Burchard, Peter Duncan 1921-

views updated

BURCHARD, Peter Duncan 1921-

PERSONAL: Born March 1, 1921, in Washington, DC; son of Russell Duncan (a lawyer) and Ethel (Brokaw) Burchard; married Elizabeth Chamberlain, March 23, 1945 (marriage ended); married Lucy Edwards (marriage ended); married Linda Wemyss Carman (marriage ended); children: (first marriage) Lee, Peter Jr., Laura. Education: Philadelphia Museum School of Art, graduate, 1947. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing, tennis, skiing.

ADDRESSES: Home—118 Church St., Apt. 0-2, Williamstown, MA 01267.

CAREER: Freelance illustrator, 1947—, writer, 1956—, and photographer, 1975—. Member of panel of advisers, George Polk awards, 1983—. Exhibitions:Author's work was exhibited at the Anne Fuller Gallery, 1978. Military service: U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1943-46, convoy duty, North Atlantic.

MEMBER: International PEN.

AWARDS, HONORS: Boys Club of America Award, 1955, for illustrating Squanto: Friend of the White Man; Nancy Bloch Award, 1963, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1964, both for illustrating Roosevelt Grady; Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1966, for Jed: The Story of a Yankee Soldier and a Southern Boy; Guggenheim fellowship, 1966; Bimby named to Horn Book honor list, 1968; Christopher Award, 1972, for illustrating Pocahontas and the Strangers; Western Writers Award, 1975, for photographs illustrating Ride 'Em Cowgirl; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 1978, for illustrating Night Spell; Parents' Choice Award, 2003, for Frederick Douglass: For the Great Family of Man.


(And illustrator) The River Queen, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1957.

(And illustrator) The Carol Moran, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1958.

(And illustrator) Balloons: From Paper Bags to Skyhooks, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1960.

(And illustrator) Jed: The Story of a Yankee Soldier and a Southern Boy, Coward (New York, NY), 1960.

North by Night, Coward (New York, NY), 1962.

One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His BraveBlack Regiment, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1965, published as Glory, 1989.

Stranded: A Story of New York in 1875, Coward (New York, NY), 1967.

(And illustrator) Bimby, Coward (New York, NY), 1968.

Chito, illustrated with photographs by Katrina Thomas, Coward (New York, NY), 1969.

Pioneers of Flight: From Early Times to the WrightBrothers, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1970.

(And illustrator) Rat Hell, Coward (New York, NY), 1971.

A Quiet Place, Coward (New York, NY), 1972.

The Deserter: A Spy Story of the Civil War, Coward (New York, NY), 1973.

Harbor Tug, Putnam (New York, NY), 1974.

(And illustrator) Whaleboat Raid, Coward (New York, NY), 1977.

(And photographer) Ocean Race: A Sea Venture, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.

(And illustrator) Chinwe, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979.

Digger, Putnam (New York, NY), 1980.

First Affair, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1981.

(And illustrator) Sea Change, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1984.

(And photographer) Venturing: An Introduction to Sailing, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1986.

"We'll Stand by the Union": Robert Gould Shaw and the Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1993.

Charlotte Forten: A Black Teacher in the Civil War (biography), Crown (New York, NY), 1995.

Lincoln and Slavery, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.

Frederick Douglass: For the Great Family of Man, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor of stories, articles, and reviews to magazines, including Boy's Life, Interplay, and Connoisseur.

Burchard's work is included in the Kerlin Collection.


Marie McSwigan, Our Town Has a Circus, Dutton (New York, NY), 1949.

Franklin Folsom, The Baby Elephant, Wonder Books (New York, NY), 1950.

Phyllis Rowand, The Cats Who Stayed for Dinner, Wonder Books (New York, NY), 1951.

Virginia Haviland, William Penn, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1952.

Hildreth T. Wriston, Show Lamb, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1953.

Clyde Robert Bulla, Down the Mississippi, Crowell (New York, NY), 1954.

Grace Tracy Johnson and Harold N. Johnson, CourageWins, Dutton (New York, NY), 1954.

Clyde Robert Bulla, Squanto: Friend of the WhiteMan, Crowell (New York, NY), 1954, published as Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims, 1969.

Margaret Glover Otto, Tiny Man, Holt (New York, NY), 1955.

Alf Evers, Treasure of Watchdog Mountain, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1955.

Marian Cumming, Clan Texas, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1955.

William L. Brown and Rosalie Moore, The Boy WhoGot Mailed, Coward (New York, NY), 1957.

Harold Keith, Rifles for Watie, Crowell (New York, NY), 1957.

Clyde Robert Bulla, Pirate's Promise, Crowell (New York, NY), 1958.

Wilma Pitchford Hays, The Fourth of July Raid, Coward (New York, NY), 1959.

Wilma Pitchford Hays, Easter Fires, Coward (New York, NY), 1960.

Louisa R. Shotwell, Roosevelt Grady, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1963.

Earl S. Miers, Pirate Chase, Holt (New York, NY), 1965.

Peggy Mann, The Street of Flower Boxes, Coward (New York, NY), 1966.

Lonzo Anderson, Zeb, Knopf (New York, NY), 1966.

Clyde Robert Bulla, Pocahontas and the Strangers, Crowell (New York, NY), 1971.

Lynn Haney, Ride 'Em Cowgirl, Putnam (New York, NY), 1975.

Robert Newman, Night Spell, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1977.

Illustrator of many other books.

ADAPTATIONS: One Gallant Rush, re-released as Glory, together with Lincoln Kirstein's Lay This Laurel, served as a historical source for the film Glory, released by TriStar Pictures in 1989, which won three Academy Awards.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Paper Shoes, a novel for adults.

SIDELIGHTS: Author and illustrator Peter Duncan Burchard's long-time interests in both American history and maritime history are reflected in his many books for young readers. The U.S. Civil War in particular has been the focus of many of Duncan's most popular nonfiction titles, among them One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment and Lincoln and Slavery, as well as several works of fiction.

Burchard was born in 1921, in Washington, D.C., where his father worked as a lawyer for the federal government. Raised in New Jersey, he developed a pronounced stutter as a child. Noting that "difficulties aren't always leaden weights around the necks of sufferers," Burchard declared in an essay for Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS): "In compensating for my handicap, I triumphed in other ways." In his teens Burchard became a track star as well as a first-string halfback on his school's football team. Later, while attending a Connecticut boarding school, he continued to be a top athlete. As the novelist recalled: "My speech impediment kept me from becoming arrogant. It was, as one of my friends chose to put it, 'a great leveller.'"

Burchard's early interest in art was encouraged by his father, an amateur artist. "In our house," Burchard wrote in SAAS, "my father set aside a room where he put up an easel and sometimes, as he worked on a painting, I sat close to him and did crayon drawings, most of them of fire engines rushing toward a blazing building." During his boarding school years he benefitted from the encouragement of teacher Paul Child, who suggested that Burchard study at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, now called the University of the Arts.

When the United States entered World War II, Burchard had just begun his sophomore year at the Museum School of Art but in 1942 he decided to leave school temporarily and serve his country. Because his speech impediment initially disqualified him for military service, Burchard got a job as a draftsman, "doing detail and perspective drawings for designers of a cargo plane to be built for the Navy," as he explained in SAAS. In 1943 he was accepted by the U.S. Army and, after basic training in New Orleans, became a Signal Corps maritime radio operator assigned to the troop transport Sea Robin. He also contributed illustrations to Yank magazine. "Since childhood, I had loved the seashore—shallow waters, bright beaches, sounding waves," Burchard recalled, and the eighteen transatlantic crossings he made during the war instilled in him a love of deep water voyages. He later crewed on an ocean racing boat.

In March 1946 Burchard married Betsy Chamberlain; a month later he was discharged from the army. After spending six months working on perspective drawings for a classified Navy project, he resumed his education at the Museum School of Art and earned his certificate in 1947. With his wife and their first child, Burchard moved to Rockland County, New York, and worked as a freelance children's book illustrator. After illustrating numerous books for other authors, he began writing his own books in 1958. The River Queen, his first self-penned work, is about a New Orleans river boat. Burchard's first YA historical fiction was published two years later, in 1960.

In 1959 Burchard's elderly mother gave him some papers that had once belonged to her father, who in 1861, at age sixteen, had joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. The letters and diaries written during his grandfather's stint in the Union Army inspired Burchard to write Jed: The Story of a Yankee Soldier and a Southern Boy. The first of several books Burchard would write about the Civil War, Jed quickly won recognition from critics and encouraged its author to continue along those lines. His next book about the Civil War, North by Night, begins in South Carolina's Sea Islands and involves a battle at the Confederate-controlled Fort Wagner. Rat Hell, another work of fiction focusing on the war, is the story of an escape from a Civil War military prison.

Burchard's family connection to the war between the states ultimately inspired his best-known and most popular book. Published in 1965, One Gallant Rush: Robert Gould Shaw and His Brave Black Regiment focuses on the heroism of the Massachusetts 54th, the Union's first black regiment, which led an attack on Fort Wagner under the command of wealthy, white, Harvard-educated Colonel Shaw. The book was popular with critics and eventually inspired film producer Freddie Fields to make the 1989 motion picture Glory. In 1993 Burchard again made Shaw the focus of his writing in "We'll Stand by the Union": Robert Gould Shaw and the Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan noted "includes a history of the regiment after his [Shaw's] death and assesses the impact of black soldiers on the course of the war." While detailing the history of the 54th, "We'll Stand by the Union" is primarily a biography of Shaw, a man who, according to Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Sherry Hoy, "began with prejudices of his own, expressing astonishment 'at the general intelligence these darkies display'" and whose life "provides an interesting study in contrasts." Noted Burchard in SAAS: "I am happy to have played a minor role in the restructuring of the history of our country, to have helped give Robert Gould Shaw and his officers and men the prominence they deserve."

Other works of biography that focus on mid-nineteenth-century America include Charlotte Forten: A Black Teacher in the Civil War and Frederick Douglass: For the Great Family of Man, a biographical account of the slave-turned-abolitionist whose memoirs serve as the basis of Burchard's account. Lincoln and Slavery examines the president's developing understanding of the conditions endured by African Americans, an understanding that did not evolve until Lincoln was in his thirties. Burchard takes an unusual position, according to a Horn Book reviewer: "That Lincoln's ignorance about African Americans . . . for most of his early life led him to make decisions and take actions" that stand in stark contrast to his eventual anti-slavery stance. The Horn Book reviewer praised the readability of Lincoln and Slavery, adding that Burchard fills his book with "descriptions of specific incidents, quotations, and anecdotes that add color and detail." Under Burchard's pen Lincoln "emerges as a real human being with some flaws," according to a Kirkus reviewer, "but also with enormous maturity, wisdom, and compassion."

In addition to mining the U.S. Civil War for topics of interest to young readers, Burchard has found book ideas in other areas. Bimby, published in 1968, tells the story of a young black boy born into slavery who is driven to escape. Whaleboat Raid, published in 1977, is about the Revolutionary War, and is based on an episode that took place in 1777. 1979's Chinwe is about a young African woman who is captured and put aboard a slave ship bound for Cuba. Chinwe and her fellow captives stage a successful mutiny, but in the end spend their lives in slavery in America. 1984's Sea Change focuses on how three teenagers living in different eras of the twentieth century who each deal with the transition from child to adult.

Burchard has also written two books about sailing. Living near the ocean for much of his adult life, he began ocean racing in 1976, and has crewed in over twenty major races. His first sailing book, 1978's Ocean Race, has been followed by Venturing: An Introduction to Sailing, published in 1986. In addition to communicating Burchard's passion for the sea, Venturing provides novice sailors with advice on sail handling, helmsmanship, and basic navigation skills.



Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 13, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990, pp. 55-70.


Booklist, February 15, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of "We'll Stand by the Union": Robert Gould Shaw and the Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, pp. 1068-1069.

Book Report, September-October, 1995, Brenda B. Little, review of Charlotte Forten: A Black Teacher in the Civil War, p. 47.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1995, Elizabeth Bush, review of Charlotte Forten, p. 266.

Horn Book, July, 1999, review of Lincon and Slavery, p. 480.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1999, review of Lincoln andSlavery, p. 797; November 15, 2002, review of Frederick Douglass: For the Great Family of Man, p. 1688.

School Library Journal, September, 1995, Gerry Larson, review of Charlotte Forten, p. 205; July, 1999, Mary Mueller, review of Lincoln and Slavery, p. 104.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1994, Sherry Hoy, review of "We'll Stand by the Union," p. 105.

About this article

Burchard, Peter Duncan 1921-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article