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The Campbells of Argyll
Two Bold Admirals

Rear-Admiral Donald Campbell came of a race of fighters. One brother was in the navy, and two lost their lives serving their country in the army.

As a middy under Captain Western of the Scorpion, Donald met with exciting adventures in the West Indies. Much fighting was going on between the British and French fleets, and the boy found many opportunities of distinguishing himself in the capture, one after the other, of the French privateer La Victoire and some smaller vessels. On being transferred to the flagship of Rear-Admiral Parker he was less fortunate, the attack upon Leogane, in the island of Santo Domingo, being repulsed, although after splendid fighting on the part of the British.

In the Russell, under Captain Trollope, he took part in the battle of Camperdown, and came in for some of the hottest fighting in the whole war. The broadsides poured upon their enemies by the Dutch were tremendous, and the Russell was badly damaged. The brilliant victory, however, more than made up

to the winning party for their hurts and the dangers undergone, and the middies in their quarters afterwards were fully as keen as the commanders in discussing the events of the fight and the probable amount of the prize money.

Another stirring experience came to Donald when he was serving on the Irish station on board the Galatea, the flagship of Admiral Byng.

The Spanish letter-of-marque PI Pensee was known to be cruising in these waters with no good intention toward the British; and the instructions were to keep watch upon her movements and capture her if possible.

One dark and stormy night in winter, a row of lights right ahead showed the whereabouts of the Spanish vessel. The night was pitch black, with great guns blowing. Any attempt to capture the Spaniard would be full of danger and likely to fail; yet the opportunity might never occur again.

The admiral mustered officers and crew and asked who would volunteer.

Donald Campbell stood forward at once. “I thought so,” muttered the admiral to himself after a glance at the youth’s spirited countenance. “Who will accompany Lieutenant Campbell?” he asked aloud.

Six men offered themselves, encouraged by the plucky example of the officer.

“Good,” said the admiral; “push off quietly, my lads, and take her by surprise.” A few other instructions were added, and the adventurers stepped silently into a boat which was held ready by their comrades. The work was one of no little difficulty and danger, the wind blowing a gale and the pitching and rolling of the vessel making it hard to steady the boat. A false step, and any one falling into the raging waters would be swept beyond hope of rescue.    .

The boat was swung from the booms and lowered slowly and carefully over the side. In a short time its occupants were among the dark foam-crested waves. No lights were allowed, and they had to make their way to the dark hull which they saw dimly looming ahead when their craft was tossed for a moment to the crest of some billow.

The men rowed with all their might, blinded, buffeted, storm-tossed; and a fine spirit of daring filled each one among them. Not a word could be exchanged, for the wind tore every sound out of their mouths and bore it shrieking over the watery waste.

Slowly, toiling at the oars and straining every muscle, the little crew brought their craft nearer and nearer. At last they were close under the hull, trying to steady the boat and prevent her from being washed against the side of the larger vessel.

Lieutenant Campbell rose to his feet. "Now,” he said, taking a leap from the swaying boat.

The men divined rather than heard the signal. The lieutenant caught a chain dangling from the vessel’s side, found foothold somehow, and vanished in the darkness. One after the other the men followed and appeared on the deck of the privateer, to the great astonishment of the Spaniards, twenty in number. After making some show of fight they surrendered, the darkness and the gale causing them to think that the party was more numerous than it really was.

When the success of the endeavour became known on board the Galatea, Admiral Byng uttered a few words of approval. His mode of rewarding the leader was to single him out for the honour of taking charge of the captured vessel.

“The most disagreeable job I ever had in my life,” Donald used to say when relating the adventure ; for the Spanish crew spent the time in quarrelling, each accusing his fellow of being the chief cause of the Britons’ easy triumph. Fights were not infrequent, and Donald heaved a sigh of relief when his troublesome duty was ended.

Being appointed first lieutenant on the frigate Garysfoot—Captains George Mundy and Robert Fanshawe—our hero had another exciting adventure off the coast of Norway. A French letter-of-marque having been discovered hovering about, the crew of the Carysfoot took to their boats one dark night, surrounded and captured her, and brought her home in triumph.

Not long afterwards Donald was sent to the West Indies in charge of a large convoy, and found the opportunity for another daring deed. While stationed in Tobago he was cruising about the islands, when he espied two French merchantmen lying close under the batteries of Barcelona on the Caraccas coast.

Donald thought it would be a fine blow to the French if he could capture the vessels. The danger of the undertaking made him particularly wish to do it; and he determined to make the attempt. In a little schooner, accompanied by the sloop Curieux, he sailed right under the batteries, boarded the ships and carried them off regardless of the shots fired by the Barcelona garrison, who were only just recovering from their surprise.

Acting commander of the Lily, he was cruising off the coast of South America when the Leander hove' in sight with the rebel general Miranda on board. The Lily at once gave chase, and after an exciting pursuit came up with the Leander. The fight was short but sharp, and at its close Donald went on board the captured vessel and received the sword of the general.

While he was still in West Indian waters General Miranda succeeded in making his escape, and once more sailed south to stir up a revolt. The Lily / was sent in chase. Miranda was taken prisoner, and Donald received the thanks of the governor, council, and merchants of Trinidad.

His next appointment was to the command of the Pert. Off the coast of Margarita the vessel was caught in a hurricane. Her masts went by the board ; she drifted, and in spite of every effort made by officers and crew, struck upon a rock. The breakers dashing over her soon made the Pert a complete wreck ; twelve of the crew were swept from the rigging and drowned, and the rest saved themselves with difficulty.

For this misadventure Captain Donald was court-martialled, but was honourably acquitted of all blame. Appointed to the command of the Rosalinda he defended the trade of Trinidad and conveyed the mail and specie from Jamaica to England.

Service in defending the fisheries of Labrador and the shores of Newfoundland was his next duty, when he watched the French like a true British bull-dog. When peace was made Donald Campbell became a rear-admiral, and served in home waters; but he never ceased to regret the days of hard work and peril when he met with such grand adventures fighting the enemies of his country.


Another brave family was that of Colonel John Campbell of Melfort in Perthshire. Five sons distinguished themselves as soldiers, and Patrick rendered important services to his country in the navy. Born in 1773, he became a lieutenant at the age of twenty-one, and five years later, being in command of the Dart sloop of war, twenty guns and a hundred and thirty men, he assisted at the capture of four armed vessels.

In July of the following year, a squadron of French frigates being sighted in Dunkirk roads, Captain Inman of the Andromache was sent with Patrick Campbell of the Dart, two gun-brigs, and four fire-ships, to capture or destroy the vessels.

Taking advantage of a dark night, Patrick ran the gauntlet of the whole squadron. As the Dart passed she was hailed in French, the speaker desiring to know what part she came from.

“De Bordeaux,” replied Patrick promptly.

"What is that convoy right astern?” was the next question.

“Je ne sais pas” answered Patrick; and he sailed right into the enemy’s fleet without a shot being fired. When the Dart reached the innermost vessel but one, the French crew, taking the alarm, opened fire, to which she responded with a doubleshotted broadside of her 32-pounder carronades. She then passed on and boarded the innermost vessel, the Desirze frigate of thirty-eight guns and three hundred men, running her bowsprit between the foremast and forestay of the vessel. The first lieutenant, James McDermeit, then rushed on to the 1 forecastle of the Desiree, followed by a division of seamen and marines, and in a few minutes the vessel was carried, but not before the lieutenant was severely wounded in the arm.

“We have her,” he shouted across to the Dart; “but come if you can; these beggars look like showing fight.”

Patrick replied by swinging his vessel alongside the Desireey and the second lieutenant sprang on board with another division of men.

A desperate resistance was made by the French, who rallied at the after hatchway; but they were completely repulsed, and getting the frigate under sail, the second lieutenant carried her out of action.

The fire-ships were then sent among the other frigates, which escaped by running themselves ashore, while the smaller British craft cannonaded the French gunboats. The entire fleet was thus thrown out of action at a cost to the British of only six killed and wounded, while the loss to the enemy was more than a hundred on the Desirse alone.

This exploit, which Lord St. Vincent declared to have been one of the finest instances of gallantry on record, won for Patrick Campbell his post rank and appointment to the Ariadne frigate.

Before the campaign of Trafalgar he was in command of the Doris, one of a squadron watching the French coast under Sir Thomas Graves. The French fleet was at Rochelle, and their admiral had just received sailing orders when Graves found it necessary to put into Quiberon Bay to water, leaving Patrick Campbell to keep watch with the Doris.

Running into Rochelle Bay, Patrick found the French busy with preparations for setting sail. Crowding on canvas, he had hardly left the bay when he encountered the Felix, one of Graves’ squadron, who informed him of the admiral’s whereabouts. Campbell immediately sped northward, leaving the Felix on guard.

Two days later the French squadron put out of port—one three-decker, two seventy-fours, and five cruisers. The watchful Felix shadowed them all day, then left them under cover of night and ran for Quiberon.

In the distance the Doris had also sighted the French fleet, and crowding on sail, to the serious damage of her rigging, reached Quiberon only to find that the English had sailed.

Hearing that the fleet was in the direction of Belle lie, Patrick Campbell tried to bear out of the bay, but ran his vessel upon a sunken rock. All night the men worked at the pumps, and in the morning the Doris was afloat once more.

Up came her plucky consort, reporting the enemy’s position.

Patrick grew desperate. A south-westerly gale was rising, and Graves was certain to take refuge in Quiberon Bay, where he would be bottled up while the enemy sailed past unmolested.

Crowding on sail, Patrick tried to bring his vessel out of harbour, but she was too badly damaged. Fresh leaks sprang; the gale twisted her about like a plaything; and Campbell, chafing with impatience, was obliged to anchor. Two days later the Doris foundered, and had to be abandoned, her officers and crew being taken off and received on board the Tonnant.

But Patrick’s misadventures were not yet at an end. Some days later he was on his way with Captain Jervis to visit the admiral in his flag-ship, when the boat upset and his friend was drowned, Campbell risking his own life in the endeavour to save him.

His next service was in the Mediterranean, when Patrick Campbell, in command of the Unit/, captured several privateers, and landing his crew, stormed and destroyed the batteries of Languille.

In 1815, the year in which he was made a C.B., he commanded a company of seamen on shore at the taking of the Cape of Good Hope.

For his services Patrick Campbell was made a K.C.B. and vice-admiral. He was a man of extraordinary bravery as well as kindness and humanity, and his old friend and chief, Lord St. Vincent, . used to call him “the little man with the big heart.”

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