Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brown's Island Munitions Explosion-- Part 2

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the explosion.

Mary Ryan, an Irish teenager, accepted the blame for the explosion during the several days she lingered in pain before dying.  She told Col. Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance for the Confederacy, that she had banged a perforated wooden board containing friction primers (for cannons) against a table to knock them loose.  This ignited at least one and set off the explosion that demolished most of the seventy-foot building.

There were between 80-100 workers in the building, mostly women, when the explosion took place.  The official count was 69 casualties, of which at least 44 died.

The March 14th Richmond Examiner reported: "No sooner was one helpless, unrecognizable mass of humanity removed before the piteous appeals of another would invoke the energy of the rescuers."

Only a few died instantly.  Others were blind, had the hair burned from their heads and clothing in shreds.  Some jumped into the river to extinguish flames.

For the next month, the death toll rose.  Mary Ryan, 18, died March 16th at the home of her father, Michael Ryan, who also worked in the arsenal.

A Sad Event on the Homefront.  --Old Secesh

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