females who were working there at the time, and the large amount of explosive material all around, that the loss and suffering was so little.
The excitement in the neighborhood was intense. The spectacle of men and women rushing from the building was exceedingly exciting; but still we are gratified to state that the accident is by no means so great as at first reported.
It was this affair that occasioned the alarm of fire between eleven and twelve o'clock.