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Remains of Wreck on the Track
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Andrew Joseph Russell
American, about 1862
Albumen print
8 1/4 x 13 1/8 in.
85.XM.6.4

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The Rapidan, a steam locomotive used by the Union Army, moves two engines wrecked by Confederate forces to Alexandria, Virginia, for repair. The Civil War was the first North American conflict to be documented by photographers. This image demonstrates that the new medium elicited a great deal of attention from soldiers, who assembled in front and on top of the train in order to be included in the photograph. The invention and popular spread of photography coincided with the invention and expansion of the railroad in the mid-1800s; each played a significant role in the American Civil War. Railroads were vital for the Union and Confederate armies, who used them to move provisions and weaponry. If one army could destroy the other's engines or rails, it could seriously disable the opposing forces and potentially gain the upper hand in the conflict..