Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell Centenary - from the peninsula to Lucknow from a military correspondent

Field-Marshal Sir Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde, whose military exploits led him from the battlefields of Portugal to Lucknow, where he was the British commander-in-chief during the Indian Mutiny, died 100 years ago today.

"I would not be liking the name Campbell," said the representative of Macdonalds in one of the sketches which Archie Macdonell contributed to the gaiety at least of this nation.

In the controversy the British Army has maintained a neutral position, but although the Army lists are evidence of a more than slight bias in favor of the Campbells, strangely enough the most famous bearer of the name in those lists was only partially entitled to use it and that by favour of the "Grand Old Duke" of York. He used it until he died one hundred years ago today.


On October 20, 1792, there was born a son to Colin Macliver, a Glasgow carpenter craftsman and his wife Agnes, a Campbell of Islay. His uncle, Colonel John Campbell, was interested in the newcomer, helped to educate him at the High School of Glasgow, and to make entry into the Army easier presented him to the Duke of York, then commander-in-chief.

Before the uncle - or, so it is said - could introduce the nephew the Duke growled: "Another of the Clan"; the boy, rightly proud of his father's name, was about to protest, but was checked by Colonel John: "You'll find Campbell is a good name to fight under."

And so it was Ensign Colin Campbell, not Macliver, who duly was posted on May 26, 1808, to the 9th Foot. With its 2nd Battalion Ensign Campbell went to Portugal with Wellington, fought at Rolica and Vimiera, marched with Moore on Salamanca, and fought at Corunna. He won the friendship of Thomas Graham by the dash with which he led the flank companies of the 9th at Barossa and mentioned in the Vittoria despatches.

But his great days in Peninsula were under Graham at San Sebastian, where he led the forlorn hope in the assault on the breach and earned a famous mention in Napier: "Twice he ascended the breach: twice he was wounded and all around him died." His wounds still unhealed he eluded his doctors and joined his unit in time to lead one of the night attacks on the French position in the Bidissoa and be wounded again. His commanding officer took a poor view of disobedience and severely reprimanded him but kept the reprimand "unofficial" by not reporting him, and heroism and disobedience were alike rewarded by the conference on him of a captaincy without purchase.

In 1836 he bought a lieutenant-colonelcy for 1300 pounds and with that rank went to China. He distinguished himself so characteristically that he was made C.B. and A.D.C. to the Queen. He stayed in China till 1846, the last two years as brigadier-general, and from China he went to India to command the Lohore Brigade. On the outbreak of the Sikh wars, Gough, under whom he had served in China, made him a divisional commander, and he served in them with great distinction, especially at Chillianwalla.

He was made K.C.B. in 1849, the year in which he noted that he was "growing old and fit only for retirement." He had indeed had a strenuous military life. His old wounds occasionally troubled him, but a greater trouble was caused by the recurrent fever which he had first contracted in Walcheren expedition. However, he continued to command the Peshawar Division and to conduct a series of very successful campaigns. His two victories of Panj Pao and Iskakote over unruly tribes are only names today for the use of historians, but they were none the less important in their day.

He had plans to complete his victories by advance and pacification, but permission was refused him and he returned home in March 1853, where he was promptly placed on half pay.

With that act the first period of his life ended. He had taken from 1808 to 1844 to rise from ensign to brigadier-general though he had been constantly employed until 1852. His promotions had been almost wholly won by personal exertions, but he had little influence, having neither high birth nor adequate wealth.


His reemergence was due to the friendly regard for him of an old Peninsular man, Henry Hardinge, who had known him in India and had in 1852 succeeded Wellington as commander-in-chief. When the clouds of war with Russia arose in the East, Hardinge offered him command of a division which ultimately became the Highland Brigade and which with the Guards Brigade formed the 1st Division under the Duke of Cambridge and was duly decanted on the shores of the Crimea.

It was the Crimea that made Sir Colin a popular figure. The "thin red line" at Balaclava ranks with the "stone wall" of Bull Run and gave rise to as many anecdotes.

Campbell, who had his horse shot under him leading his Highlanders to the last assault at the Alma, had been made commandant of Balaclava, which was the British base with a garrison of 500 men of the 93rd (Argylls), some invalids, and the odd ragtag of a base. Everyone knows how, on the sudden Russian attack he drew up his men and made them lie down on the reverse slope of the ridge in front of the little town, telling them that there could be no retreat, and the solemn answer: "Aye, aye, Sir Colin, we ken you and you ken us." And his other remark when after the first volley had shattered the oncoming enemy cavalry, and the Highlanders showed signs of going in with the bayonet: "93rd, 93rd! Damn all that eagerness!"

He came back from the Crimea to become a lieutenant-general and G.C.B. and to receive a sword of honour from his native city. He did not expect to be employed again, but when the news came of the great mutiny in Bengal and the death of Anson, the commander-in-chief, Palmerston sent for him and offered him the post, "When can you leave for India?" asked the Secretary. "Within twenty-four hours," said the veteran, and was as good as his word.


His work in India was more of organization than fighting and no one could have done it better. But he had to fight and fight hard most of the way to relieve Havelock in Lucknow, although his main achievement was the way he organized the various campaigns which systematically cleared the rebels out. His reward was a peerage and burial as a field marshall in Westminster Abbey.

Colin Campbell does not rank among the great commanders, but he was a great solider and leader of men. Personally brave to the point of rashness, he was in high command prudent, and even cautious, qualities which caused critics to say that they delayed the end of the Mutiny by at least a year. Kinder critics only reproached him with being too penurious with the lives of men, a penuriousness which may not be to the liking of the armchair critic, but is very highly appreciated by the British solider. Age and increasing responsibilities did indeed tame the dashing subaltern of the Peninsula and he never ceased to consider himself "too old," it is odd that he ended his career in a rank in which, technically, there is no retirement.

His men loved him and he them. The 93rd were "my ain lads," and when after the Alma rewards were mentioned, all he asked was permission to wear a Highland bonnet instead of the general's cocked hat. That was something which Scotsman will not easily forget, and, so long as Scottish regiments exist, so long he will be remembered as the man who, when the guns had blown the breach in the Sikanderbagh at Locknow only wide enough to admit one man at a time, and when another regiment faltered at the breach, cried out, "Bring on the tartan."

Sir Colin Campbell died in 1863.

From the Glasgow Herald, Wednesday, August 14, 1963. Sent to us by Norma Martin of Gunn Barrel City, Texas. Sir Colin Campbell was her great grand father's first cousin.


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus