Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 110 / Number 4
"Richmond Again Taken": Reappraising the Brady Legend through Photographs by Andrew J. Russell
- Susan E. Williams, pp. 437–60
Mathew B. Brady is known for being responsible for most photographs taken during the Civil War. A self-published
catalog and newspaper interviews are given as evidence that Brady actually photographed in the field and directed a large
corps of photographers. Thousands of negatives taken during the Civil War housed at the National Archives and Library
of Congress are credited to him or to his men.
This generally held belief is discredited by the 132 photographs found in an album in the collections of the Virginia
Historical Society. Its creator, Andrew J. Russell, was a captain in the Union Army who was detached as government
photographer in March 1863. Many of his original album prints match or are very similar to the National Archives and
Library of Congress negatives attributed to Brady. Was Brady responsible for the photographs or was Russell?
The comparison of prints to negatives authenticates the Virginia Historical Society photographs as Russell's work
and establishes the album as a primary source document of the war. His photographs give an insider's view of the
technology, infrastructure, and transportation systems employed by the Railroad and Quartermaster Departments
to move troops into battle; supply food, clothes, forage, shelter, guns, and ammunition; house the wounded; and
bury the dead. The comparison also dispels the Brady myth by identifying Egbert Guy Fowx and Thomas C.
Roche as Brady's cameramen. Brady was an entrepreneur and publicist who did not operate a camera in the
field during the war. He hired Fowx and Roche and advertised their work as his own when he came to Richmond
in mid-April 1865.