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Significant Scots
Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell


CAMPBELL, LIEUTENANT. COLONEL JOHN, a distinguished soldier, was born at Edinburgh, December 7, 1753. He was second son of John Campbell, Esq., of Stonefield, one of the judges of the court of session, and lady Grace Stuart, sister to John, third earl of Bute. Lord Campbell was a judge of the supreme court for the long period of thirty-nine years, and died on the 19th of June, 1801. His son John received the greater part of his education in his native city, the High School of which he attended from the year 1759 to 1763. When eighteen years of age, he entered the army, as ensign in the 57th regiment of foot; and in three years afterwards, was appointed to a lieutenancy in the 7th foot, or royal fusileers. With this regiment he served in Canada, and was made prisoner there, when that country was overrun by the American generals, Montgomery and Arnold. Having obtained his release, he was, two years afterwards, namely, in 1775, appointed to a captaincy in the list, or, as they were then called, Frazer’s Highlanders; and with this corps he served in America, until towards the close of the war with that country, having been, in the mean time, appointed major of the 74th regiment, or Argyleshire Highlanders.

In February, 1781, major Campbell exchanged into the 100th regiment, with which corps he embarked in the expedition fitted out by the British government against the Cape of Good Hope, under the command of commodore Johnston, and general, afterwards Sir William Meadows. On this occasion, the general orders bore, that the troops on board of the Porpoise and Eagle transports, were to receive their orders from major Campbell. Circumstances, however, having subsequently rendered it advisable, in the opinion of the commodore and general, not to make any attempt on the Cape, but rather to proceed to the East Indies, to aid the British forces there, the transports proceeded to their new destination, and arrived in Bombay in January, 1782. In the February following, major Campbell was appointed to command the flank corps of a small army assembled at Calicut, on the Malabar coast, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Humberston. This army marched into the interior, for the purpose of attacking Palagatoherry, an important stronghold of Hyder Ally; but it was found too strong to be assailed, with any chance of success, by so small a force as that which was now brought against it; colonel Humberston, therefore, found it necessary to retreat, without attempting anything. During this retreat, the British forces were for some time pursued by the enemy, who, however, were kept so effectually at bay by the retiring troops, that they were unable to obtain any advantage over them; and the sole merit of this was ascribed by the commanding officer, to the able and soldier-like manner in which major Campbell covered the retreat, in which service he had a horse shot under him.

The retreating army having reached Paniana, a British station, the command was assumed by colonel Macleod, who made immediate preparations for receiving the enemy, who, though now left at some distance in the rear, were still advancing. In the disposition of his forces on this occasion, colonel Macleod confided the command of the centre to major Campbell, who had, in the interim, been appointed to the majority of the second battalion of the 42nd regiment. The enemy, led by Tippoo Sultan, shortly afterwards appeared, and attacked the posts where major Campbell and major Shaw, who commanded the left, were situated; but was repulsed with such loss, that he retreated with his army to a considerable distance, and did not again seek to renew the contest. In this engagement, major Campbell was wounded, but remained in the field till the enemy was defeated. The singular intrepidity and admirable conduct which he displayed throughout the whole of this affair, called forth the warmest encomiums from colonel Macleod, who, in the general orders which he issued on the following day, bore the most flattering testimony to his merits.

The most important service in which major Campbell was engaged, was the siege of Annantpore, which he reduced, and took from the enemy.

In May, 1783, he was appointed by the governor and select committee of Bombay, to the provisional command of the army in the Bidnure country, in absence of colonel Macleod, who was prisoner with the enemy. Soon after major Campbell had assumed the command, Tippoo having got possession of Bidnure, meditated an attack on Mangalore, where major Campbell was stationed; and with this view, and as a preparatory proceeding, he sent a detachment of his army, consisting of about four thousand horse and foot, and some field pieces, in advance. Having been informed of the approach of these troops, major Campbell marched from Mangalore at midnight, on the 6th of May, 1783, with fourteen hundred men, with the intention of surprising them; and in this he was eminently successful. He reached the enemy’s camp about day break, attacked them, and instantly put them to the route, capturing four brass field pieces, and one hundred and eighty draught bullocks; the latter, a singularly valuable prize, as, from the country being in possession of the enemy, cattle was not to be had for the commissariat. The defeat of Tippoo’s detachment, however, instead of diverting him from his intended attack on Mangalore, had the effect only of urging him to hasten his proceedings; and on the 19th of May, his vanguard appeared in sight of that place, which by the 23d was regularly invested by an army, computed at not less than one hundred and forty thousand men, accompanied by an hundred pieces of artillery.

Major Campbell’s defence of this important fortress against such a prodigious force, is justly reckoned one of the most remarkable achievements that ever distinguished the British arms in India. The garrison under his command consisted only of one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three men, and of these not more than two or three hundred were British soldiers, the remainder being seapoys, or native infantry; and they were, besides, in want of almost every accommodation and comfort necessary to enable them to endure a siege. They were short of both provisions and medicine; and, from the insufficient shelter which the fort afforded, they were exposed to the inclemencies of the monsoon. Notwithstanding all this, however, this little garrison resisted all the efforts of Tippoo, who commanded at the siege in person, till the 2nd of August, two months and a half, when, through the intervention of the envoy from the French court, at Tippoo’s Durbar, a cessation of hostilities took place; but as neither side meant, notwithstanding this parley, to give up the contest, the siege was now converted into a blockade; and though the garrison was thus relieved from the danger of casualties by the hand of the enemy, it was not relieved from the miseries of famine, which had now reduced them to the last extremity of distress.

Soon after the cessation of hostilities took place, Tippoo expressed a wish to see major Campbell, whose bravery, though an enemy, he had generosity enough to appreciate. Major Campbell accepted the invitation, and had an audience of the eastern potentate, who received him with much politeness, and paid him many flattering compliments. The major was accompanied by several of his officers on this occasion, and amongst these by two captains of the 42nd, in their full costume; a sight with which Tippoo was extremely delighted. To each of the officers he presented a handsome shawl; and after they had returned to the fort, he sent major Campbell an additional present of a very fine horse, which the famishing garrison, such was the melancholy condition to which they were reduced, afterwards killed and ate.

By the assistance of occasional, but extremely inadequate, supplies of necessaries, which reached them from time to time by sea, the intrepid defenders of Mangalore held out till the 24th of January, 1784, by which time they were reduced to the most deplorable condition by disease and famine, when Campbell determined on calling a council of war, to consider whether they should continue the defence, or capitulate. The council decided on the latter and terms were accordingly submitted to Tippoo, who accepted them; and on the 30th January, the troops evacuated the fort, and embarked for Tillicherry one of the British settlements on the coast of Malabar; after enduring, under all the disadvantageous circumstances already related, siege of eight months and sustaining a loss in killed and wounded, besides other casualties, of no less than seven hundred and forty-nine, nearly the half of the whole garrison.

Though thus eventually compelled to capitulate, the service performed by colonel Campbell, (a rank to which he was promoted, 19th February, 1783,) by the determined and protracted resistance he had made, was of the last importance to the British interests in India, inasmuch as it concentrated and occupied all Tippoo’s forces for eight entire months, at a most critical period, and prevented him from attempting any hostile operations in any other part of the empire during all that time; and of the value of that service, the government of Bombay expressed itself deeply sensible; and there is no doubt that some especial marks of its favour and approbation would have followed this expression of its sentiments regarding the conduct of colonel Campbell, had he lived to receive them; but this was not permitted to him. He was not destined to enjoy the fame he had won, or to reap its reward. The fatigue he had undergone during the siege of Mangalore had undermined his constitution, and brought on an illness, which soon terminated fatally.

Under this affliction, he quitted the army on the 19th February, and proceeded to Bombay, where he arrived on the 13th March, past all hope of recovery; and on the 23rd of the same month, he expired, in the 31st year of his age. A monument was erected to his memory in the church at Bombay, by order of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, as a testimony at once to his merits, and of their gratitude for the important services he had rendered to the British interests in India.


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