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The Campbells of Argyll
Campbells of a Later Time

A very gallant soldier was Sir James Campbell of Lawers, a son of the second Earl of Loudoun. He obtained a commission in the Scots Greys, and in the battle of Malplaquet served under Prince Eugene as lieutenant-colonel of his regiment. In arranging the field the prince stationed the Scots Greys at a certain point with orders not to move. The battle was fought with much stubbornness on both sides, and for a time the issue appeared doubtful. Suddenly Campbell thought he saw where a cavalry charge might be of advantage to his side, and hurling his dragoons at the enemy’s lines, he cut his way through their ranks and back again.

This unexpected charge threw the enemy into confusion and decided the issue of the day in that quarter. In making it, Campbell had disobeyed the orders of his leader, but Prince Eugene was too great a man to bear a grudge. On the following morning the troops were drawn up, and the prince thanked the gallant officer before the whole army for “exceeding orders.”

When George the Second came to the throne, Campbell was appointed governor and constable of Edinburgh Castle. In 1742 war was declared against France, and Campbell accompanied the king to Germany as general in command of the British cavalry. In the battle of Dettingen he greatly distinguished himself. At the head of his troops he charged the Maison du Roi, or household troops of France; broke their ranks ; and after the battle was invested a Knight of the Bath by King George in presence of the entire army, British and Hanoverian.

The battle of Fontenoy followed, when Sir James Campbell headed charge after charge against the army of Marshal Saxe. Towards the close of the day his leg was taken off by a cannon-ball. He was carried out of the fight lamenting that he ould take no further part in the action; but the veteran, seventy-eight years of age, died while he was being put into a litter. His country has never produced a braver or a more daring soldier.


John, second Duke of Argyll, was noted both as a soldier and as a statesman. The first duke had wished to make a scholar of his son, but the boy longed for nothing so much as a military life.

After a great deal of persuasion he prevailed upon his father to take him to London and introduce him to King William the Third. He told the king of his desire, and William, who had taken a liking to the bright little fellow, and thought there might be something in him, gave him his first commission when he was fourteen.

A proud boy was John, Marquis of Lorne ; and proving himself a born soldier, brave and energetic, he became a colonel at the age of seventeen. A few years later he. was taken by the king on one of his foreign campaigns, and distinguished himself at the siege of Kaiserswerth.

When his father died he succeeded him in command of the Scottish Horse Guards, was invested with the Order of the Thistle, and sworn a Privy Councillor. The young duke was then under twenty-five years of age, and his friends expected great things from him. A writer who knew him says,—

“His family will not lose in his person the great figure they have made for many ages in that kingdom, having all the fine spirit and good sense natural to that family. Few of his years have a better understanding or a more manly temper. He hath seen most of the courts of Europe, is very handsome in his person, fair complexioned, about twenty-five years old.”

The same biographer goes on to say that “his want of application in his youth his Grace soon retrieved by reading diligently the best authors.”

Two years later the duke was made Lord High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament. As he was approaching Edinburgh he was met by a large cavalcade of the most noted personages in the kingdom, who escorted him in triumph to the town.

In the following year he was with Marlborough in all his famous engagements. He was present at the battle of Ramillies, where he showed signal valour; at the siege of Ostend, and at the attack upon Menin, where his troops took possession of the town when it surrendered. For a short time he had to return home, but as soon as his duties were over he hastened back with all speed to the seat of war.

In February 1707, having been appointed colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Foot, or Buffs, he commanded several battalions at the battle of Oudenarde, where his troops were the first to engage the enemy. Holding their position with great resolution against a much larger force, the Buffs under Argyll helped greatly in winning the day. He took part in the siege of Lille, which resulted in a fresh success for British arms; and commanded as major-general at the siege of Ghent, taking possession of the town and citadel in the name of the king.

In April the victorious young duke was raised to the rank of lieutenant-general, and commanded under General Schylemberg at the attack upon Tournay, the stronghold being reduced after an assault lasting three days.

The battle of Malplaquet followed upon the 11th of September, when Argyll “ behaved with the bravery of youth and the conduct of a general.” He displayed extraordinary bravery in dislodging the enemy from their strong position in the woods of Sart—an extremely difficult and dangerous operation. By what seemed a miracle he escaped from the action unhurt, although his clothing was riddled with bullets, which passed through his coat, hat, and periwig.

During the whole of the campaign the duke remained active, and also during that of 1710. He won a reputation nearly as great as that of Marlborough, and his influence over his men was wonderful. They admired his bravery and loved him for the way in which he shared their perils and hardships without a thought for his own safety or comfort.

In 1711 Argyll was appointed ambassador to Charles the Third of Spain, and commander-in-chief of the British forces in that country. He hoped that now his chance had come to do as great things as Marlborough; but when he reached Barcelona he found the British army in distress. Supplies had almost run out, and the men were greatly reduced by losses in the battles which had taken place.

The duke had been promised both money and reinforcements; but he sent message after message home and no help came. Bitterly disappointed, Argyll had to raise money to feed his starving troops, and was obliged at last to retire to Minorca without striking a blow.

After the peace Argyll was appointed coalman der-in-chief of the forces in Scotland, governor of Edinburgh Castle, and governor of Minorca ; but he was still extremely angry at the treatment which he had received in Spain. He quarrelled with the queen’s ministers, and was dismissed from the command of the Scottish Horse Guards, and deprived of the governorship of Edinburgh Castle and of Minorca.

When Queen Anne died, George the First raised Argyll to great honours. In the following year the first Jacobite rebellion broke out in Scotland, and the duke was sent to put down the rising. It was a hard task for him, for he had to fight against his own countrymen; but he behaved with great humanity as well as firmness. When he reached Scotland he found King George’s party quite unprepared, with danger threatening on all sides. Argyll at once went to Edinburgh and put the defences of the city in order; then he pushed on towards Stirling, where the government forces numbered only eighteen hundred and forty men.

Making Stirling his headquarters, Argyll gathered reinforcements from Glasgow and other towns, and remained there in a strong position to prevent the Earl of Mar and his Highland Jacobites from joining the insurgents in the Lowlands and in England.

The Jacobites gathered in force at Haddington and prepared to make a dash upon Edinburgh ; but the Lord Provost sent a messenger post haste to the Duke of Argyll, and called out the train-bands and volunteers for the protection of the city.

Immediately upon the arrival of the messenger the duke sent for all the horses in the countryside and mounted two hundred foot soldiers upon them ; then he summoned three hundred picked dragoons, and placing himself at their head, made a forced march on Edinburgh. He arrived just in time, for the relief party entered the West Port as the insurgents were approaching the eastern gate.

Finding themselves foiled, the Highlanders set off towards Leith, where they barricaded themselves within the half-ruined citadel left by Oliver Cromwell ; seized the cannon from the vessels in the harbour, and prepared for a desperate defence. The following day was spent in defying the duke, who was without cannon for an attack. He retired to Edinburgh to collect guns; but the insurgents, seeing that the attempt was hopeless, left the fortress] during the night, and made their way towards Seaton.

Messages arrived informing the duke that Mar had broken up his camp in Perth, and was on the way to force the passage at Stirling with his whole army. Argyll set off in haste, but found that the movement was a feint to draw him away from the Jacobite operations in Edinburgh.

Some weeks were spent in suspense, Argyll meanwhile keeping himself fully informed of the movements of the enemy; then on the i ith of November Mar advanced towards Stirling.

Argyll immediately crossed the bridge with his forces, which amounted to three thousand five hundred men, while the insurgents numbered about nine thousand. Marching rapidly forward, he reached the heights above Dunblane just as the advance guard of the enemy was nearing Sheriffmuir, an elevated table-land on the lower slopes of the Ochils.

The night was bitterly cold, and both armies remained under arms on opposite heights, the Highlanders sleeping in the open air in their plaids.

At dawn on the following morning the insurgents drew themselves up in line of battle on an eminence. Seeing the strong position taken up by the Duke of Argyll the Earl of Mar assembled his officers, chiefs, and men, made them a stirring speech, reminding them of the wrongs suffered by the Stuarts, and the enmity of their clans towards England, and ended with the question “Fight or not?”

“Fight!” was the reply which burst from the entire army; and with triumphant cries the wild Highlanders swept down upon the followers of Argyll. Seeing that the Earl of Mar’s design was to avail himself of his larger numbers, the duke drew off his forces, and led them up a slope on the opposite side of the moor.

The combatants were now among hills which hid the one army from the other. The left of each became detached from the right, and when the left wing of the Royalists met the impetuous charge of the Highlanders both sides fell into confusion.

Sir John MacLean, a Jacobite and chief of his clan, placed himself at the head of his men, and said with a loud voice, cc Gentlemen, this is a day we have long wished to see. Yonder stands MacCallum More for King George ; here stands MacLean for King James. God bless MacLean and King James! Charge!”

The response was a wild rush of the Highlanders, which was received with a heavy fire by the Royalist troops. The chief of Clan Ranald fell, but Glengarry started forward with a shout of "Revenge!” rallied his followers; and the left of Argyll’s army, hopelessly outnumbered, was soon flying towards Dunblane pursued by the Highlanders, who gave no quarter.

Meanwhile, the duke’s cool courage was enabling his followers to withstand the shock of the Highlanders’ assault on the left and centre. The steady fire of the Hanoverians caused the ranks of the insurgents to waver, and the duke left them no time to recover. Observing that a morass upon which the insurgents had counted for protection on the right side was frozen hard, he ordered General Cathcart to cross it with a body of cavalry and charge them in the flank. The movement was successful, and the left of the Jacobite army took refuge in a headlong flight, the Earl of Mar being among the defeated party.

Placing himself at the head of his cavalry, the duke pursued the fugitives towards the river Allan. Several times they rallied ; but the steady onset of the Royalist cavalry broke their resistance, and the rout was complete.

Returning from the pursuit, the duke found the victorious right division of Mar’s forces drawn up on a hill. Each side shouted defiance to the other, but neither had strength left to renew the attack, and darkness closed in upon what was left of the two armies. Both sides had sustained great losses, and both claimed the victory, the right of each having been victorious while the left was defeated. But all the advantages of the fight remained with Argyll, whose skilful management had saved the small force under his command from being wiped out by the greatly superior body of insurgents. When rallied with having obtained a partial victory he replied, still panting with his exertions,—

“If it wasna weel bobbit, we’ll bob it again.”

On the following morning he expected to have to renew the battle, but on approaching the enemy’s camp he found it deserted, the insurgents having drawn off towards Perth during the night. Their losses had been very great, and their ranks became much thinned by desertion. Argyll’s watchfulness prevented them from joining their friends in England, and when news came of the defeat of the Jacobites in England Mar was inclined to ask for terms.

Argyll’s great wish was to avoid further bloodshed among his own countrymen. He was as kind as he was brave, and during the Highlanders’ flight he had tried to spare them as much as possible. He offered quarter to all, and when he saw King George’s cavalry cutting down the gallant “lads” he cried out, “Oh spare the poor blue bonnets!”

He wrote to the government for power to make peace; but no answer came. The Highlanders were greatly offended, and Mar’s forces declared that they would go on fighting. The Chevalier, whom they considered their rightful king, reached Scotland soon afterwards, and was received in Perth with royal honours.

Argyll’s next step was to order the English war vessels in the Firth of Forth to attack Mar’s garrison in the castle of Burntisland. The fortress surrendered, and the royal troops took possession of the greater part of Fifeshire, which had been a stronghold of the insurgents. Six thousand Dutch auxiliaries under the Earl of Cadogan joined the camp at Stirling, and the northward march was begun on January 21.

A hard frost, followed by a heavy fall of snow, made travelling slow and difficult. The duke collected two thousand countrymen to clear the ground; and the insurgents having laid waste the country between Perth and Stirling, the troops were ordered to carry provisions for twelve days. On reaching Auchterarder they found that the village had been burned by order of the Chevalier, and the troops bivouacked that night among the ruined walls, with the snow lying three feet deep around them. The last day of January had arrived when the army crossed the river Earn and advanced to within eight miles of Perth.

The alarm was given in the insurgents’ quarters, and the leaders began to disagree. The Highlanders were all for fortifying the town, and making what defence they could against the much stronger force of Argyll.

“Do?” cried a Highlander, at the bare suggestion that the garrison was too weak to fight; “what shall we do? Let us do that which we were called to arms for, and which certainly was not to run away. Why did the king come here? Was it to see his subjects butchered like dogs without striking a blow for their lives and honour? ”Some one said that the Chevalier was not safe with so small an army. “ Let him trust his safety to us,” replied the Highlander; “if he is willing to die like a prince, he will see that there are ten thousand men in Scotland willing to die with him.”

But it was found that there were neither provisions nor ammunition in Perth for a siege, and that the Duke of Argyll had men enough to blockade the town and take possession of all the surrounding country, while the defenders would be caught like rats in a trap. The Jacobites resolved to abandon the town, and two days after the approach of Argyll the army crossed the Tay on the ice, after throwing all the artillery into the river.

The king’s troops took possession of Perth ; but the cold was so intense and the weather so stormy that it was impossible to set out in pursuit of the rebels, who reached Montrose without being molested. They were preparing to defend the city, when to their amazement the Chevalier, accompanied by the Earl of Mar and Lord Drummond, entered a vessel which was in the harbour, and set sail for France. General Gordon broke the news to the army, and led the men to Aberdeen, with the forces of the Duke of Argyll hot on their heels.

The duke was too kind-hearted to harass the brave men who had risked everything for the man whom they believed to be their rightful king, and the insurgents were allowed to disperse. Bodies of men were sent through the Highlands to restore order, and Argyll returned to Edinburgh, where he was entertained at a public banquet, the magistrates not having forgotten how he had defended the city in the autumn.

From Edinburgh he went to London, where he was graciously received by George the First; but soon afterwards, to the astonishment of his friends, he was suddenly deprived of all his honours.

In Scotland the indignation was great. Lockhart of Carnwath tried to win the duke to the Jacobite cause, but Argyll replied only by a dignified silence.

After two years he was restored to favour, and his great services rewarded by his being created Duke of Greenwich. Afterwards he became a field-marshal, and made himself still more popular in Scotland by defending the city of Edinburgh against the riots of a mob.

He was appointed master-general of the ordnance, colonel of the royal regiment of Horse Guards, and commander-in-chief of all the forces; but shortly afterwards he resigned, having again been treated unjustly by the government.

From this time he lived in retirement, and the Chevalier, hoping to win his great adversary at last to his cause, sent him a letter addressed in his own hand. But Argyll, although offended, was too honourable to take part in any underhand dealings. He made no reply, and sent the letter to the government.

On the 7th of October 1743 the great duke died, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. With regard to his appearance and character, one of his friends has written that he was endowed with everything calculated to attract and chain the eye— personal beauty and an expressive countenance; a commanding air and the most engaging gracefulness of manner. He was warm-hearted, frank, honourable, and magnanimous, but fiery-tempered, rash, ambitious, haughty, and impatient of control.

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Campbell of Fonab served with distinction in his great clansman’s regiment in the French wars, and was made a captain for his brave conduct in the battle of D’Ottignies.

Some time afterwards he was in command of a small body of Highlanders helping to defend the fortress of Dixmunde, under a Danish governor. The enemy were in great strength, and after a siege of twenty-four hours, finding the garrison were getting the worst of it, the governor thought it was no use resisting any longer.

“What,” cried Campbell; “give in while we have a round of shot or a sound man left? Think what an example it will be to the others if we yield without showing fight. What will they think of us in his Majesty’s army and among the allies? We shall be remembered as cowards as long as men tell each other of the great war with France!”

But the governor thought it would be a useless waste of life to continue, and nothing that Campbell could say could induce him to change his mind.

“I would hold out as long as I could fire a shot,” cried Campbell when he saw that he could not prevail. “That is not a Scotsman’s way of fighting.” And he left the council, angry and ashamed, to tell his countrymen that the governor was going to capitulate.

A chorus of anger and dismay went up from the Highlanders when the news was announced.

“The governor gives in while the men can still fight!” they cried ; “we would pepper the French until we dropped before we would yield.”

Fierce looks were darted towards the governor’s quarters and bitter words were spoken as the men discussed the question in low, angry tones.

“It is not we who give in,” cried a stout Highlander at last. “Scotsmen are not cowards. We don’t capitulate. Let the governor do as he likes!”

Then when some one came out to lower the .flag which floated over the ramparts, the Scots made a rush for their own standard.

“The Scottish flag shall never fall into the hands of the enemy,” cried the foremost one.

“That it shall not,” replied the others; and they tore down the colours, which they rent in pieces before throwing them on the ground.

When the garrison left the fort the Scots marched out in a compact body, holding themselves erect, and looking at the victors with defiance. Campbell said nothing, but felt secretly proud of the spirit of his Gaelic lads.

Years later he was sent to the Isthmus of Darien to aid the Scots who had established a little colony there.

When his ship reached port he found his countrymen in a sorry plight. The Spaniards had insisted upon treating the settlers as pirates, and were threatening them by land and sea. To crown their miseries fever was raging among them, and there was hardly one but had fallen a victim.

Something had to be done quickly, or the little colony would be wiped out. The new councillor collected two] hundred settlers—all who had strength to walk—and with these and about forty Indians he set out to meet the Spaniards. Two or three days the little force marched, crossing a mountain range and making their way through virgin forest; until at last, at a place called Toubocanti, they came upon the enemy, about sixteen hundred in number, in a strongly fortified position.

Campbell ordered a charge, and so vigorous was the attack of the colonists that the enemy were dislodged and put to flight with a loss of two hundred, including the leader. The losses among the Scots were twenty killed and forty wounded, Campbell himself having received a ball in the shoulder.

Regardless of their hurts, the survivors set out upon a triumphant march back to the colony. In a few days they came in sight of the town; but what was their dismay when they saw five Spanish men-of-war in the harbour!

“We’re just in time,” said Campbell; “we may save the poor fellows yet.” The troops set off at a quick march, and found their countrymen paralyzed with terror. What could a handful of sick and exhausted men do against five warships with crews complete?

A council of war was called, and our clansman was disgusted when the settlers made up their minds to capitulate. He stormed, argued, implored, and even charged them with cowardice; but it was all in vain. Sickness and starvation had broken their spirit, and in any case resistance was all but hopeless.

“I don’t surrender,” said Campbell; and he strode angrily from the council chamber.

Honourable terms were granted to all save Campbell. His fate would probably have been a Spanish prison; but he escaped into the forest with a few companions pluckier than the rest.

Marvellous adventures befell them as they made their way through league upon league of unknown country, where savage Indians and wild animals were the only living inhabitants. Shaggy, uncouth figures they had become by the time the perilous journey was over, and months after their escape they reached New York, whence they sailed for Scotland.

In his native land Alexander Campbell received a warm welcome. A gold medal was struck in his honour, and he became known as “the hero of Darien.”

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