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The Campbells of Argyll
Foes of Bonaparte

A younger brother of Sir Patrick’s was Colin, a boy of an extremely adventurous disposition. So eager was young Colin for a seafaring life that at the age of sixteen he ran away from Perth Academy, where he was at school, and made his way alone to London. The journey occupied several weeks, and his adventures on the way were innumerable. In spite of hardships he pushed on, and, arriving in London, made his way to the docks, where he managed to have himself entered as seaman on board a vessel bound for the West Indies.

The life was rougher than he had expected, and had it not been for the feeling of adventure he might have found himself, once or twice, wishing that he were at home again.

Kingston was reached at last, and our hero was eager to go ashore and see all the new scenes. Wandering in the fruit market one day, he came face to face with his brother Patrick, then a middy on H.M.S. Blonde.

It is hard to say which of the brothers was the more astonished.

“You, Colin!” cried Patrick at last; "how did you get here?”

“Came on board the Sally” replied the youngster, jerking his elbow in the direction of the harbour.

“The Sally” echoed his brother, with a glance towards the assemblage of shipping in the bay; “and who sent you on board of her?”

"No one,” replied Colin, looking rather uncomfortable; “I ran away.”

“Ran away!” shouted Patrick;  “you young idiot, do you mean to say father and mother don’t know where you are?”

Colin reddened guiltily, remembering that he had not sent news to his parents.

He was silent.

“Look here,” said Patrick sternly, “just you come with me, and we’ll see what can be done. No nonsense now!”

Colin was strongly inclined to resist, but he knew that Pat usually got his own way. So it was now, and the meeting ended in the youngster following his brother to the Blonde, where he was made to tell his story to Patrick’s superior officers.

These gentlemen listened with some curiosity, smiled sternly, and entered the lad on the ship’s books, making him work his passage home.

News having been sent to his parents, his reception on reaching Perthshire went off better than might have been expected. His experiences had not daunted the young adventurer in the least, and he never ceased urging his parents to allow him to go to sea again. They let him have his way, and at the age of seventeen he became a midshipman on board the Dari of Chesterfield. Some adventurous voyages followed, and then Colin exchanged the navy for the army, his first commission being in his uncle’s regiment, the Breadalbane Fencibles.

At the age of twenty-three he was serving in the West Indies as brigade major, and three years later he exchanged into the 78th Highlanders, and accompanied his regiment to India. There the 78th joined the army of General Wellesley, afterwards the Duke of Wellington, and proceeded upon an expedition against the Maharajah Scindia and the Rajah of Nagpore, who were giving trouble.

Several forts, held by rebel chiefs, were reduced; and in August of the same year Lieutenant Campbell was in one of the companies ordered to storm the fortress of Ahmednuggur in the Deccan, one of the strongest fortresses in India. The place was besieged for two days ; and on the second day, determined that the British should not be beaten, Colin put himself at the head of a party, and tried to carry it by escalade.

In the very thick of the assault he contrived to struggle to the top of the high wall of the inner fortress.

"There’s a plucky young fellow,” said Wellesley to himself, watching the fight. “Good heavens, how they thrust at him ! they’re pushing him off— ah, he’s down ! He must be killed; there’s a brave officer gone!”

But the next minute, to his relief, he saw the young fellow swarming up the ladder once more, comparatively little injured.

Wellesley watched with interest as Lieutenant Campbell succeeded in getting within the fort, followed by a rush of men. Once inside he managed to form up his company in perfect order, and held the enemy in check until the others forced their way to his assistance. Entering the town, Wellesley recognized the young officer by the blood-stained handkerchief which bound his head, and was greatly struck by his plucky conduct throughout the fight.

When all was over, the general inquired the name of the brave officer, whom until then he had not even known by sight; and on the following morning, very early, Lieutenant Campbell was greatly surprised at being sent for by Wellesley.

“The general wishes to see me,” he repeated, raising himself on one elbow and staring at the messenger; “what can that be for?”

He began to wonder which of his misdeeds had come to the chief’s ears, and was more than surprised, on entering the general’s tent, at being commended for his bravery, and appointed brigade major on Wellesley’s own staff. This was the beginning of a friendship which lasted throughout the life of Colin Campbell, who was often reminded by the duke that the first time he had ever seen him was “in the air.”

In September 1803 he was with his chief at the battle of Assaye, where he behaved with great gallantry. Two horses were killed under him, and he was carried from the field severely wounded. In the same battle he lost one of his brave soldier-brothers, Lome. “He was twice wounded in the leg,” wrote Colin, “but persisted in going on. He at last, I believe, poor fellow, fainted, and was left behind when the troops were returning, being picked up by the cavalry.” General Wellesley mentioned the gallant conduct of both brothers in dispatches.

Colin Campbell followed Wellesley throughout the Deccan campaign, distinguishing himself in the battle of Argaum and the storming of Guzzalgum. On the departure of his old chief, now Sir Arthur Wellesley, for England, he was appointed aide-de-camp to his brother, the Marquis of Wellesley.

Three years later he was serving under Sir Arthur in Denmark, and behaved with conspicuous gallantry at the battle of Kioge, being thanked by his chief in General Orders after the action. The expedition to Portugal followed; and Colin Campbell was chosen by Sir Arthur to carry home dispatches announcing the victory of Roli9a on the 17th of August. Campbell embarked, but the vessel was wind-bound, and on the 24th, hearing a cannonade in the distance, he became convinced that the enemy was attacking our position at Vimiera. “I’m not going to stay here doing nothing,” he cried; and left the ship at once, made his way to the field of battle, and joined in the fight. The British carried the day, and when he returned to his ship the young officer carried with him an account of both victories. For those services he was appointed major of the 70th Regiment.

Numerous actions followed in the Peninsula, where Major Campbell continued to distinguish himself. After nine general actions, followed by the siege and storming of Badajos, he received a cross and six clasps.

In 1814 Major Campbell was promoted to the rank of colonel, and in the following year was still serving under his old chief in the Netherlands. He followed the Duke of Wellington through Quatre Bras, and at Waterloo had a horse killed under him. After the Hundred Days he entered Paris with the allied army in triumph, and when peace was made he became a K.C.B. and Knight Commander of the Portuguese military order of the Tower and Sword. From his sovereign he received eleven medals, and among foreign orders bestowed upon him were those of Maria Theresa of Austria, Knight of St. George of Russia, and Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria.

In his later years Sir Colin served his country as governor of Nova Scotia, and afterwards of Ceylon. When he was in the latter island, his faithful friend the Duke of Wellington wrote: “We are both getting old; God knows if we shall ever meet again. Happen what may, I shall never forget our first meeting under the walls of Ahmednuggur.”


A nephew of the gallant Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil, James Campbell showed the true fighting spirit. At the age of seventeen he received his commission, and by the time he was twenty had served through the two last campaigns of the American War of Independence. At the conclusion of peace he was promoted to the rank of captain, and joined the 73rd in India, where he acted as aide-de-camp to his uncle, Sir Archibald.

Captain James went through three years of hard fighting in Lord Cornwallis’s campaign against Tippoo Sahib, and at the end of the war received his majority. For several years he served in the Mediterranean, taking part in every action and winning a reputation as a brave and capable soldier, and his opportunity came when the British were holding Sicily against Napoleon’s forces.

The army in Sicily was under the command of General Stuart, while the enemy were gathering in great force in Calabria. The coast was well watched by the English sentinels, and the enemy

dared not attempt a landing. For two months the > armies remained facing each other across the narrow passage. The British began to dread the long nights which were approaching, and to wonder whether it would be possible to continue this untiring watchfulness all through the winter.

At last the time of trial came. During the night of the 17th of September 1810, General Cavaignac managed to convey two battalions of Corsicans and four of Neapolitans—between three and four thousand men in all—secretly across the Straits of Messina. The landing was instantly detected by the British patrols; by a quarter-past four in the morning the news had reached headquarters, and Major-General Campbell galloped down to assume command of his troops. The dawning light showed that Murat’s soldiers were taking ship along the whole length of the straits from Pezzo to Scylla. Guided by the sound of firing, General Campbell galloped towards Mili, where he found two companies of German auxiliaries engaged in preventing the landing of the French, a battalion of the German Legion supporting them in the rear.

Daylight revealed forty large vessels farther to the south, and a body of infantry pushing on towards the cliffs.

"They’re going to fall upon our main body,” shouted Campbell. "Send up troops to occupy all the passes.”

This was done. The firing soon attracted the notice of the peasants, who came to join the defenders. A galling fire was poured upon the enemy, whose advance was checked. A forward movement of the British drove them back towards the boats, seeing which Campbell sent a whole company upon them ; and the French rushed to their boats and pushed off, followed by a heavy fire. Two hundred of their number who were left behind, being surrounded, threw down their arms and begged for mercy, while the eight hundred and fifty men who had reached the hill had no alternative but to surrender. The military flotilla pursued the boats and captured four of them, and the attack upon Sicily was completely frustrated. Forty-three officers and more than a thousand men were taken prisoners in this brilliant achievement, which was performed at the cost of three wounded on the side of the British.

For his services Major Campbell was made a lieutenant-general, and in 1814 he was ordered to take possession of the Ionian Islands. The French governor resisted the demand, and refused to hand over the government; but General Campbell threatened to open fire, and the Frenchman was forced to yield. For two years General Campbell remained in the islands as governor and commander-in-chief; then he returned to England, and was rewarded with a baronetcy.

Colin Campbell, son of John Campbell of the , Citadel, entered the army at seventeen, and began active service in the American War of Independence. At the age of twenty-nine he was a major, and when in New York he married the daughter of Colonel Grey Johnstone, a sturdy Loyalist who lost most of his property by taking the king’s side in the quarrel with the mother country.

When war broke out with France, Major Campbell’s regiment was dispatched to the West Indies, where he saw some years of hard fighting, and distinguished himself under Sir Charles Grey.

His true opportunity came when he was sent to Ireland with his regiment. In 1798 nearly the whole country broke out into rebellion. Napoleon Bonaparte, who was not in the least interested in the Irish for themselves, stirred up discontent, with the idea of using the country as a base for an invasion of England. French fleets hovered around, and the malcontents were encouraged to believe that the time had come to rise for the independence of their country. Lord Camden wrote to the English Government,

“A landing, even of a small body of French, will set the country in a blaze, and I think neither our force nor our staff equal to the very difficult circumstances they will have to encounter.”

The fighting for some months was very fierce, and lawless deeds were committed on both sides.

Towns and villages were set on fire, and prisoners were massacred by the insurgents.

In this crisis Colin Campbell proved himself a born leader, and was successful in putting down every attempt at rebellion in his part of the country.

Lord Cornwallis was sent over as commander-in-chief, and gradually the regular troops gained the mastery. At Vinegar Hill the rebel forces were crushed after a desperate struggle, in which the enemy lost five or six hundred men against less than one hundred on the part of the Loyalists.

In this battle Colin Campbell rendered signal service. A small body of French, who landed a few weeks later, were insufficiently supported by the rebels, and Colin served under Lord Cornwallis when the little band was surrounded at Ballinamuck, and compelled to surrender after a short but determined struggle. The crushing out of the rebellion probably saved Ireland for the United Kingdom.

Having been promoted to the rank of major-general, Campbell was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar. In this position he rendered his country important services during the most critical time of the war. The town was occupied by about twelve thousand souls—Spaniards, French, Moors, and others who could not be trusted—and merchandise was stored there to the value of about two millions sterling. A bombardment would soon have destroyed the place, and opposite was the island of Ceuta, garrisoned by disloyal troops and galley-slaves. The ' works were neglected, and the island was at the mercy of any body of French troops that could cross the straits.

Campbell saw the danger, and also that if the enemy could gain possession of the place, they could use it as a base for obtaining supplies from Barbary.

He wrote urgent letters home, and after some delay an English garrison was posted in Ceuta, and reinforcements were sent for the defence of Gibraltar. Campbell drove French foragers from Tarifa and garrisoned that town, which Marshal Soult might have used as a port for bringing supplies from Morocco.

These important measures were not carried through without difficulty. Frequently the governor came into collision with the Duke of Wellington, who sent to requisition the garrison which Campbell thought it necessary to maintain in Gibraltar. It was not until much later that the duke found that Campbell had been wise as well as brave, and then he did him full justice.

Marshal Soult wrote that the taking of Tarifa would be “more hurtful to the English and to the defenders of Cadiz than the taking of Alicante, or even Badajos, where I cannot go without first securing my left and taking Tarifa.”

Seven hundred Spanish and nearly two thousand British were in the fortress when the siege took place.

A spirited defence was made, and such volleys of fire were poured down upon the attacking party that they were obliged to retreat. The French dead strewed the slopes in front of the rampart, and a heavy storm completed the work the British bullets had begun. Tarifa was saved at the cost of about one hundred and fifty of the besieged, while the loss to the enemy approached a thousand men.

Campbell’s representations were not always received with the attention they deserved. General Lacy had been sent with a body of troops to help the Serranos, or armed peasants, of the Ronda, who had risen under two British officers from Gibraltar. Campbell happened to be aware of the weak position of the French garrison in Malaga, where they were cooped up in the citadel—an ancient Moorish castle, dependent for its water-supply upon the town. The French were only two thousand strong, with twelve guns ; whereas in Malaga there were twenty thousand men, ready to rise in support of the British, and capable of bearing arms. General Campbell offered to reinforce Lacy from the Gibraltar garrison if he would attack Malaga; but Lacy asked instead for eight hundred men to carry out some movements of his own. The men were sent, but the general’s tactics proved unsuccessful: he was cut off from Gibraltar, and the opportunity was lost.

General Campbell died before his countrymen could see the results of his wise foresight and devotion to duty. His loyal support had prepared the , way for his country’s triumph, and he deserves the gratitude which has been rendered to his memory.

The eldest son of the Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar, Guy Campbell, entered the army at an early age. His first experiences of warfare were gained in Ireland, where he served under his father, following him through all his engagements during the rebellion.

After a year’s service in Canada, Guy was promoted to be captain of the 6th Regiment and dispatched to the Peninsula. The 6th was present, under Wellesley, at the battles of Roliga and Vi-miera, and then formed part of Sir John Moore’s expedition into Spain.

This was the darkest time for the British forces in Spain. More than three hundred thousand of Bonaparte’s troops were in the Peninsula, and the Portuguese did not rise, as was expected, to support the armies sent by England to their help. Difficulties of every kind beset Moore: there was no money to pay the troops, and the Portuguese in the army were discontented and insubordinate. Marching and countermarching on bad roads exhausted the men, and repeated disappointment disheartened them.

Sir John had decided to retreat to Portugal when a message came begging him to advance to the defence of Madrid. Moore responded by a wonderful march, and had arrived within two hours of the enemy when a letter was brought showing that Madrid had already fallen, that Bonaparte himself was in the city, and that the French had cut off the line of retreat into Portugal.

The British were in a terrible position. If they were unable to retire upon Vigo or Corunna they were lost.

The skill and patience of the officers were taxed to the utmost in the endeavour to convey the men through two hundred and fifty miles of difficult country in mid-winter while harassed by the enemy, who were in hot pursuit. Snow-covered mountains were crossed; bridges broken down after the troops had passed ; and seven engagements were fought with the advance guard of Marshal Soult’s army. More than once the guides lost their way in storms of wind and blinding sleet. Men and animals fell down on the way, exhausted with cold and hunger, and perished in the snow.

At length the exhausted and dispirited army reached Corunna, only to discover that the English fleet had not arrived, having been detained at Vigo by stress of weather.

Five days passed, and the French were collecting in force when the transports hove in sight. The work of embarkation was beginning when Marshal Soult ordered an attack. All day the British held the enemy at bay, but the defence cost the life of Sir, John Moore.

The French had been driven back, and with heroic bravery the remaining officers conveyed the troops and baggage on board the transports during the night. They sailed next morning, and an army was saved for England.

In all these operations Captain Campbell had borne his part with the best, and he was rewarded with further opportunities of serving his country. Having been promoted major, he once more accompanied his regiment to the Pyrenees, where the 6th formed part of Barnes’ Brigade. Campbell was present at the hard-fought battle of Vittoria in the Pyrenees, where his regiment was in the hottest of the fight. During a fierce cannonade the colonel fell, severely wounded, and Campbell had to assume command of the 6th. Stubborn fighting continued all day, but gradually the British gained the mastery. The French fought with desperate valour, but fresh troops flung themselves upon their ranks; the defeat became a rout, and when darkness fell King Joseph’s army was in full flight, leaving stores, guns, and treasure to fall into the hands of the British.

The next opportunity of the 6th under Campbell was when Barnes’ Brigade took a distinguished part in the battle of Sorauren, or the Pyrenees, which was fought among the rocks and precipices of the mountains.

On the 2nd of August the French under Marshal Clausel, and the British troops under Wellington, were again facing each other at Echallar. The enemy, six thousand in number, occupied a strong position on the heights, when Barnes’ Brigade, arriving in advance of the rest, immediately attacked Marshal Olausel’s division. A tremendous fire was poured from the heights, but the fifteen hundred men climbed the steep and rocky slope in the face of the rain of bullets, and drove the enemy, still fighting desperately, to a ridge on the other side of the pass. Evening was coming on, but the sounds of the retreat under Clausel and the firing of the victorious pursuers roused the weary troops under Colonel Barnard to a magnificent attack upon another position. They were successful; and the day ended in a complete victory for the allies.

In this battle Guy Campbell was severely wounded, but his gallant conduct caused him to be singled out for promotion. Three weeks after the battle, of Echallar he became a lieutenant-colonel, and at the close of the war received a gold medal for the battle of the Pyrenees, and was made a C.B. He served at the battle of Waterloo, and in 1815 was created a baronet as a reward for the important services rendered by himself and his father, who had died a year previously.


A brave soldier and a wise administrator was Neil Campbell. As a mere lad he held the position of commanding officer in the Caicos or Turks Islands, and was publicly thanked by the inhabitants for his services.

On returning to England he joined the newly formed Rifle Corps. A strong and active man, he was particularly fleet of foot; so also was his great friend Sir John Moore, and it is related that in a race run by the two at Shorncliffe the victory fell to Campbell.

After some years of service in England and Jamaica, Neil was sent to the West Indies, where the English and French were fighting for the mastery of the islands. He distinguished himself at Martinique, the Saintes Islands, and Guadeloupe. His gallant conduct was favourably noticed, and on his return home he was sent to Portugal with strong recommendations to Marshal Beresford, who was in command of the British forces in that country. As colonel of a regiment of Portuguese he rendered splendid service at the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo, and distinguished himself at the battle of Salamanca, but was wounded, and obliged to return home before the end of the war.

His next service was under Lord Cathcart, British Minister to Russia, and Military Commissioner with the Russian army in Poland. Campbell was not content to be merely a civilian, but served as a soldier under the Russian general Wittgenstein, and took every opportunity of fighting the French. In the battle of Fere-Champenoise, fought on March 24, 1814, he headed a charge of Russian cavalry. The encounter was a fierce one, and in the thick of the fight one of the Cossacks on his own side mistook the Scottish officer for a French one, and attacked and wounded him severely. A few days later the allies entered Paris, and Campbell was raised to the rank of colonel, while the Tsar acknowledged his services by making him a knight of three Russian orders. In the same year he was made a C.B., and knighted by the king.

The next step in Campbell’s adventurous career was to be sent to accompany the Emperor Napoleon to Elba. The emperor always loved a good fighter, and he took a fancy to the brave Scotsman who had fought so long and determinedly against him. At Napoleon’s request Campbell promised to remain with him ; but taking advantage of the temporary absence of his Scottish guardian, the prisoner contrived to make good his escape.

The Hundred Days followed, and Campbell was once more in the field as the enemy of Napoleon, serving as major in his old regiment. He took part in the battle of Waterloo, and afterwards headed the column which carried the Valenciennes gate at the storming of Cambrai.

Peace followed, and the fate of the African traveller Mungo Park roused Neil Campbell’s keen interest. He made a journey through the wilds in the hope of discovering sonic trace, of the traveller, but met with no success.

Although growing an elderly man Sir Neif loved an active career as much as ever. He applied for a staff appointment, and the first to fall vacant was the governorship of Sierra Leone. His family begged him not to risk his life in that deadly climate; but in the month of May 1826 he arrived on the scene of his new labours. He had overestimated his strength, and fell a victim to fever in August 1827, being only a little over fifty years of age.

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