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Three Fiery Pictures & a Poem

Battling City Fires

Fire image
This image comes from a book of 19th century clip art, but shows very well the domestic side of a city fire in New England. (


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Christmas Fire in Portsmouth, 1813

Fire image
This image appeared as the headline on the report of the Portsmouth fire of 1813 along with the poem that follows. It is likely a standard printer's plate, but still captures the drama of the event. (Portsmouth Athenaeum files)

Lines Composed on
The Unhappy Sufferers of PORTSMOUTH
By Anonymous (1813)

PREPARE my muse in mournful strain,
   And sorrowing language to recite,
The misery, the grief, the pain,
   And horrors of one fatal night,

Those streets that once were broad and fair,
   And struck the strangers gazing eye,
A dreadful heap of ruins are,
   And now in rude confusion lie,

Scarce had the evening shades begun,
   E'er the flames ranged fire and high,
The rattling engines furious run,
   And fire! Fire! Was the general cry,

The flames tumultuous raged around,
   And horror marks each troubled face
And ruin'd goods lie o'er the ground,
   And desolation covers all the place.

And who could view with placid eye,
   The mother and her infant dear,
From ruin and destruction fly.
   Without one tear.

And now amidst the frightful scene,
   Unnumber'd villians lurk,
Who nurtur'd in the school of vice,
   Begin the diabolic work.

Wretches, who never felt the glow,
   That makes the heard of virtue beat,
Will skulk to action mean and low,
   And plunder all they meet.

But worst of all the impious crew,
   The villain, he, whose direful hand,
Without the fear of God in view,
   First placed the all destructive brand.

Should he escape the vengeful laws,
   And miss his punishment a time,
Yet heaven will aid the righteous cause,
   And smite the villain for his crime.

And oh! let those who affluence bless,
   A portion of their wealth impart,
To raise the dropping in distress,
   And soothe the agonizing heart.

Full many a one that's robb'd of home,
   Depriv'd of house and bed,
Have been compell'd the streets to roam,
   Without a place to shield their head.

God grand that this unhappy town,
   Prosperity may bless,
And may they ne'er again behold,
   A scene of much distress.


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Fire in Portsmouth, NH?

Fire image
This picture is from the files of the Portsmouth Public Library. Although it is from the second half of the 19th century, it shows the devastation of a single building on the morning after. Currently, we do not know the year, the location or the photographer. If you know, send us an email. (Portsmouth Public Library)


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Site label
Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801 Email:

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