Bennet Burleigh

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Bennet Burleigh in 1898

Bennet Graham Burley (1840 – 1914) was a Scottish-born pirate, Confederate spy and journalist. Later in life, he changed his surname to Burleigh and became a celebrated war correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.[1]

Born in Glasgow, he began work as a shipping clerk at the age of 20. Shortly afterwards, he was forced to marry one of the family's servants after getting her pregnant. Burley left for North America with another clerk to take part in the American Civil War. He joined the Confederates, disrupting Union ship traffic.[2] Burley was captured in May 1864 but escaped a month later. He took part in a raid on Lake Erie in September 1864 led by John Yates Beall. Burley had convinced a Canadian cousin in Guelph, Adam Robertson, to manufacture munitions for use in that raid. He returned to Guelph but was later captured and extradited to the United States. The jury deadlocked at his first trial and he was returned to jail to await a second trial. Burley was able to escape to Canada and returned to Scotland. At this point, he changed his name to Bennet Burleigh.[1]

Burleigh's grave in Brookwood Cemetery

In 1881, Burleigh was hired by the London Telegraph to cover the war in Sudan.[2] He was a correspondent for the Central News Agency during the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882.[3] Burleigh was the first to report the failure of the Gordon relief expedition, which led to the slaughter of the Khartoum garrison.[2] He also covered the Boer War[2] and the Russo-Japanese War. He authored several books on his experiences reporting on conflict.[4]

Burleigh ran unsuccessfully several times for Glasgow seats in the British parliament.[4]

He died in London in 1914[1] and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

Burleigh is thought by some to be a model for the correspondent Gilbert Torpenhow in Rudyard Kipling's The Light that Failed.[3]


  • Khartoum Campaign 1898: or the Reconquest of the Soudan, 1899[5]
  • The Natal Campaign, 1900[6]
  • Empire of the East; or, Japan and Russia at war, 1904-5, 1905[7]
  • Greaves, Graeden: Wild Bennet Burleigh: The Pen and the Pistol. 2012


  1. ^ a b c Chardavoyne, David Gardner (2012). United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. pp. 83–84. ISBN 0814337201.
  2. ^ a b c d "Bennet Burleigh: the wild man of the Victorian press". The Telegraph. 25 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b "The Light that failed". Kipling Socienyt.
  4. ^ a b Duffey, James E (2007). Victim of Honor: The Story of John Yates Beall and the Northwestern Conspiracy. p. 266. ISBN 0979096308.
  5. ^ Burleigh, Bennet. Khartoum Campaign, 1898.
  6. ^ Burleigh, Bennet (1900). The Natal Campaign.
  7. ^ Burleigh, Bennet (1905). Empire of the East; or, Japan and Russia at war, 1904-5.

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