The Evacuation Fire destroyed roughly 1,000 buildings. It spread from here to the James River, and from the foot of Gambles Hill east to beyond 14th Street.
The first tires were set by Confederate forces just after daybreak Monday April 3, 1865. Shockoe Warehouse at Shockoe Slip, and Public Warehouse on the site of Kanawha Plaza, were fired to destroy the tobacco. Railroad bridges and some private warehouses were also set on fire, but armed workers prevented the Tredegar Iron Works from being ignited.
The fires spread, partly by blown sparks and partly by mob action. Shockoe Slip, the Gallego Mills, and the commercial district around the Basin went up. The Arsenal caught fire around 8 am, and shells exploded every minute for hours. Thick smoke hung everywhere. Thousands took shelter in Capitol Square. An unknown number were killed.
As fire and mob raged, Union troops entered the city. A brigade of 4,500 soldiers worked to contain the spread of the fires and to restore order. By mid-afternoon the worst was over, but the fire burned throughout the day, and the ruins smoldered until June.
Six days later, on April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered at Appomattox.