New Bridge over Potomac River. On the Washington, Alexandria and Georgetown Railroad. Total length 5,104 feet
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Andrew Joseph Russell
American, Virginia, July 1864
Albumen print
8 1/16 x 13 in.

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In 1863 Andrew Joseph Russell became the first member of the Union army officially assigned to photograph the Civil War. Unlike Mathew Brady's images of battlefields, most of Russell's photographs document engineering achievements. Russell worked in the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps under the direction of the engineer General Herman Haupt, photographing Haupt's numerous accomplishments in the construction and destruction of roads, railroad tracks, and bridges.

Though Russell intended simply to create a record of bridge construction, he did not limit himself to a mundane treatment of the subject. The two halves of the bridge frame the empty water between them like perfect perspectival lines, receding into the distance across the wide Potomac River.