Born in Washington, D.C., Burlingame attended Phillips Academy, Andover. As a freshman at Princeton University, he enrolled in the Civil War course taught by the eminent Lincolnian David Herbert Donald, who took him under his wing as a research assistant. When Donald moved to Johns Hopkins University, Burlingame followed him upon his graduation from Princeton. Burlingame received his Ph.D. in 1968 from Johns Hopkins University and joined the history department at Connecticut College in New London, where he taught until retiring in 2001 as the Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus. He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2009. Burlingame is the author of "The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln" (University of Illinois Press, 1994) and has edited volumes of Lincoln primary source materials. Burlingame has received the Abraham Lincoln Association Book Prize (1996), Lincoln Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University (1998) and an Honorable Mention for the Lincoln Prize (2001). He was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 2009.
The Faculty Resource Center was formerly known as the Lehrman American Studies Resource Center.