Sunday, January 3, 202o 4:48.03PM
This is a book about sinners, for sinners, by quite a big sinner. You may not like it. You may even hate it, as some are sure to do. You may dislike the theme, for, though it introduces lovely people, it comes to grips with an unlovely subject. And solves its riddle. You may dislike the characters as they are limned in print, but not in real life. As they are all living, you may encounter them yourself someday, and discover their excellence. At least one will live on as an historic figure when this generation has merged with the ages. Perhaps many. Meanwhile, none can disprove the contents of this book or avoid its challenge. The story is true; the challenge is to you.
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Author: Captain A J Russell
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Captain A. J. Russell did not photograph celebrities, run fashionable photo galleries, or publish collections of his “views”; most histories of American photography can barely stretch his biographical data into a paragraph. His peers and superiors recognized the quality of his works, but as with other unassuming photographs of the Civil War, many of his pictures were later attributed to Brady. Yet he is unquestionably a major figure in 10th-century American photography, a pioneer in every sense: was one of the only two or three official Civil War photographers, perhaps the only one who was also a soldier; after the war he headed west to become the official photographer of the Union Pacific Railroad as it breached the frontier. Russell’s frontier photographs came to be better known than those he took as engineer-photographer with the elite Railroad Construction Corps, at-tached to General Grant’s Military Railroad. These early experiences in military photos, however, aside from their contribution to photo-technology development, prove Russell remarkable camera artist. Here, reproduced from one of the few surviving scrapbooks of his photographs, are 116 rare prints, many never before published, restoring largely not forgotten artist to an audience ready to appreciate him. Russell’s duty of the recording of the activities of the crucial Railroad Corps as it helped movement of Union Army through Virginia. At the same time, he witnessed and chronicled the campaigns of Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Brandy, and Alexandria, and was there to photograph Richmond in ruins. He documents not only tracks, bridges, depots, and engines of war, but surrounding scenes: Bull Run, Meade’s headquarters at Culpepper and Brandy, burying the dead after the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, Lee’s residence at Arlington, “Fort Hell” and “Fort Damnation,” Libby Prison in Richmond, Smithsonian Institution, the Capitol, a heretofore unseen photograph of Lincoln’s funeral car. The full-page
panoramas capture the wastage of war that so shocked the civilian publi; when first exposed to photographs of battles. There are also “aesthetic” shots, landscapes such as that as Great Falls on the Potomac, which offer relief. New captions and a Preface fill in historical, biographical, bibliographical, and photographic detail. This collection of views by a professional military photographer, perhaps the very first in his profession, is this archive of engineering triumph and human loss; students of the Civil War will discover views unseen in the standard works, while lovers of photography will rediscover in Russell an early master of the art.