War of the Rebellion: Serial 021 Page 0631 Chapter XXVII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

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in the basement of the tower, situated in the southeasterly corner, which was used for the preparation of rations for the persons in charge.

The origin of the fire. - To ascertain this we examined those who were permanently in the building and those who visited it late Sunday afternoon, December 28, just before the discovery of the fire, and experts who had full knowledge of the causes of fire. We found that very few persons had visited the premises during the day and those few were exclusively officers.

It was the testimony of the officer of the guard in charge, as well as several other officers who went through the rear portion of the building between 3 and 4 o'clock p.m. that there was no appearance of fire inside as late as 3.30. The fire was discovered simultaneously by three commissioned officers, one of whom was the officer of the guard, who was approaching the building from the street when he saw smoke issuing from the southeastern corner of the roof near the tower. He started an alarm and then immediate provision for the security of the prisoners. A lieutenant, who had been upon the roof between 3 and 4 o'clock, had noticed smoke near the edge of the roof which connects with the southeastern tower, but supposed that it came from the chimney. In descending he saw no indication of fire in the senate chamber, which he visited. While inside he heard a ticking sound and rattling, and on looking up where he had previously seen the smoke he was then convinced that the building was on fire. He and an officer with him directed a private to go inside and notify the officer, while they went to their camp for assistance. Another lieutenant, about the grounds at the same time and in the same place, noticed the outbreak.

Every one who saw the initiation of the conflagration without any discrepancy or conflict of evidence, established the same locality of commencement, and that locality in the wood work that joins with the brick wall of the southeastern tower. It was from that spot that the smoke was first seen, and the first outbreak of flames was in the ceiling of the roof in connection with it. This proves that the cause of the fire must have been from a defect in the flue. The building has, in the nature of things, been much neglected for a great length of time. Its chimneys must necessarily have been exceedingly foul for want of care and cleansing. The wall of the tower, as near as we could judge, was not far from 2 feet in thickness. The aperture of the chimney occupied nearly a foot; all the flues from the grates in this section of the building lead into it. The direction of the flues bear to the left in ascending to clear the passage-ways from the building to the tower, and the outlet, as far as we could determine, was in the vicinity of the spot where the fire was discovered. The rafters supporting the roof were inserted into the wall of the tower near the flue, and the ends could not have been more than 6 inches from it.s

There was a fire in the basement, and if there was any imperfection in the flue ignition would be a natural consequence; it would be inevitable. The building could not have been fired within the tower, as the door leading from the senate chamber into it was locked, and, when broken open after the beginning of the fire, no signs of fire were discernible. It could not have originated from the roof by accident, such as the dropping of a lighted match or cigar, because the roof was protected by slate in a thorough manner; and it could not have been the act of an incendiary, for it is absurd to suppose that any person intending to fire the building would have omitted to do so in the numerous secluded rooms, which were filled with paper and combustible matter, where the work could have been accomplished in an instant and gone