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Captain Dugald Campbell

Waterloo 200


Captain Dugald Campbell's Company

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Submitted by: George Campbell

Date added: 9 Feb 2015

In 1786 a young French aristocrat was touring Scotland when he found himself staying overnight at the Golden Lion Hotel in Fort William. He recalled in his diary, put into print by author Norman Scarfe, how much he enjoyed the company of the innkeeper who told him of his time in the Jacobite army, latterly turning out with his own father at the Battle of Culloden. Since then, two of his own sons, both officers in Scottish regiments, had been killed in the American War of Independence. Scarfe was unaware of the innkeeper’s name, but the casualty records for America show that it was Campbell, the sons being Adjutant William of the Scots Guards and Lieutenant Archibald of Fraser’s Highlanders. My own forebears were the only Campbells from that area who were on the side of the Stuarts at Culloden, this by virtue of the fact that the family were hereditary bodyguards to the Chief of the MacDonalds of Keppoch. My father told me when I was very young that one of his ancestors had been in the Fraser regiment, which makes William my likely ancestor of the three brothers as he transferred from the Frasers to the Guards in 1763 and he is the only one known to have had offspring.

A great impression was also made on the Frenchman by the innkeeper’s youngest son, then a boy of around 14 years and studying for a career at sea. Fast forward a few years to the arrival of the Duchess of Gordon in Lochaber on a recruiting drive for the regiment being raised by her husband for the Napoleonic Wars, to be known as the Gordon Highlanders. Stunningly attractive, she put her looks to good use by placing a sovereign between her teeth and inviting potential recruits to accept it with a kiss. Not surprisingly, she was overwhelmed with volunteers, but then up stepped Campbell, fresh from the gunsmith’s shop his father had taken over. On taking the kiss and the coin, he flung the latter into the crowd just to show that it was not the money that had tempted him to enlist. Next day he walked to Gordon Castle to complete his enlistment, an event recorded by author and former soldier Pryse Gordon, who was staying there as a guest of the Duke.

Rising quickly through the ranks to become the regiment’s first sergeant major, he was soon commissioned and distinguished himself throughout the Peninsular War before finding himself a Captain on the field of Waterloo as second in command of the Gordons to his cousin Major Donald MacDonell of Dalchosnie. At one stage he assumed command before “he too, being wounded, was carried from the field.” While being taken on the back of a pony by two of his men to a nearby village for help, who should pass by but Pryse Gordon, who recognized him through the bloodstains and secured immediate treatment for his wounds?

Dugald died of his wounds in 1821 and is buried in the Auld Kirk in Ayr. I have inherited a small brass relief of Napoleon which the Kelvingrove Museum tells me could easily be a souvenir from the battle. My brother inherited two 18th century officer’s manuals, but they could have come from any of the brothers. Incidentally, another family member, the towering Sergeant Thomas Campbell, was one of a large number of those owing allegiance to the Keppoch chief who were given dispensation by him to join the Cameron Highlanders.

After the battle he was one of four kilted Highland soldiers to be presented to the Tsar of Russia. Then, on demonstrating some weapons drill for him (and allowing him to satisfy his curiosity!) he gave them each a sovereign, which the nonplussed Highlanders gave to the doorman on their way out!

Submitted by George Campbell

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