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Terrific conflagration in Charleston, S. C.
the fire still raging.
Churches, public buildings, and private residences Levelled to the ground.
the Charleston Theatre entirely consumed.
appalling distress among the Inhabitants.
&c. &c. &c.

Branchville, S. C., Dec. 12.
--About nine o'clock last night the alarm rang out, calling upon the citizens of Charleston to quell the beginning of a fire, which, in the subsequent extent, and rapidity of its ruinous sweep, will compare with the most terrible conflagration which ever visited the American continent. Before ten o'clock the fire was raging at different points in the lower part of the city. The buildings in the neighborhood were mostly of wood: old, and closely built; and surrounded by small out-buildings, exceedingly inflammable in their character. As tenement after tenement was enveloped in the fast spreading flames, the panic became awful. Thousands of poor, bewildered families were driven, suddenly, from their homes, destitute even of their scanty effects.

Towards midnight the fire had assumed proportions of an appalling magnitude. The regiments at the Race Course came down at double quick to the burning wards, and cooperated most earnestly in the labors of the firemen.

From the precincts of Market, east of Bay and State streets, the conflagration had now reached Meeting and Queen streets.

The terror of families, in many cases without their protectors, owing to the military exigencies of the times, was very great.

Contiguous to the fire and even much further up into the city, the work of packing up valuables and getting ready to desert their homesteads became general, and it is impossible to give anything like a full account of the results of what will hereafter be known as ‘"the great fire of 1861."’

The fire begun in Russell & Co.'s sash and blind factory at the foot of Hazel street, and there are reports that it occurred in three places at the same time. Crossing to the other side of Hazel street, it has burned Cameron & Co.'s immense machine shops, and under the impulse acquired at that point, and the stiff breeze from the northeast, without a sufficient supply of water, it has become totally unmanageable and rages without the hope of being able to arrest it, except at certain points.

Eleven o'clock.--The out-buildings in the rear of Institute Hall have been set on fire by sparks or flakes of fire. The attention of the firemen have been directed thither, and they are straining every nerve to save Meeting street. The frame buildings on Queen street are smoking, and will presently blaze forth.

Twelve o'clock.--Meeting street, from Market to Queen, is one mass of flame. The Circular Church and Institute Hall are burning. The Mills House is thought to be in imminent danger, while the fire seems stretching around the Charleston Hotel. There has been a general desertion of both hotels by the guests, under the impression that they cannot be saved.

One o'clock.--The track of the conflagration begins to be clearly defined. Leaving Church street, on which no block excepting that next to Market has been burned, the fire is steadily pursuing its southward course towards the corner of Archdale and Queen streets.--About a half an hour ago a drizzling rain began failing, which may perhaps dampen the tops of wooden houses exposed to damage from the sparks. The people now under stand how far the fire has extended. Furniture is being removed from buildings as far up as Massie street.

Two o'clock.--At this hour the fire is still raging with violence, and has scarcely been abated. A splendid effort was made by the fire companies to save the house of L. W. Spratt, Esq., on East Bay, which was successful, and with it were saved the fine line of buildings on Hazel street, the fate of which depended on that result. Passing to the southwestward, the fire has swept the entire track to the rear of the Charleston Hotel, and to the end of the Hayne street range. There are no buildings north of Market street. None of the Hayne street stores are still standing, except, perhaps, those of Henry Gerdes and the Misses Pickney.

Crossing Market street, the fire has extended down East Bay to Cumberland street, and thence across to the Mills House, taking in its way the Circular Church, Institute Hall, the Charleston Hotel, and all the buildings upon King street, from Clifford street to within a few doors of Broad street Crossing King st., the flames are approaching the rear of the Cathedral, the Unitarian and the English Lutheran Churches. Whether it will cross the area covered by these Churches, or pass the Mills House, down Meeting street, is still uncertain. The Fire Department is making incredible exertions, and the men are apparently nearly exhausted, but are springing to each occasion with renewed vigor, and such exhibitions of courage and endurance have rarely been witnessed.

Three o'clock.--The steeple of the Circular Church has just toppled and fallen with a heavy crash.

General Ripley, who is moving to and fro, superintending the movements of the troops with characteristic energy, ordered, several hours ago, that several buildings in the track of the conflagration be blown up. The execution of this order, delayed at first, has at length been accomplished. Ever and anon, during the past hour, the explosions have rent the air in the lower part of the city.

The fire has done its work in thorough style. Its path is now burned out, and nothing now remains to mark where it has passed but smouldering piles of cinders and gaunt, and smoking walls and chimneys.

The Charleston Hotel is safe, and Hayne street, also. The wind has swept the danger off further to the south; although the fire rages on three sides of the Mills House.--That fine structure has not caught.

The Theatre, Lloyd's coach factory, (opposite the Express office,) the old Executive building, and all the houses between that point and Queen street, have been burnt.

The fire seems to be making advances towards the jail. Companies of the Reserves have been ordered out to repress any possible disturbance among the prisoners confined in that building. The wind has abated somewhat.

Four o'clock.--A change in the course of the wind has bent the course of the fire towards Broad street. The Lutheran and Unitarian churches are now considered safe.

The Cathedral seems now to be in exceeding danger. The buildings on the west side of Friend street, near the corner of Queen street, are burning fiercely. St. Andrew's Hall is on fire, and the noble spire of St. Finebar glistens with a splendor of portentous import. The occupants of houses on Broad street, beyond King, are moving their effects.

Quarter-past five o'clock.--As the clock of St. Michael's tells the quarter, the Cathedral steeple has fallen with a tremendous crash, and the Cathedral is burning furiously; likewise St. Andrew's Hall — in fact, the whole of Broad street is on fire, from Mr. Gadsden's residence to Mazyck street. The residences of Messrs. Geo. M. Coffin, James L. Pottigru, and others, near by, are consumed. The flames have now crossed Broad street, and the wind has not lulled. It is impossible to say where they will stop, short of the river.

There does not appear to be any imminent danger of the fire again making any headway either in the right or to the left of the it has eleven through the city from First Bay in King street. But the need of the conflagration is still fearful to look upon. and is pushing forward with great strides now.

Great, indeed, has been the calamity which has fallen upon our noble city; but let us, with smiling hope and courage, bestir ourselves at once to amend the losses we have sustained, and relieve each one, according to his means, of the great sufferings which the fire must entail upon its poor victims.

The above report is taken from the account of the fire which appeared in the Charleston Mercury of this morning.

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