Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/275

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way and the work of plundering began. A major from Lynchburg attempted to stop it, but he was soon glad to be able to retreat. Soon wagons, carts, wheelbarrows and every other conceivable means of removing the coveted supplies were pressed into service; women and children staggered under loads impossible under other circumstances for them to carry. But this scene was speedily put to an end in an unexpected and fatal manner. Near two of the largest warehouses the Confederate Ordnance Department had stored a large amount of loaded shells and a large amount of powder.

As I stated before, a large number of stragglers were in town, and we had been asked to send them as far as possible in the direction of Greensboro'. The train was partially loaded, and nearly ready to start. They had broken into the powder house, and many of them were carrying off quantities of it others still lingered around. Many of the town boys, both white and black, were securing their share of the ammunition. Suddenly a deafening sound was heard, shells flew through the air, and bodies of men and boys, and frag- ments of limbs were scattered in all directions. I was standing about 300 yards from the wreck of the building, when a piece of shell weighing six pounds, passed between the superintendent and myself, Had it deviated twelve inches either way, one of us would have been killed. The wreck took fire. This heated the shells, and for six hours the bombardment, as it were, continued. The stragglers and women did not grasp the situation, and the cry was raised: " The Yankees are firing into us," and within thirty minutes not a strag- gler could be found in Danville. Many had dropped their plunder in the hurried flight, thinking only to get out of the way of the sup- posed Yankees. Soon we went to the scene of slaughter to assist any needy survivor. The first we met was a well known citizen of Dan- ville. In his arms he bore the mangled remains of his only son, a bright lad of fourteen, whom I had talked to not an hour before. We had two colored boys, twins, about fourteen years old, both bright youngsters, and liked by all. We found Tom fatally injured. We raised him tenderly to take him to the hospital near by. He said: "Jim is there." We found his remains, but he was spared the agony Tom had to endure before death relieved him. The ex- plosion was caused by a soldier dropping a match, and fifty lives were sacrificed through that carelessness.

Most of our trainmen and engineers had lived in Richmond, their families were there, they had not been able to move them the day of the evacuation; the men had been gradually leaving us, and all