Old Asia Photography

China - Henry Andrea Burgevine (1836-1865) - Taiping Rebellion Commander

Ref: 01526

Harris, Thomas Bradley

​An important historical image of the American soldier and mercenary who fought for the Qing Army under Frederick Townsend Ward against the Taiping rebels in the early 1860s. According to Caleb Carr in his 1992 biography of Ward, The Devil Soldier, the only known likeness of Burgevine appeared as an engraving in Harper's Weekly in 1866. This photograph - which is signed by Burgevine on the reverse - is therefore of historical importance and may be the only surviving photographic likeness.​

According to Caleb Carr, Burgevine was the son of a French officer who had served under Napoleon and who had moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he became an instructor in French at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His father, after being dismissed having been dismissed for drunkeness by the President of the University, then died in a brawl in South Carolina. Burgevine then lived with his grandparents and sister in Ashford, North Carolina. At age 7 Burgevine moved to Washington, D.C. with his mother and became a Congressional and then a Senatorial page until 1853. After travels in India, Hawaii and Australia, he then returned to Washington and then enlisted in the French Army for the duration of the Crimean War, where he was decorated for bravery. In the early stages of the Taiping Rebellion he sided with the Qing Army, serving as the deputy commander of the Ever Victorious Army, and succeeding the commander, Frederick Townsend Ward following his death. Burgevine betrayed the Qing Dynasty by later defecting and joining Li Shixian's rebel army. He was later repatriated to the United States but he returned to China before reaching his destination. On his return the Qing police arrested him. In 1865 he drowned along with 10 Qing police in Xiamen's sea on the way to Shanghai, although some historians believed that Burgevine was murdered on Li Hongzhang's orders.

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