Andrew J. Russell
Biography | Bibliography
Andrew J. Russell was born 20 March 1829 in Walpole, New Hampshire, the son of Harriet (née Robinson) and Joseph Russell. He was raised in Nunda, New York. He took an early interest in painting and executed portraits and landscapes for family members and for local public figures.
During the first two years of the Civil War, Russell painted a diorama used to recruit soldiers for the Union Army. On 22 August 1862, he volunteered at Elmira, New York, mustering in the following month as Captain in Company F, 141st New York Volunteer Regiment. In February 1863, Russell took an interest in photography and paid civilian photographer Egbert Guy Fowx $300 to teach him collodion wet-plate process. Fowx was a freelance photographer who worked both for Mathew Brady and for the War Department.
Russell took his first negatives with a camera he borrowed from Fowx and Colonel Herman Haupt used photographs printed from the negatives to illustrate his reports. Haupt arranged to have Russell detached from his regiment on March 1, 1863, Russell photographed for the United States Military Railroad and the Quartermaster Departments until he mustered out in September 1865. He was the only military officer to photograph for the War Department during the Civil War. He is perhaps best known for “Confederate dead Behind the Stone Wall” taken during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863.
Russell photographed construction of the Union Pacific Railway Company in Wyoming and Utah Territories during 1868 and over the winter he published The Great West Illustrated, an album of 50 photographs. In 1869 he returned to Utah Territory to photograph the completion of the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 at Promontory, Utah Territory. Before he returned to New York at the end of 1869, he traveled to California to photograph locations on the Central Pacific Railroad.
On 17 October 1850, Russell married Catherine Adelia Duryee, daughter of Lanah (née Conklin) and William Reynex Duryee. The couple had two daughters, Cora Phillips and Harriet M. Russell. Russell’s fragmented family life is evidenced by the fact that he does not appear with them on any census record, save in 1860. His wife and daughters made their home in Minnesota and Illinois. Russell established a design studio in New York, worked for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and lived on Logan Street in Brooklyn, New York, where he died, 22 September 1902.
F. V. Hayden, Sun pictures of Rocky Mountain scenery, New York, J. Bien, 1870.
Thomas Weston Fels, Destruction and destiny : the photographs of A.J. Russell : directing American energy in war and peace, 1862-1869, Pittsfield, Mass. (39 South St., Pittsfield 01201) : Berkshire Museum, 1987.
Barry B. Combs, Westward to Promontory; building the Union Pacific across the plains and mountains; a pictorial documentary, Palo Alto, Calif., American West Pub. Co. 1969.
Andrew J. Russell, Russell’s Civil War photographs : 116 historic prints, New York : Dover Publications, ca. 1982.