Campbells of Argyll Against the Stars and Stripes
A brave and distinguished clansman, Archibald Campbell
was born at Inverneil, and at the age of eighteen became a captain in
the Highland regiment raised by Simon Fraser for service in America. He
served under Wolfe in Canada, and was wounded at the taking of Quebec.
At the close of the war the Highlanders were disbanded,
and the young officer served for some years in India, rising to the rank
of Lieutenant-Colonel in the 42nd Highlanders or Black Watch.
On the breaking out of the American War of Independence,
Simon Fraser again raised a Highland regiment, and appointed Archibald
Campbell Lieu-tenant-Colonel of the 2nd Battalion. When the troops
arrived, Boston was in the hands of the rebels, and no warning having
been received, the transport Annabel and her consort the George with
Colonel Campbell on board sailed right into the harbour. Three American
privateers full of armed men sailed up, and the British, thinking them
friendly boats or perhaps pilots, did not try to repulse them until
the rebels attempted to board the George. Both ships then
fired a broadside, which the enemy returned, and the fight went on with
hardly a pause from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon.
Other vessels sailed up and joined the privateers, and the George, being
hard pressed, made towards the shore. An American battery opened fire on
her as she approached, showing the newcomers that the place was in the
hands of the enemy. The Annabel ran aground, and seeing her helpless,
the three schooners surrounded the George, and ordered her to strike
sail. The seamen, exhausted after nine hours of fighting, were ready to
do so; but every single officer and soldier on board declared that he
would rather die than yield. The action was renewed, and continued
until, every shot being spent and the rudder disabled,
the George grounded under a battery. With six vessels attacking her, the
position was a hopeless one, and her inmates were compelled to
The brave soldiers were made prisoners, and sent to
different parts of the country. For two years Colonel Campbell was in
American jails, but at last was exchanged and sent in command of an
expedition to Georgia.
Many of the inhabitants of the province still remained
loyal, and the object of the expedition was to occupy the town of
Savannah in order to afford them support. The British troops embarked at
Sandy Hook in November, and it was not until a month later that they
reached the mouth of the Savannah River after a stormy passage, and
landed a short distance below the town.
Seeing an advance guard of the enemy in readiness,
Captain Cameron pushed forward with a body of light infantry to the
attack. The party was received by a volley which killed the young
officer and three of his men ; then the others charged and drove the
Only about half of the men had disembarked, but Colonel
Campbell hurried forward to avenge the disaster. The enemys troops were
about half a mile from the town, their right wing being protected by a
thickly-wooded morass, and the left by rice swamps, while in front
flowed a muddy rivulet.
Having discovered a path leading through the morass,
Campbell determined to attack.
They think well advance to the left, observed one of
the officers, glancing towards the foe.
The colonel chuckled. Let us cherish that opinion in
them, he said.
Only two guns had been landed, and he ordered them to be
concealed until it should be time to use them. Then he sent a body of
light infantry towards the enemys right, with the Highlanders to
support them. Their instructions were to advance until they were
concealed by a hollow, and then turn quietly and approach the Americans
by the path through the morass.
Meanwhile the colonel ordered the troops in front to make
a feint to draw off the enemys attention from the flanking party.
The Americans opened fire, which was exactly what was
Let them continue to amuse themselves, said the
colonel; and the enemy went on firing without hurting any one until the
light infantry appeared unexpectedly beside them, followed by the
The guns were then run forward, and the enemy, attacked
in two directions at once, were completely taken by surprise and fled in
The losses on their side were a hundred killed, with five
hundred prisoners and wounded, while four killed and five wounded was
all the price the British paid for the possession of a very important
place with forty-five pieces of cannon as well as stores and shipping.
This achievement was followed by the occupation of
Augusta, a town in the interior, after which the whole province
submitted. Colonel Campbell remained in charge until the arrival of
General Prevost, who gave orders to evacuate Augusta, and made other
changes which discouraged the loyalists, and lost many of the advantages
gained by the British. Disheartened by seeing his work undone, Colonel
Campbell returned in the following year to England, where the fame of
his exploits had preceded him, and soon afterwards he was appointed
Governor-General of Jamaica.
In this position he rendered important services to his
country. The British were meeting with reverses in America, and the
French made use of the opportunity to try to seize the British West
Indian islands. Tobago, St. Eustache, St. Kitts, and Montserrat fell;
but Campbell raised bodies of black troops to assist the British
garrison at Jamaica, and by his unwearied vigilance held the French at
bay so that they dared not attack the island.
Not only did Colonel Campbell successfully defend
Jamaica, but he was able to send men and supplies to the assistance of
the British in America. When Admiral Rodney came with a fleet to the
West Indies, Campbell gave some of his best soldiers to serve as marines
on board the ships, and in this way contributed greatly to the admirals
victory over the Count de Grasse.
On his return to England he was invested a Knight of the
Bath, and appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Madras. After
some years in India, Sir Archibald was on his way to perform fresh
services to his country, when he caught a chill from which he never
recovered. He died in March 1791, and was buried in Westminster
Abbey, where a monument was erected to the man who had
done his duty well.
The son of a distinguished soldier, Alexander Campbell of
Monzie joined the 42nd or Royal Highland regiment in 1769, and
afterwards exchanged to the 62nd Foot. He first saw service in Ireland ;
then his regiment was sent to Canada for the relief of Quebec. For this
service the 62nd arrived too late, but our hero took an active part in
the campaign which drove the Americans from Canada.
In the following year the young officer accompanied
General Burgoyne in his advance upon New York by the Hudson River. At
Bemus Hill the small force of five thousand British came face to face
with twenty thousand Americans strongly posted upon the heights. The
attack began on the 19th of September, when the immensely outnumbered
little body of British fought with a heroism which has seldom, if ever,
been surpassed. For four hours the brigade to which the 62nd belonged
fought most valiantly, holding their own against repeated attacks of the
enemy. The little band made charge after charge with the bayonet, but
all their efforts seemed to make no impression, fresh bodies of men
always coming up to take the place of those who had fallen.
At close of day nearly half of Campbells brigade had
been killed or wounded, while of his own regiment hardly sixty men
remained upon their feet. A few hundred yards of the hillside had been
won, but no amount of bravery could avert disaster.
The American army increased daily, and, after a
fortnights resistance, the British were overborne and driven back by
sheer weight of numbers. Burgoyne drew off towards Saratoga, his tired
forces being followed and harassed by the enemy. Reinforcements were to
have been sent under Sir Henry Clinton, but day after day passed and no
help came. A messenger sent by Sir Henry was captured, and no news
arriving, Burgoyne felt that the situation was hopeless. The men were
exhausted and starving, ammunition ran out, and on the 17th of October
the general was compelled to surrender. The brave resistance made by the
British was so much admired by the enemy that they allowed the little
remnant of an army to leave the city with all the honours of war.
Campbell was made prisoner with the rest, but was shortly
afterwards exchanged. Being promoted major in the 1st Light Infantry
Battalion, he made two campaigns in America, and afterwards joined the
Argyll Highlanders in Nova Scotia. While on this duty he took part in
one of the most heroic deeds of the war.
Penobscot in Massachusetts was at that time a lonely
place with very few inhabitants, where a little settlement of refugees
remained true to the British. ' They were constantly threatened by the
enemy, and General Maclean, Commander of the Forces in Nova Scotia, set
out with Major Campbell and about six hundred men to build a fort which
would protect them.
Before the fort was nearly completed, the small garrison
was startled to observe several ships sailing into the bay. Glasses were
seized, and the newcomers proved to be fully armed transports from
Boston. Officers and men looked at each other, and the faces became
graver and graver as ship after ship sailed in until there were nineteen
in view, their decks black with men.
A formidable force to send against a little body of six
hundred men in a half-built fort!
"Ill kill a few Yankees before Im made prisoner again,
muttered Major Campbell, staring gloomily at the foe.
Men, said the general, well fight them. Highlanders
are not going to let themselves be taken!
That were not, sir, replied the men, fired with the
brave spirit of their leader. Preparations were hastily made, while the
ships landed troops to the number of three thousand, with guns and
ammunition; and the enemy were received with rounds of firing.
It seemed impossible to believe that the place could be
held by a handful of men with no proper defences, and the Americans were
inclined to make fun of the attempt. Before many hours were over, they
thought, they would be returning to Boston with a nice haul of six
The fun changed to earnest, however, when they found it
impossible to break into the fort. Time after time they charged,
thinking to batter down the crazy walls, but were driven back by the
desperate bravery of the Highlanders.
For a fortnight the little garrison continued to make the
tnost stubborn resistance, holding the three thousand men at bay. At the
end of that time the situation was becoming serious. Ammunition was
growing scarce, and the American vessels held supplies to last for
months. Let us hold out until the last round is gone, said the
general; help may come. And sure enough, on the fourteenth day of the
siege, when things were beginning to look hopeless, a British fleet
sailed into the bay.
Loud cheers went up from the little garrison, and a
sea-fight began which ended in the defeat of the Americans. Spreading
their torn sails they made for Boston, considerably reduced in number.
For his gallant conduct in the defence Major Campbell was
mentioned in dispatches. The fort having been rebuilt, he was left in
command of the garrison until the close of the war, when he was
appointed lieutenant-colonel of his old regiment.
Several years were spent in different parts of Scotland
and Ireland, and when war broke out with France Colonel Campbell was
with the 3rd Guards in the Netherlands. He was constantly in action, and
took part in the siege of Lincelles, when the Guards distinguished
themselves by storming a strongly-fortified position held by an
overwhelmingly superior force of the enemy. The honour which the
Guards received for this action has been carried on their colours ever
During the Irish rebellion Colonel Campbell commanded the
forces in Louth, and drove back a landing of the French under General
Humbert. For his services he was raised to the rank of a general, and he
passed the later years of his life in honourable retirement.
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