In 1861, during the Civil War, Confederates established an ordnance laboratory and complex on nearby Brown’s Island. Workers there, many of them women and children who were forced to find employment because of the economic disruption occasioned by the war, assembled cartridges and other ammunition. Despite Col. Josiah Gorgas’s stringent safety guidelines, on 13 Mar. 1863, worker Mary Ryan accidently ignited a friction primer, resulting in a massive explosion that destroyed the building. Richmond residents, responding to the “terrific report,” found a scene of horror, with many victims “burnt from head to toe.” Ryan, and at least 40 others, died from the explosion.
Year On Marker: 2012
Original Sponsor: Department of Historic Resources
Geographic Location: Richmond (City)
Physical Description of Location: 501 S 5th St., Richmond, VA 23219. Marker is located at northeast corner of S 5th Street and Tredegar Street.
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