The following is from a biography of General Campbell printed in the middle of the nineteenth century. Note that it was given to me without a citation, so I am unsure of the author or the title…
[Starting on p. 385 at William Campbell II.tx]
of the danger”–hence “that William Campbell, Walter Crockett, and other liege subjects of the Commonwealth, aided by detachments of the militia and volunteers from the County of Washington and other parts of the frontiers, did by timely and effectual exertion, suppress and defeat such conspiracy,” and they were declared fully exonerated and indemnified for the act.(*)
In April, 1780, Colonel Campbell was promoted to the full rank of Colonel, in place of Evan Shelby, Sr., whose residence, it was now determined, was in North Carolina. He served a term in the House of Delegates from early in May, until the twentieth of June, when he obtained leave of absence for the remainder of the session, to engage in an expedition against the Chickamauga towns, Governor Jefferson and his council authorizing him to embody two hundred and fifty militia from Washington and Montgomery counties, and unite with a conjunctive force from the Carolinas.(+)
But soon after his return home, he found a dangerous enemy in the midst of the white settlements. Two hundred Tories of the New river region, within what is now Grayson County, Virginia, and Ashe County, North Carolina, had risen in arms, with some British officers aiding them, with a view of seizing the Lead Mines, near the present Wytheville; when Colonel Campbell, by order of Colonel Preston, took the field in August at the head of one hundred and forty or fifty men, and scoured that wild, mountainous country; and at a place known as the Big Glades, or Round Meadows, approaching a large party of Tories, the latter under cover of a thick fog, fled, dispersing in every direction, and hiding themselves in the mountains, losing only one of their number in their flight. Colonel Cleveland on a similar service, had captured Zachariah Goss, one of Plundering Sam Brown’s gang of murderers, horse-thieves, and robbers, who was tried and immediately hung at Peach Bottom, on New River, in the presence of Cleveland’s and Campbell’s parties; while two other villains were very well whipped.
(*)Statement of Colonel Samuel Newell?? December 9. 1833, in The Land We Love, May, 1867; MS. Correspondence of Governor D. Campbell and John B. Dysart; conversations with Colonel Patrick H. Fontaine, a grandson of Patrick Henry, and General Thomas Love; Henning’s Statutes of Virginia, x, 195. In Atkinson’s Casket, for September, 1833, is an interesting story founded on the hanging of Hopkins, having, however, but little resemblance to the real facts in the case.
(+)Journal of House of Delegates, 1780; Gibbes’ Doc. History, 1776-82, p. 135.
Colonel Campbell then marched to the old Moravian town of Bethabara, in North Carolina, where he made head-quarters for some time, sending out detachments in quest of Tory bands–one penetrating into Guilford County, surprised and dispersed two companies of Tories at night, and captured Captain Nathan Read, one of their leaders, and seventeen others–Captain Eli Branson, another of their leaders, narrowly escaping. Read was tried, Colonels Cleveland and Martin Armstrong, and Major Lewis sitting upon the court-martial, was found guilty of crimes and misdemeanors, and condemned to be hung–with the alternative presented him of joining the patriots, and serving faithfully to the end of the war, which he declined, meeting his death heroically. Another party of Tories was dispersed above the Shallow Ford of Yadkin.(*) [(*) Colonel William Campbell’s MSS.; statement of John Spelts, who was out in this service; MS. Pension statements of Colonel Robert Love and James Keys, of Campbell’s men; Gibbes’ Doc. History, 1776-82, p. 137.]
Returning from this expedition, Colonel Campbell led four hundred brave riflemen from Washington County across the Alleghanies to meet Ferguson’s Rangers and the united Tories of the Carolinas. Their utter discomfiture has been fully related; and too much praise cannot well be accorded to “the hero of King’s Mountain” for his gallant bearing during the campaign generally, and especially for his heroic conduct in the battle. It is a matter of regret, that such patriots as Shelby and Sevier should have been deceived into the belief that the chivalric Campbell shirked from the dangers of the conflict, mistaking, as they did, the Colonel’s servant in the distance for the Colonel himself; when well-nigh forty survivors of the battle, including some of Campbell’s worthiest officers, and men of Shelby’s, Sevier’s, and Cleveland’s regiments as well, testifying, of their own knowledge, to his personal share in the action, and specifying his presence in every part of the hotly-contested engagement, from the beginning to the final surrender of the enemy at discretion. It is evident that such heroes as Shelby and Sevier had quite enough to do within the range of their own regiments, without being able to observe very much what was transpiring beyond them. And what Shelby honestly supposed was a vague confession by Campbell of unaccountable conduct on his part in the latter part of the action, simply referred to his too precipitate order to fire on the unresisting Tories when Colonel Williams had been shot down after the close of the contest. But in such a victory, without unjustly detracting from Campbell’s great merits and rich deservings, there is both honor and fame enough for all his worthy compatriots also.(*)[ (*) Both Colonel William Martin and Elijah Callaway, who were intimately acquainted with Colonel Cleveland, state that he frequently spoke of Campbell’s good deportment in the battle; Major Lewis, of Cleveland’s regiment, declared that, had it not been for Campbell and his Virginians. Ferguson would have remained master of King’s Mountain; and General Lenoir, also of Cleveland’s men, testified to Campbell’s gallant conduct in the action. ] It may be proper to note, that the sword that Colonel Campbell wielded at King’s Mountain, and subsequently at Guilford–his trusty Andrea di Ferrara–more than a century old, was used by his Caledonian ancestors in the wars of the Pretenders, and is yet preserved by his Preston descendants.(+)[ (+) Colonel Arthur Campbell’s Memoir; Campbell’s History of Virginia, 1860, p. 700. ]
Colonel Campbell would have been more or less than mortal, had he not felt a sense of satisfaction for the high praises showered upon him and his associates for the decisive triumph achieved at King’s Mountain–emanating from Gates, Washington, the Legislature of Virginia, and the Continental Congress. The latter august body voted, that it entertained “a high sense of the spirited and military conduct of Colonel Campbell” and his associates; while the Virginia House of Delegates voted its “thanks to Colonel Campbell,” his officers and soldiers, for their patriotic conduct in repairing to the aid of a distressed sister State, and after “a severe and bloody conflict,” had achieved a decisive victory; and that “a good horse, with elegant furniture, and a sword, be purchased at the public expense, and presented to Colonel William Campbell as a further testimony of the high sense the General Assembly entertain of his late important services to his country.” To these high compliments of the Legislature, Colonel Campbell returned the following modest acknowledgment:
“Gentlemen–I am infinitely happy in receiving this public testimony of the approbation of my country for my late services in South Carolina. It is a reward far above my expectations, and I esteem it the noblest a soldier can receive from a virtuous people. Through you, gentlemen, I wish to communicate the high sense I have of it to the House of Delegates. I owe, under Providence, much to the brave officers and soldiers who served with me; and I shall take the earliest opportunity of transmitting the resolve of your House to them, who, I am persuaded, will experience all the honest heart-felt satisfaction I myself feel on this occasion.”(*) “” [Journals of Congress, 1780, 367; Journal of the Virginia House of Delegates, 1780, Fall session, pp. 13, 18. The Virginia Legislature subsequently called a County after him, to perpetuate his name and memory]
Now hurrying to his frontier home on the Holston, he found that the restless Cherokees had again been at their bloody work, and Colonel Arthur Campbell had in December, 1780, aided by Colonel Sevier and Major Martin, led forth a strong force for their chastisement. Colonel William Campbell at once raised additional troops, and marched as far as the Long Island of Holston,(+)[ (+) MS. correspondence of Colonel William Martin, one of William Campbell’s men, and of Governor D. Campbell; Haywood’s Tennessee, 98.] to succor his kinsman if need be; but it was not necessary, for the Cherokees were pursued in detached parties by their invaders, many of their warriors were killed, and their settlements desolated.
On the thirtieth of January, 1781, General Greene wrote to “the famous Colonel William Campbell,” reminding him of the glory he had already acquired, and urging him “to bring, without loss of time, a thousand good volunteers from over the mountains.” Notwithstanding the Cherokees were still troublesome, and threatening the frontiers, the noted Logan, with a northern band, was committing depredations on Clinch, while others were doing mischief in Powell’s Valley, yet Colonel Campbell raised over a hundred of his gallant riflemen, and moved forward on February twenty-fifth,[Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 548, 555. ] others joining him on the way, until he brought General Greene, about the second of March, a re-enforcement of over four hundred mountaineers (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 542; Johnson’s Greene, i, 438.). Lord Cornwallis had imbibed a personal resentment towards Colonel Campbell, as the commander at King’s Mountain, threatening that should he fall into his hands, he would have him instantly put to death for his rigor against the Tories–evidently designing to hold him personally responsible for the execution of the Tory leaders at Bickerstaff’s. This, instead of intimidating, had the contrary effect; and Campbell, in turn, resolved, if the fortunes of war should place Cornwallis in his power, he should meet the fate of Ferguson.[ Colonel Arthur Campbell’s memoir of General William Campbell. ]
Could anything have served to give additional spirit to Colonel Campbell, and nerve him to almost superhuman exertions, it was just such a dastardly threat as that uttered by Lord Cornwallis. Campbell and his men were soon called into action. Taking advantage of a thick fog, Lord Cornwallis sent forward a strong force to beat up the quarters of Greene’s advance parties–or, as Greene supposed, either to intercept his stores, or cut off the Light Infantry, including the riflemen, from the main body. These advance columns met at Whitzell’s Mills, on Reedy creek, some seven miles from Greene’s camp, where Colonel Otho H. Williams, with Campbell’s and Preston’s riflemen, and Washington’s and Lee’s corps, formed on the southern bank of the stream, in front of the ford, and some two hundred yards below the mill. The main object was to protect the mill as long as possible, and enable Greene’s provision wagons to load with flour and meal, and get off with the needed supply, which they barely effected. As the British, with their short Yager riflemen in front, approached, they fired in the distance; and when within eighty yards, descending towards the creek, the American riflemen opened on them with deadly effect, one of the officers of the enemy, when shot, bounding up several feet, fell dead; a second discharge on the advancing foe, when only some forty-five yards off, was also very destructive. The enemy had opened their field pieces, but, like the fire of their small arms, was too high, and only took effect among the limbs of the trees. As the atmosphere was heavy, the powder smoke obstructed the enemy’s view; while the Americans, below them, had a better opportunity. The fighting was chiefly done by the riflemen, and Lee’s Legion, while covered by the regulars; and “Colonel Campbell,” says John Craig, one of his riflemen, “acted with his usual courage.”
Having accomplished the object they had in view–the security of the flour and meal,–the Americans retired over the ford, which was some three feet deep, with a rapid current, over a slippery, rocky bottom, with a steep brushy bank on the northern shore to ascend. While effecting this passage, the gallant Major Joseph Cloyd, of Preston’s riflemen, observed his old commander on foot, who had been unhorsed in the conflict, and dismounting, aided Colonel Preston, who was now advanced in years and quite fleshy, into the saddle, when both escaped.(MS. notes of conversations with Thomas Hickman, of Davidson County, Tennessee, said General Greene) The enemy were handsomely opposed, and suffered considerably.
After no little manoeuvring, the battle of Guilford took place on the fifteenth of March. It was brought on by a sharp action, in the morning, by the advance, consisting of Lee’s Legion, and a portion of Campbell’s riflemen–in which Lee was supposed to have inflicted a loss of fifty on the part of Tarleton; while the Light Infantry of the Guards were so hard pressed by the riflemen, losing a hundred of their number, that a portion of Tarleton’s cavalry went to their relief. In the main battle that soon followed, Lee’s Legion and Campbell’s riflemen formed the corps of observation on the left flank–the riflemen occupying a woodland position. During the obstinate contest, Campbell’s corps fought with the heroic bravery characteristic of their noble leader, and of their own unrivalled reputation. When the enemy charged the Maryland Line, Campbell with his riflemen made a spirited attack on the regiment of Boze, on the British right wing, and drove it back; and when the riflemen, in turn, were charged with the bayonet, having none to repel them, they were obliged for the moment to retire, still loading and firing, however, on their pursuers, and thus, whether charging or retiring, kept up a destructive fire on these veteran German subsidiaries. So severely did Campbell’s riflemen handle his right wing, that Lord Cornwallis was obliged to order Tarleton to extricate it, and bring it off. By this time Lee had retired with his cavalry, without apprising Campbell of his movement; and the result was, that the riflemen were swept from the field and Major Herndon Haralson, of Brownsville, Tennessee, in 1844, and Benjamin Starritt, all participants in the action; Tarleton’s Campaigns, 135; Stedman, ii, 336; Lee’s Memoirs, revised ed., 265-67; Greene, in Letter to Washington, iii, 260; Johnson’s Greene, i, 462-63; Greene’s Greene, iii, 188.[ MS. Notes of conversations with Benjamin Starritt, of Lee’s Legion; Tarleton’s Campaigns, 270-71, 275-76; Stedman, with MS marginal notes by Captain J. R. Whitford, ii, 337, 343; Lee’s Memoirs, new ed., 276-83; Johnson Greene, ii, 6; Lossing’s Field Book, ii, 402, 403; Bancroft, x, 476-79; Dawson’s Battles, ii, 665-67, MS. Letter of Hon. W. C. Preston, to the author, July 10th, 1840.]
Lee commended Colonel Campbell for the bravery displayed in the action by his battalion; and Greene assured him, that his “faithful services” claimed his General’s warmest thanks, and his “entire approbation of his conduct”–adding: “Sensible of your merit, I feel a pleasure in doing justice to it.” Displeased with the treatment shown to himself and riflemen–who were the first in the engagement, and the last in the field–Campbell retired in disgust from the service. At his home on the Holston, he announced himself, on the thirty-first of March, as a candidate for the House of Delegates, saying: “The resignation of my military commission, which I could not longer hold with honor, after the treatment I have received, puts it out of my power to serve my country as an officer.”( MS. Letter of Colonel Campbell to Colonel Daniel Smith, on Clinch.) Campbell and his, men felt deeply aggrieved–feeling that Lee had abandoned them without notice, and left them to maintain the unequal contest unprotected by cavalry, when Tarleton directed his dragoons against them.
“You have no doubt observed,” wrote General William R. Davie, “that Campbell’s regiment of riflemen acted with Lee on the left flank of the army. After the main body of the army had been pushed off the field, these troops remained engaged with the Yagers of the regiment of Boze, near the Court House, some of them covered by houses, others by a skirt of thick wood. In this situation, they were charged by the British cavalry, and some of them were cut down. Lee’s cavalry were drawn up on the edge of the open ground, above the Court House, about two hundred yards off, and, as Colonel Campbell asserted, moved as this charge was made on his riflemen. On the day after the action, Campbell was extremely indignant at this movement, and spoke freely of Lee’s conduct. Lee was, however, sent off the same day, to watch the enemy’s movements, and Campbell’s regiment were soon discharged.”( Johnson’s Greene, ii, 16-17, 20) Lee’s abandonment of Campbell’s riflemen,” said the late William C. Preston, “at twilight, and without giving notice of his withdrawal, was long regarded by the survivors with the most bitter feelings, which were subsequently revived by the manner in which he sunk their services and sufferings in his published account of the battle.”( MS. letter of Gov. David Campbell to the author, Dec. 12, 1840) This, at least, is expressive of the sentiments of Campbell and his men; and, at this late day, it is difficult to determine whether Lee was excusable, or culpable, for the course he pursued. But well-merited compliments and soothing words, on the part of General Greene, did not change Colonel Campbell’s determination to withdraw from the service. He accordingly left camp on the morning of the twentieth; and returning home resigned his commission in the militia.
There was something akin to rivalry between Colonel Arthur Campbell and his brother-in-law, William Campbell, whose sister Margaret he had married. She was a woman of excellent mind, and of uncommon beauty and sprightliness; and withal she possessed no little ambition, which she endeavored to turn to good account in her.husband’s behalf. This young wife encouraged him in all his plans by which he might acquire distinction as a public man. Her whole mind seemed completely absorbed in this one great object of her life, to which every other must bend; no privation, however great, annoyed her in the smallest degree, if she believed it would contribute to the acquirement of either military or civil reputation for her husband. Her extreme solicitude and promptings to push him up the ladder of fame, caused him sometimes to make false steps, and involved him in unnecessary altercations with his brother-in-law and others. Except these ambitious efforts, and they were always promoted in a manner to gratify her husband, she was among the most exemplary of women, never having a thought in opposition to his upon any subject, and believing him to be the greatest man in the country, not excepting her brother, of whose abilities she entertained a very exalted opinion. ( MS. Notes of conversations with Benjamin Starritt, of Lee’s Legion; Tarleton’s Campaigns, 270-71, 275-76; Stedman, with MS marginal notes by Captain J. R. Whitford, ii, 337, 343; Lee’s Memoirs, new ed., 276-83; Johnson Greene, ii, 6; Lossing’s Field Book, ii, 402, 403; Bancroft, x, 476-79; Dawson’s Battles, ii, 665-67, MS. Letter of Hon. W. C. Preston, to the author, July 10th, 1840.
Colonel Arthur Campbell was some three years the senior of William Campbell; this fact, and his having been in youth a prisoner with the Indians, had given him the precedence in martial affairs. His military talents, however, were not of the first order, while William Campbell thought that the experience he had gained on the Point Pleasant campaign, and during his year’s service in the Williamsburg region, in 1775-76, fairly entitled him to lead his brother-in-law, who would not acquiesce in this view, and jealousies were the consequence, and sometimes open ruptures. There appears to have been a sort of quasi understanding between them, that they should take turns in commanding the Washington force on military expeditions against the enemy. While Colonel William Campbell led the troops against the Tories up New river, the men composing the command were only in part from Washington County; and, hence he was permitted to go on the King’s Mountain campaign, heartily seconded in his efforts by Colonel Arthur Campbell. The latter led the expedition in December following against the Cherokees; and when, shortly after, William Campbell received the urgent invitation from General Greene to join him with a band of riflemen, Colonel Arthur Campbell interposed objections, nominally on the ground of danger from the Indians, but probably prompted in fact somewhat by his jealousy of his brother-in-law’s growing fame as a leader in expeditions against the enemy.
General Campbell had a very imposing personal appearance–the beau ideal of a military chieftain with those who served under him, He was about six feet, two inches high, possessing a large, muscular, well-proportioned frame–rather raw-boned; with an iron constitution, capable of almost incredible endurance–and he was as straight as an Indian. His complexion was ruddy, with light colored or reddish hair, and bright blue eyes. His countenance presented a serious–nay, stern appearance; and when not excited expressive of great benevolence; but when his ire was stirred, he exhibited the fury of an Achilles. On such occasions he would commit violent and indiscreet acts; he was, however, easily calmed, particularly when approached by those in whom he reposed confidence–to such he would yield his opinions without the slightest opposition. In conversation he was reserved and thoughtful; in his written communications, expressive and elegant. He was bland in his manners, and courteous to all with whom he had intercourse, whether high or low, rich or poor. At preaching in the country, it was his constant custom to look around after sermon was ended, and assist all the women of the neighborhood, especially the more aged, who were not attended, on their horses.
Of Scottish descent, he inherited the principles and predilections of his persecuted Presbyterian ancestors of that northern land. His religious zeal–certainly in theory–and his devotion to liberty, were alike deep, fervent, and exclusive. In his domestic and social relations, he was the most amiable of men. He would send his servants to aid a poor neighbor, while he would himself plow through the heat of the day in his fields, giving his spare moments to his Bible and his God, endeavoring scrupulously to live up to the golden rule in all his dealings with his fellow men. But he set his face like a flint against the enemies of his country and of freedom, proving himself almost as inflexible as a Claverhouse or a Cumberland toward those who betrayed or deserted the holy cause for which he contended, and for which he died and Major Herndon Haralson, of Brownsville, Tennessee, in 1844, and Benjamin Starritt, all participants in the action; Tarleton’s Campaigns, 135; Stedman, ii, 336; Lee’s Memoirs, revised ed., 265-67; Greene, in Letter to Washington, iii, 260; Johnson’s Greene, i, 462-63; Greene’s Greene, iii, 188.
Lee commended Colonel Campbell for the bravery displayed in the action by his battalion; and Greene assured him, that his “faithful services” claimed his General’s warmest thanks, and his “entire approbation of his conduct”–adding: “Sensible of your merit, I feel a pleasure in doing justice to it.” Displeased with the treatment shown to himself and riflemen–who were the first in the engagement, and the last in the field–Campbell retired in disgust from the service. At his home on the Holston, he announced himself, on the thirty-first of March, as a candidate for the House of Delegates, saying: “The resignation of my military commission, which I could not longer hold with honor, after the treatment I have received, puts it out of my power to serve my country as an officer.”(*) Campbell and his, men felt deeply aggrieved–feeling that Lee had abandoned them without notice, and left them to maintain the unequal contest unprotected by cavalry, when Tarleton directed his dragoons against them.
(*)MS. Letter of Colonel Campbell to Colonel Daniel Smith, on Clinch.
“You have no doubt observed,” wrote General William R. Davie, “that Campbell’s regiment of riflemen acted with Lee on the left flank of the army. After the main body of the army had been pushed off the field, these troops remained engaged with the Yagers of the regiment of Boze, near the Court House, some of them covered by houses, others by a skirt of thick wood. In this situation, they were charged by the British cavalry, and some of them were cut down. Lee’s cavalry were drawn up on the edge of the open ground, above the Court House, about two hundred yards off, and, as Colonel Campbell asserted, moved as this charge was made on his riflemen. On the day after the action, Campbell was extremely indignant at this movement, and spoke freely of Lee’s conduct. Lee was, however, sent off the same day, to watch the enemy’s movements, and Campbell’s regiment were soon discharged.”(+)
(+)Johnson’s Greene, ii, 16-17, 20.
But it was as a military genius that he shone pre-eminent. He had the ability to form able plans–confidence in himself, and indefatigable perseverance to execute them; and the rare capacity to inspire all under his command with his own confidence and indomitable courage. Had he acted on as conspicuous a stage as Warren or Montgomery, his name and fame would have been as illustrious as theirs. With inferior numbers of undisciplined volunteers, embodied with great celerity, led forth, with scanty supplies, nearly two hundred miles over rugged mountains, he totally defeated Ferguson, one of the most experienced and enterprising of the British partisan leaders–gaining, as he expressed it, “victory to a wish.” At Guilford he fully sustained his high reputation, and had the North Carolina militia behaved with the firmness and courage equal to his riflemen, the army of Cornwallis would not have been crippled only, but would, in all probability, have met with irretrievable disaster.
General Campbell never balanced between military duty and prudential maxims. Himself a hater of vice and treason in every form, he was by some deemed too severe in punishing the deviations of others–yet his acts, in his own estimation, were the result of the purest patriotic impulses. Wherever the story of King’s Mountain and Guilford is read, and the services of their heroes fully appreciated, it will be found that William Campbell has “purpled o’er his name with deathless glory.”
Of such of General Campbell’s officers as served with him at King’s Mountain, and concerning whom facts have been obtained, brief notices will be made. Major William Edmondson–or Edmiston, as frequently written in early days–the second in command of the Virginia regiment in the battle, was descended from Irish ancestry, and born in Cecil County, Maryland, in 1734. While he was yet young, his father removed to what is now Rockbridge County, Virginia, where he grew to years of manhood, receiving a limited education. He early engaged in the old French and Indian war.
Learning of Colonel Byrd’s expedition down the Holston, destined against the Cherokees, in 1760, William Edmondson, and his brother Samuel, concluded to enlist, so as to give them an opportunity to examine the lands of the Holston country with a view to future settlement. While on this service, William Edmondson was guilty of the high crime of addressing an officer without taking off his hat, as was required of all soldiers, for which he was severely rebuked, and threatened with punishment. Reaching his comrades in great wrath, Edmondson loaded his rifle, and swore he would shoot the officer who had so grossly insulted him; and it was with great difficulty, that his brother dissuaded him from it. One of the Virginia officers, who knew Edmondson, wrote to Governor Fauquier, that there was a high spirited soldier in his corps, who, unless commissioned, was likely to get into trouble.(+) On the first of August, in that year, the Governor sent (*)These salient points in the character of General Campbell are drawn from Colonel
Arthur Campbell’s memoir; Governor D. Campbell’s MS. correspondence; and the recollections of Colonel Walter Lewis, who had served under him, in Atkinson’s Casket, September, 1833, 387.
(+)MS. letter of Hon. Benjamin Estill, August 21st, 1845.
[this document supplied to me by Grady Loy]