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End of the Bridge after Burnside's Attack, Fredericksburg, Virginia

End of the Bridge after Burnside's Attack, Fredericksburg, Virginia

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description

Summary

Likely made in April 1863 during a truce just before the Battle of Chancellorsville, this view from the buttress of a ruined railroad bridge spanning the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg documents a small group of Confederate soldiers and civilians. They stare across the divide at their fellow combatants and pose for the camera. Russell’s long focal-length lens compressed foreground and background elements, suggesting that the two sides were actually closer than they were. It is the only known landscape view or portrait by a Union photographer showing the enemy neither dead, incarcerated, or under visible military control.
Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830–1902)

Hundreds of photographers whose names may never be known made their living following the armies during the Civil War. They worked out in the field tents and traveled at a moment’s notice. Photographers recorded the faces of tens of thousands of soldiers: new recruits and veterans—producing a vast likeness of American society. Many Civil War photographers began their careers as apprentices to Mathew B. Brady, America's self-appointed photographic "historian." Initially, a small corps of photographers copied maps and charts for the Union's Secret Service, which were distributed as photographic prints to both field and division commanders. During the Civil War, most photographers worked with the collodion-on-glass negatives, which required delicate and laborious procedures even in the studio. When the photographer was ready for action, a sheet of glass was cleaned, coated with collodion, partially dried, dipped carefully into a bath containing nitrate of silver, then exposed in the camera for several seconds and processed in the field darkroom tent--all before the silver collodion mixture had dried. Given the danger of their situation and the technical difficulty of their task, front-line photographers rarely if ever attempted action scenes. Civil War photographers produced vast photographic documentation of the Civil War. Despite decades of painstaking research by dedicated historians and Civil War buffs, a large number of the era's photographs remain unidentified.

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Date

1863
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Source

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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