About midnight of the 16th, the cry of " Fire!", was suddenly heard in the streets. Far off in the east of the kremlin, immense volumes of smoke and flame were rolling up into the stormy sky. Loud explosions of bursting shells and upheaving mines scattered death and dismay around. The flames spread in all directions. Mines were sprung, shells burst, cannons discharged, wagons of powder and magazines blew up, and in a few hours of indescribable confusion and terror, the whole vast city was wrapped in an ocean of flame. The French soldiers shot the incendiaries, bayoneted them, tossed them into the fire; but still, like demons, they plied their work. Napoleon awoke early in the morning, and, looking out upon the flames which were now sweeping through all parts of the city, exclaimed: " What a frightful spectacle ! such a number of palaces !—the people are genuine Scythians." During the whole of the 17th and the ensuing night the fire continued to rage, and at last reached the kremli n, forcing Napoleon to retire to the castle of Petrowski, about three miles distant; but the flames abating on the 19th, he returned and occupied that portion of the kremlin which yet remained uninjured.
Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855