Col. John L. Burleigh was not "apocryphal."
submitted by Wystan Stevens
While I was doing a Google search on John L. Burleigh, I noticed an item about him in the online pages of Stanley Wertheim's A Stephen Crane Encyclopedia (1997), where he is referenced (p. 43) as being "probably an apocryphal character invented by Elbert Hubbard." Nay, it is not so.
Col. John L. Burleigh got his law degree, and his start in politics, in my home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Early histories of this area contain references to his activities, especially as the founder in 1878 of a weekly newspaper, the Ann Arbor Democrat. Two years later, it was noted that Burleigh had sold out his interest in that publication to a business partner and left to seek opportunities in Chicago. From Chicago he evidently migrated to New York. The New York Times on January 9, 1895, posted a reference to him as an attorney practicing in NYC:
A Washtenaw County (Michigan) history notes that Burleigh had been an alderman in Brooklyn. Burleigh's death notice (no obit, alas) appeared in the NYT on May 10, 1909, a day after his demise. His death notice in the New York Tribune (again, no obit) stated that the funeral would be held on May 11 at the Church of the Redeemer, in Brooklyn.
In 1877, Burleigh participated in ceremonies at the laying of the cornerstone of the Washtenaw County Courthouse in Ann Arbor (1881 History of Washtenaw County, p. 346).
Discussing his newspaper, the 1881 History of Washtenaw County called Burleigh "a writer of some merit" (p. 568).
The 1881 History of Washtenaw County contains a biographical sketch of Burleigh, which notes his birth in 1842, his military service in the Civil War, his law degree from Michigan, his term in the Michigan Senate, and his 1880 removal to Chicago for business reasons (pp. 569-70):
Burleigh was president of the Ann Arbor school board in 1878-79.
Samuel Willard Beakes, in his Past and Present of Washtenaw County, Michigan (1906), wrote (p.621) that when last heard from, Burleigh "was an alderman in Brooklyn, New York."
A portrait of Col. Burleigh appears in Louis W. Doll's History of the Newspapers of Ann Arbor (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1959.) Unfortunately, that work is not available online.
The fact that Burleigh was a real person should lend authority to his testimony, reported by Hubbard, that he was with Crane at Antietam -- and should reinforce Crane's claims as well.