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Part of Construction Corps Building New Military Truss Bridge Across Bull Run

Part of Construction Corps Building New Military Truss Bridge Across Bull Run

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description

Summary

In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Fowx left his portrait studio in Baltimore, Maryland, and joined Mathew Brady's corps of photo-graphers documenting the War Between the States. In 1863, along with many other cameramen, he would leave Brady's employ to work exclusively for Alexander Gardner, Brady's former studio manager. This photograph is typical of Fowx's wartime photographs and shows engineering repairs on the famous Orange & Alexandria Railroad bridge over Bull Run creek, near Union Mills, Virginia.In every war, the efficient movement of troops, ammunition, provisions, and information to the front lines is the responsibility of military tacticians working alongside military engineers. During the Civil War, the efficient operation of the railroads and the adept repair of bridges were of critical importance to both sides of the conflict. One of the many engineering innovations of the period was the use by the United States Military Railroad Construction Corps of portable bridge trusses that could be constructed in distant carpenter shops and shipped by train to wherever the army needed them. The Corps got much of its training at this Bull Run bridge, which was destroyed seven times during the war. The final destruction was not caused by the Confederates but by a particularly brutal springtime flood.
Egbert Guy Fowx (American, born 1821)

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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