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Significant Scots
Sir Archibald Campbell


CAMPBELL, SIR ARCHIBALD, Bart, G.C.B., &c, was a son of Archibald Campbell, lieutenant in the army, by his wife, Margaret, daughter of Captain James Small. Having taken up the military profession like a family inheritance, Archibald entered the army in 1787, with the rank of ensign, in consequence of having raised twenty recruits for the service. Early in the following year he embarked with his regiment, the 77th, for India, and was employed in active service in the successful campaign against Tippoo Sultaun, and upon the coast of Malabar in 1790. In the following year he rose to the rank of lieutenant and adjutant, and served in the campaigns of the Mysore and the first siege of Seringapatam. In 1795, he accompanied his regiment in the reduction of the Dutch garrison of Cochin and its dependencies on the coast of Malabar, and in 1799 he was employed in the successful enterprise that reduced the island of Ceylon. After various changes connected with these leading events in our Indian warfare, he served as major of brigade to the European brigade of the Bombay army in 1799, and was present at the battle of Saduceer, and the capture of Seringapatam. Having procured during this year, by purchase, the rank of captain in the 67th regiment, he exchanged into the 88th, that he might continue upon foreign service, as the last-mentioned corps had just arrived in India; but he was disappointed in his purpose by ill health, which cornpelled him, in 1801, to return home.

After having been employed in England chiefly in the recruiting service, and upon the staff of the southern district as major of brigade, he was subsequently appointed major in the 6th battalion of reserve, and was stationed in Guernsey till 1805, when he joined the 71st regiment, with which he continued in Scotland and Ireland until 1808: he then joined the 1st battalion on its embarkation for Portugal. Here Major Campbell saw service such as he had not witnessed in India, having been present in the battles of Rolica and Vimeira, as well as in the disastrous campaign in Spain under Sir John Moore, and the battle of Corunna. In February, 1809, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and appointed to assist Marshal Beresford in organizing and disciplining the Portuguese army. This was a service in which Colonel Campbell was associated with some of the best officers of the British army, and the value of their endeavours was well attested in the high state of efficiency to which the Portuguese soldiers were brought, and the important aid they rendered during the Peninsular war. In this auxiliary army Campbell rose to the rank of full colonel, and in 1811 to that of brigadier-general, and was present at the battles of Busaco, Albuera, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, the Nivelle, and the Nive, and several sieges, especially that of Badajos. After having thus passed through the brunt of the war in the peninsula and south of France, he was appointed to the rank of major-general by the Prince Regent of Portugal in 1813, and to the command of the Lisbon division of the Portuguese army in 1816. In this capacity he continued till 1820, when the revolution of Portugal restored him to the service of his own country. He had offered, as soon as the insurrectionary movement commenced, and during the absence of Marshal Beresford, to march with his division and quell the rising at Oporto; but in consequence of the refusal of the regency, he gave in his resignation and returned to England.

General Campbell, now a well-tried and war-worn veteran, might, like many of his brethren of the Peninsular campaigns, have fought over his Indian and European battles at a peaceful fireside at home, and "showed how fields were won" to the rising generation whom their country was about to summon into action. But the best and most important part of his military career was still to come, and in India, where he had first learned the profession of arms. Not long after his return to England, he joined the 38th regiment, of which he was appointed colonel, at the Cape, and proceeded with it to India, whither it had been ordered. On arriving in India, he was stationed at Berhampore, but was soon appointed by Sir E. Paget to take the command of the expedition fitted out against the Burmese. Of all the many nations of India, these people were reckoned among the bravest and most formidable; and their valour had already been shown in several severe repulses which they had given to the British troops, with whom they had but lately come in contact. The great aim of the expedition which General Campbell commanded was to take possession of Rangoon, the chief seaport of Burmah; and for this quarter he accordingly set sail, and anchored within the bar off the town on the 10th of May, 1823. The landing and capture of Rangoon were effected in twenty minutes with scarcely any resistance. A defensive war of stockades on the part of the Burmese followed, which they maintained with much spirit, and occasionally with success, until the close of the year, when they were emboldened to abandon their guerilla warfare, for which their country was highly favourable, for the precarious chances of a battle. They accordingly assembled a large army of between fifty and sixty thousand strong, with three hundred pieces of cannon, and came down upon the British, who did not exceed six thousand. This was what Campbell desired; the enemy were now before him in a fair field, instead of being intrenched behind stockades, or in the jungle, where they could not be reached except at great disadvantage. He saw at once that their wings were too far asunder, and he resolved to encounter them separately, and in quick succession. His plan was effectual; the enemy, thus attacked, were defeated in detail, and so completely, that they fled in wild disorder, leaving behind them their artillery, and throwing away their muskets. On the following day this crowd of fugitives was rallied, and incorporated with a new Burmese army that advanced to the scene of action; but Campbell attacked and defeated them in a second encounter that was as successful as the first. In these two engagements, the Burmese sustained a loss of more than five thousand men, while that of the British was only thirty killed and two hundred and thirty wounded. Undismayed, however, by such disasters, the enemy rallied for a third attempt, and this time were intrenched to the number of twenty thousand behind a strong stockade. Here they were attacked by General Campbell, and routed with such slaughter, that the war, for the time at least, was terminated by the submission of Burmah and the occupation of Rangoon. Few of our Indian campaigns were more glorious, if we take into account the obstacles which Campbell had to overcome, the smallness of his force as compared with that of the enemy, and the three decisive victories which he gained in such rapid succession. A full sense of his merit was manifested both in India and at home, by the thanks of the governor-general in council and the two houses of the British Parliament, while the Court of East India Directors voted him a gold medal and a pension of £1000 per annum for life, as the reward of his important services.

At the close of the Burmese war, General Campbell was appointed commander of the forces in the provinces on the coast of Tenasserim, which the enemy had ceded, and civil commissioner in the company’s affairs in relation to the kingdoms of Burmah and Siam. But the fatigues of the campaign had so permanently affected his health, that he was compelled to resign his command, and return to England in 1829. In the spring of 1831 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, and in this province he continued nearly six years, and conducted the administration of its affairs not only to the satisfaction of the home government, but that of the colonists. In 1839 he was offered the appointment of commander-in-chief in Bombay, which he accepted, such an office being, of all others, the most congenial to his wishes; but almost immediately after, a fresh attack of ill health obliged him to resign it. After a few years of retirement from active life, which the increasing infirmities of old age rendered necessary, he died at Edinburgh, on the 6th of October, 1843.

The value of Sir Archibald Campbell’s military services, and especially those in India, our late troubles with the Burmese, and the still unsettled condition of that people, have taught us every year more highly to appreciate. It is gratifying, however, to think that, while he lived, he did not find either his country or the public ungrateful. Besides his merited rise in the service, which went steadily onward, he was invested with the Portuguese order of the Tower and Sword in 1813; knighted by the Prince Regent, and appointed aide-de-camp to his Royal Highness in 1814; appointed a knight commander of the Bath in 1815, and K.C.B. in 1827; and in 1831 created a baronet of the United Kingdom. He was also at various times presented with the freedom of the cities of Perth, Strabane, and Cork. Sir Archibald Campbell married Miss Helen Macdonald of Garth, Perthshire, by whom he had two sons and three daughters.


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