The wreck of the Commodore, seen here lying on its side like a toy thrown aside by a temperamental child, was one of innumerable Civil War disasters. Confederate forces regularly tore up railroad tracks in their efforts to impede the movements of the Union Army. To the left of the image, behind the derailed engine, a number of figures stand about, probably assessing the damage.
The American Civil War holds the distinction of being the first war that was routinely photographed, but such record-keeping was not limited to documenting battlefields. Andrew Joseph Russell photographed many train wrecks and other war-related scenes.