Shenandoah Martyr: Richard Campbell at War


December 3, 2019
by Gabriel Neville Also by this Author


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There is no dignity in being forgotten. A case in point is Virginia Lt. Col. Richard Campbell, a Continental officer who died bravely for his country but lies today in an unmarked grave far from his home. “Killed near the end of the battle at Eutaw Springs,” wrote the authors of a 2017 study of that battle, “he is virtually unknown today.” In his own day, however, Nathanael Greene called him a “brave, active, and intrepid Soldier.” Light Horse Harry said he was an “excellent officer” who was “highly respected and beloved.” In 1832 one of his soldiers still remembered him as “the brave Col. Campbell.” Dick Campbell, as he was known, deserves to be remembered.[1]

Little is known of his early life. Historian Louise Phelps Kellogg asserted a century ago that he was “a distant relative of the Campbell family of southwest Virginia.” This would tie him to militia Gen. William Campbell, a leader at the Battle of King’s Mountain. He was evidently born in Virginia about 1730 and raised in Dunmore (now Shenandoah) County, where he was appointed a sheriff’s deputy in 1772 and reappointed in 1774. The Shenandoah Valley was culturally distinct from the eastern parts of Virginia. Many of Campbell’s neighbors were Germans who had migrated from Pennsylvania.[2]

As war approached, he joined the First Independent Company of Dunmore. News of the Virginia Powder Alarm sent the company parading out of the county seat at Woodstock toward Williamsburg. When word of a peaceful settlement arrived they returned and held a barbeque. In November 1775, Campbell was tasked with conducting a census of his part of the county, reporting for his own household ten white and two black residents. Notably, his was the only household out of seventy-six that reported black, likely enslaved, members.[3]

In 1775, the Virginia Convention authorized several regiments of full-time soldiers. The rector of Dunmore’s Beckford Parish, the Rev. Peter Muhlenberg, was one of the county’s delegates to the Convention. He returned home in January 1776 with a colonel’s commission. He was charged with leading a “German Regiment,” to be “made up of German and other officers and soldiers, as the committees of the several counties . . . shall judge expedient.” Ten companies were recruited from eight mostly frontier counties stretching from the Clinch River Valley (near the Cumberland Gap) to Pittsburgh. Dunmore County raised two of them.[4]

It was soon clear that the 8th Virginia would not be uniformly—or perhaps even mostly—German. The Dunmore Committee of Safety decided to raise one “German” company and one “English” company. Campbell was assigned to lead the latter one.[5]

The regiment was directed to rendezvous at Suffolk, Virginia, in the spring of 1776. There, they were put under the command of North Carolina Gen. Robert Howe and tasked with stopping slaves from joining the Crown governor’s “Ethiopian Regiment” and preventing Tories from supplying the governor’s “fleet” of waterborne Loyalist refugees.[6]

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Charles Lee arrived to take command of the Southern Department. Gen. Henry Clinton was also headed south with two companies of light troops to join arriving British warships in an attack on the Carolinas. Lee ordered the 8th Virginia, which he called “the strongest Battalion we have,” to follow him and General Howe southward.[7]

The 8th was at Charleston for the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, but was not engaged in the famous defense of Fort Moultrie. However, about 100 volunteers were sent with 8th Virginia Maj. Peter Helphenstine to help fend off an infantry crossing of the Breech Inlet at the north end of the island. Lee expected the half-built fort to fall quickly and positioned most of his Continentals in the city and at nearby Haddrell’s Point.[8]

The victory on June 28 was glorious and was followed by a grand celebration of the Declaration of Independence under Charleston’s liberty tree. While they celebrated, however, malaria was silently incubating in the livers of the men. The disease (which was endemic to the region until the 1950s) was spread by mosquitos. Men from the frontier were especially unlikely to have any developed resistance to it. About 150 very sick Virginians were left behind in August when Lee continued farther south to attack the Tory haven of St. Augustine.[9]

Among those left behind was Major Helphenstine, who resigned and went home to Winchester. Also sick, perhaps, were 8th Virginia captains John Stephenson and William Darke. This would explain why Campbell was promoted over them to replace Helphenstine. The promotion appears to have been made by Lee provisionally and on the fly on the day the army marched south. Stephenson’s time in the regiment was nearly over, but Campbell’s improper promotion over Darke remained a source of controversy until it was finally resolved by the commander-in-chief a year later.[10]

Lee’s army arrived in Savannah, Georgia on August 16. They remained there for five days before proceeding farther south to Fort Morris, near Sunbury on the Medway River. Malaria continued to take a heavy toll. William Moultrie remembered that “The troops that went to Georgia, suffered exceedingly by sickness; at Sunberry, 14 or 15 were buried every day.”[11]

Rampant disease and Lee’s recall to New York put an end to the Florida expedition. Those who were fit to travel returned to Virginia, arriving in Fredericksburg by December 20. Campbell and the other officers immediately went to work recruiting replacements for those who had died or deserted. It was tough going. The 8th Virginia joined Gen. George Washington’s main army in New Jersey in April, but brigade commander Gen. Charles Scott sent Major Campbell back to the Shenandoah Valley to oversee further recruitment. It was futile. Campbell reported to Washington, “the Recruiting Service goes very slowly.” Officers standing up a new company had “not raised more than 20 Men in the course of five months.” He was recalled to New Jersey with the few recruits he had.[12]

Meanwhile, the controversy over Campbell’s promotion was boiling over. Congress had confirmed it without questioning it. Muhlenberg appealed to General Washington for guidance, but an aide de camp responded: “Congress having confirmed Majr Campbell in his Office, leaves his Excellency no power to remove him, but for the Commission of some Offence.” The injustice of the situation was evident, however, and on May 13 Congress instructed Washington to investigate and resolve the matter. Washington assured John Hancock, “The inquiry directed, respecting Major Campbell, shall be made and that be done, which shall appear right.” A board of officers determined that Captain Darke’s commission was in fact ten days older than Campbell’s. The board reported, “Captain Richard Campbell has a Major’s Commission dated the 10th August 1776 which appears to be out of turn. This Rank as Such disputed by the Captains of an older date.” A few days before the Battle of Germantown, Darke was retroactively promoted and Campbell was properly advanced to major and transferred to the 13th Virginia Regiment.[13]

The 13th was another frontier regiment, raised entirely in the large, semi-organized West Augusta District that included Fort Pitt (claimed at that time by Virginia). It was commanded by Col. William Russell, a frontiersman who was Patrick Henry’s brother-in-law. Campbell found that the soldiers of the 13th were unhappy. They had been promised that they would serve near their homes on the frontier, but most of its companies were nonetheless at Valley Forge. Washington evidently told Campbell that he would try to address the situation, prompting Colonel Russell to write the future President:

I am happy to be inform’d by Major Campbell, that your Excellency intends shortly to have the divided and disagreeable situation of the 13th Virginia Regiment laid before Congress. That the Soldiers of that Regiment had assurances by the Officers who enlisted them to be continued on that side of the Mountain, is a fact, perhaps unknown to your Excellency, but true it is such engagements drew in many married Men to enlist, who have since been forced down here, leaving their helpless Families in a most miserable condition.[14]

“I am under some embarrassments respecting the 13th Virginia Regiment,” Washington wrote to Henry Laurens, the new president of Congress. “I think the whole should be united, either here or there, and wish Congress to direct me upon the subject.” There was no immediate resolution.[15]

Campbell and the 13th were at the Battle of Germantown, at White Marsh, and at Valley Forge. In February 1778 (or possibly later, but retroactively) Campbell was promoted again to lieutenant colonel. Below him was Maj. Richard Taylor, the father of future president Zachary Taylor. Washington directed Colonel Russell to go to Fort Pitt in the spring and begin getting the regiment in line, which included rounding up deserters. Campbell was posted at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where there were several 13th Virginia men in hospitals. Campbell also appears to have spent some of this time at home on furlough. It is unclear where Campbell was in May when Washington directed him to support Russell’s efforts.[16]

You are to march immediately with the thirteenth Virginia Regiment to York Town in Pennsylvania, going thro Lancaster and collecting from the Hospitals there and at other places all the convalescents belonging to said Regiment who are able to proceed. You will remain with the Regiment after it arrives at Yorktown till it receives further orders [after which] you are to return immediately and join this army.[17]

Washington told Colonel Russell that he would send the rest of the regiment home to Fort Pitt when he could. Moreover, he wrote, “I shall as soon as possible fill up the Vacancies of Field officers in the Virginia line when a Leiut[enant] Colo[nel] and Major will be appointed to the 13th.” This suggests that Washington had other plans for Campbell and Taylor. Washington also appointed Georgia Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh to assume command of the Western Department and he replaced Colonel Russell with Col. John Gibson because the latter was from Pittsburgh and familiar with the indigenous tribes. Col. Daniel Brodhead’s 8th Pennsylvania Regiment was also sent to Fort Pitt.[18]

York was at that time the seat of the Continental Congress. Hearing “the most distressing accounts [of Indian attacks] from the frontier Settlements,” McIntosh sent Campbell riding back to Valley Forge with a request for further reinforcements. His letter also asked for Campbell to be permanently assigned to the 13th. “I submit to your Excellency,” McIntosh wrote, “if it will not be necessary to send the bearer Major Campbell back to me again either in the capacity he is now in, or as Lieut. Colonel if he is entitled to it, as the 13th Regiment has no other Field Officer but Colo[nel] Russell.” It is interesting that McIntosh seems to have doubted Campbell’s rank. Washington replied that McIntosh could have Campbell but he could not spare further troops.[19]

McIntosh arrived at Fort Pitt on August 6 and began negotiating a peace treaty with the Christian Delaware Indians who lived beyond the Ohio River. This was a prerequisite to a planned expedition against Detroit, from where the British directed their northwest military operations through Indian proxies. Several factors hampered McIntosh’s plans. Many locals objected to making peace with any Indians. Locals were not eager to sell supplies to an army that could only pay in depreciating currency. Militiamen prioritized fending off Indian raids at home over a three-hundred-mile expedition to Detroit. The territory around Fort Pitt was claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania and the locals were divided in their loyalties. Worse, the two regiments under McIntosh’s command—the 13th Virginia and the 8th Pennsylvania—were populated by locals with opposing allegiances. Meanwhile, sometime after Gibson and Campbell arrived at this difficult post, they learned that the 13th had been re-designated the 9th Virginia in a reorganization of the Virginia Line.[20]

After the Delaware treaty was signed, McIntosh organized an expedition against Detroit despite a late start and shortages in supplies and manpower. His army followed the Ohio River’s wide counterclockwise arc from Pittsburgh to the mouth of the Beaver River. There, half of the army built a fort on the “Indian” side of the river while the other cut a supply road on the “English” side. The fort, which McIntosh named for himself, was intended as the first in a chain of strongholds that would enable the Americans to take Detroit. In November, McIntosh continued west into Ohio toward the Delaware settlement at Coshocton.[21]

He left Campbell behind with 150 men to finish building the fort and to press the commissaries to procure much-needed horses, flour, salt, whiskey, and forage. “You are Immediately to take charge and Command of this Post with all the Troops left here untill further orders,” McIntosh wrote. “You are to get the Fort Finished as soon as possible you can, the Gates are to be hung and secured, the under pinning finished, and the Bastions put in a proper State of defence in the first place, with the Tower in the front. —the Barracks may be finished last.”[22]

Campbell dutifully set about trying to fulfill McIntosh’s instructions. He was in command not just of Fort McIntosh, but also of Fort Pitt and several smaller outposts.  McIntosh’s supplies had to come from far away or from often truculent locals. Posted where he was, it was difficult to enforce compliance. The general left him with one other unpleasant duty. A court martial had found a Virginia soldier guilty of desertion and being drunk on guard and sentenced him to “200 lashes on his bare back well laid on.” McIntosh remitted half of the lashes before he left but ordered “Colo[nel] Campbell to see the other half put in execution.”[23]

Predictably, McIntosh began almost immediately to complain about the quality of his horses and the shortness of supplies. In reply, Campbell reported that his own wagon horses were “drop[p]ing down in the Geers for want of Forage” and warned that he could not complete the fort as things stood. He was assertive in seeking a solution. He placed one commissary under arrest. He sent an officer and twenty men upriver to commandeer forage. He ordered that all future supplies be delivered directly to Fort McIntosh, instead of Fort Pitt where they might get pilfered.[24]

McIntosh replied approvingly, but the situation did not improve. McIntosh never made it to Coshocton and Detroit was out of the question. Instead, the general halted his army about forty-five miles short of Coshocton on the Tuscarawas River. He built a stockade and named it after Henry Laurens, who had been a mentor to him. He met with the Delaware, who were not impressed, garrisoned the new fort with 150 men under Colonel Gibson, and returned to Fort Pitt.[25]

With the winter came a new year, 1779, and letters from Gibson begging for winter clothing for his men. In late February, a party of British-allied Indians attacked a work detail and placed Fort Laurens under siege. When news of this arrived, McIntosh prepared to lead 300 Continentals and 200 militia across the Ohio on a rescue mission. Campbell was instructed to “see every necessary got ready for the expedition to Tuscarawas as soon as possible.” This time, Campbell accompanied the general and Daniel Brodhead was left in command of Fort McIntosh. The Indians were gone when they arrived at Fort Laurens, but its occupants had been living on half a biscuit a day and were now down to broiling their moccasins. Outside the fort, a celebratory volley spooked the pack horses and a large part of the resupply was lost as the panicked animals charged through the woods spilling flour as they went. Inside the fort, three of the starving men died after gorging themselves on food.[26]

McIntosh, who was described by Colonel Brodhead as “almost universally Hated by every man in this department,” was relieved of command. Brodhead replaced him, but things did not improve at Fort Laurens. The new garrison was soon “so much reduced for want of Provisions that they were scarce able to stand on their feet.” They were living on “herbs, salt, and cowhides.” Now it was Dick Campbell’s turn. On June 14, he was ordered to lead a resupply mission to Fort Laurens and to take over as commandant with a garrison of seventy-five men.[27]

A month later, Brodhead began berating Campbell for his consumption of supplies. “If I recollect,” he wrote, “your orders were to retain Seventy-five rank and file, and I cannot conceive how (if you have paid respect to my orders,) you can issue an hundred and one rations per Day. Where officers will not pay the strictest attention to Orders, there can be no rule for their supplies, & if they Suffer for want of them, they must attribute the misfortune to their own imprudence and disobedience.”[28]

Elsewhere, with the northern theater at a stalemate, Washington turned his attention to Britain’s Iroquois allies in upstate New York. Colonel Brodhead’s troops were instructed to head up the Allegheny River and attack the Mingo (western Seneca) villages there while Maj. Gen. John Sullivan attacked farther east with a much larger force. Brodhead sent Capt. Benjamin Harrison to Campbell in July with orders to abandon Fort Laurens and join the expedition. Two weeks later, Brodhead scolded Campbell for delaying. “How an officer, who has served so long as you mention, should have misconceived language and circumstances so plain as was contained in my Letter, and the arrival of Captain Harrison with the Pack Horses, I am at a loss to conceive. However, I will now give it more plain, if possible. Sir, I mean as I said before, that Fort Lawrence must be evacuated.”[29]

What the problem was is not clear, but Brodhead wrote yet again on August 7, “Your obstinacy has already delayed the expedition I informed you of & I expect, unless this meets you near at hand, to march without your Garrison.” Indeed, the expedition set off on August 11. The army marched 400 miles in thirty-three days, burning Mingo villages, destroying crops, and plundering valuables.[30]

It appears that Campbell missed the expedition, perhaps because he was sick. He is next mentioned in a December note from Brodhead to the commandant of Fort McIntosh: “Col. Campbell is very ill at present and it is likely he cannot have a speedy recovery, therefore you must continue a while longer.” Campbell may have been experiencing a flare up of malaria, which can lie dormant in the liver for months or even years. Some 8th Virginia veterans suffered from this for the rest of their lives.[31]

In the spring, frustrated with his circumstances, Campbell wrote a letter to General Washington. As is often the case with mid-level officers from the frontier, the letter reveals that Campbell was literate but not practiced in the art of writing.

If your Excellency thinks Proper to Con[t]inue the Reigt in this Department, I will thank your Excellency for leave to Join Some Other Coare for the Ensuing Campeign Or Some Other Command as The Reigt is but Small & a Sufficient Number of Officers To the Reigiment & Two Field Officers Besides myself. When I Stept forth in the Armey it was my determination to Render my Cuntry Ever Service, In my Power & wish to be allways where i Could take an Active Part, & as there has Been Officers Ordered from Differant Reigts To Command Troops to the Southward I should be Glad to meet with the Same Indulgance if Your Excellency Thought Proper. I am Sensible your Excellency is not Unaquainted with my Charrictor While with the Meine Armey therefore I Will not Trouble you Any Further & hope to Receive Your Excellencyes Answer.[32]

On October 17, 1780 Washington replied to a note from Campbell’s fellow Woodstockian, General Muhlenberg: “The proposed exchange of stations between Colonels Campbell and Taylor will be perfectly agreeable to me.” It appears that Washington was not the only general to receive a letter from Campbell looking for a new post. In December, Campbell was in Richmond meeting with Maj. Gen. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben and Gov. Thomas Jefferson. He returned to Fort Pitt in December or January. In February, the 9th Virginia was reduced to two companies and “surplus” officers, including Campbell, were ordered to Richmond.[33]

The Virginia Line was almost completely wiped out after the surrender of Charleston and the defeats at Camden and the Waxhaws—all in 1780. Muhlenberg and Washington were the only Virginian generals left in the field. Repeated recruiting failures forced Virginia to implement a draft. When Campbell arrived at Chesterfield Courthouse, south of Richmond, Steuben placed him in command of a 400-man detachment of these new eighteen-months men and sent him south to reinforce Nathanael Greene in North Carolina on February 25.[34]

Knowing that a clash with the army under Lt. Gen. Charles, Earl Cornwallis was near, Greene sent a courier to Campbell urging him to hurry. “The present moment is critical,” Greene wrote, “therefore you will not lose an instant of time.” Campbell was not only coming with reinforcements, he also had thirteen wagons carrying weapons for 600 men. As he got closer, another message from Greene instructed him to rush ahead with his men and let the wagons follow under a guard.[35]

Campbell’s detachment marched into camp just a few days before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The men were placed under Lt. Col. Samuel Hawes in one of two Virginia units. Campbell himself was made second in command of the other unit under Col. John Green. Together, they constituted the Virginia Brigade, which was commanded by Brig. Gen. Isaac Huger of South Carolina.[36]

At Guilford Courthouse on March 15, Nathanael Greene employed a strategy similar to the plan used by Daniel Morgan at Cowpens. It involved a defense in depth, with soldiers in three lines. Militia, in front, were expected to retreat after firing a pair of carefully timed volleys. The second line, too, engaged and then retreated from the advancing enemy, leaving the army’s best soldiers—the Continentals—to face off with a now exhausted foe. The plan was nearly successful, but was instead the first of four Pyrrhic victories for the British. Campbell’s unit covered the American retreat by fending off a final enemy dragoon charge.[37]

Colonel Green left after Guilford Courthouse. General Greene organized the Virginians into two ad hoc regiments, now commanded by Campbell (the “1st Virginia”) and Hawes (the “2nd Virginia”). Campbell sent a captain back to Virginia with a letter begging Governor Jefferson for new clothing for the men. Though it had only been a few weeks, the shirts and overalls they were issued at Chesterfield were already worn out.[38]

The armies then approached another major engagement near Camden. “[A] party of British and Torys had entrenched near some mills,” veteran Robert Twait recalled. “Col. Campbell obtained leave to take a party of men and [rout] them—this he did so effectively that he nearly destroyed the whole of them.” Three days later, encamped on Hobkirk’s Hill, the army was given short warning of an attack by forces under Lt. Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon. General Greene ordered Campbell’s 1st Virginia and the 2nd Maryland to flank the enemy on the right and left. Seeing this, Rawdon deployed reserves to extend his own lines as the American artillery opened fire. Veteran William Richardson Davie recalled that “General Greene exposed himself greatly in this action, especially with Campbell’s regiment; so much so, that one of the officers observed to me, that his conduct during the action resembled more that of a captain of grenadiers, than that of a major-general.” The death of a Maryland officer triggered an unraveling of the Maryland line.  This enabled the enemy to turn the 2nd Virginia’s flank. Then, Greene reported, “Lieutt Colo Campbells Regiment had got into some disorder and fallen back a little, this obliged me to order Lieutt Colo Haws to retire.” Campbell successfully rallied his troops, but too late to “recover the fortune of the Day.” Campbell was wounded with a contusion on his thigh, but not seriously.[39]

In June, Greene’s army laid siege to the last enemy outpost in the Carolina backcountry at the village of Ninety-Six. There, a Loyalist force under Lt. Col. John Harris Cruger was garrisoned in an earthen star fort that was surrounded by an abatis and a circular trench. Using classic siege tactics, Greene’s army approached the fort by digging progressively closer trenches connected by zig-zag trenches that denied the enemy a line of sight (or fire) into the siege works. When word came that Lord Rawdon was approaching with enemy reinforcements, Greene’s instinct was to abandon the siege. The soldiers were committed in the effort, however, and insisted on rushing the siege to a conclusion. Tadeusz Kosciusko recorded that a “number of Officers and soldiers” volunteered for an assault.[40]

The assault was commanded by Colonel Campbell, with two lieutenants leading men from the Virginia and Maryland lines. A tower was built from which riflemen fired into the fort while pioneers chopped through the abatis. The Tories piled sandbags atop their parapet to counter the rifle fire while Campbell’s men used hooks to pull them down. Both sides fired away at each other. Then, two units of the enemy entered the trench from the rear of the fort and raced in opposite directions around the circle, charging Campbell’s men on both sides with bayonets. Both lieutenants were wounded and the Americans yielded. “There is great reason to believe,” General Greene wrote afterward, “that the attack on the Star Battery, directed by Lt Coll Campbell, would have [succeeded], if the brave Lieutenants Duvall and Sellden, had not been unluckily wounded.”[41]

Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk’s Hill, and the Siege of Ninety-Six were all losses for the American side. The victories were costly for the British, however, and they could not afford to continue winning in this way. The British and Loyalist army was losing manpower and ceding more and more of the backcountry. As overtures toward peace were hinted at elsewhere, territorial control mattered greatly. In 1780 it had been easy to conceive of an independent United States of just ten former colonies, with Georgia and the Carolinas remaining in the Empire with Canada and the Floridas. As 1781 went on, however, it became obvious that the British could really only maintain control of the coastal cities of Charleston and Savannah. George Rogers Clark’s successes in Illinois and Ohio were important for the same reason. (Conversely, the failure of McIntosh, Brodhead, or Clark to take Detroit had lasting consequences.)[42]

In July, General Huger departed and left command of the Virginia Brigade to Colonel Campbell. Greene’s army spent the dog days of summer up in the High Hills of Santee, a place where Charleston’s elite kept vacation homes to escape the summer heat. On the British side, Lord Rawdon returned to England and Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart took command in the field. The two armies finally clashed again in a major engagement at Eutaw Springs on September 8. That was Dick Campbell’s last day on Earth.

Greene deployed his army in a now-familiar array. There was a first line of militia; the Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina Continentals stood behind them in a second line; and the Delaware Continentals and William Washington’s cavalry were in reserve as a third line. The militia performed well, but eventually broke. The North Carolina Continentals covered their retreat and assumed the lead, taking heavy casualties. Campbell’s men and their Maryland comrades then entered the fray, relieving the North Carolinians. Pushing hard, they successfully drove their tired enemy back through their camp. If the battle had ended there and then, it would have been a clear American victory.[43] Campbell’s fate was first described by South Carolina physician, legislator, and historian David Ramsay. He wrote in 1789:

In the hottest of the action Col. O[tho] Williams, and Lieut. Col. Campbel with the Maryland and Virginia continentals charged with trailed arms. Nothing could surpass the intrepidity of both officers and men on this occasion. They rushed on in good order through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of musketry, with such unshaken resolution, that they bore down all before them. Lieut. Col. Campbel, while bravely leading his men on to that successful charge, received a mortal wound. After he had fallen he enquired who gave way, and being informed that the British were fleeing in all quarters, replied “I die contented,” and immediately expired.[44]

Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, writing thirteen years later, disputed this account, asserted that the “Virginians had begun to fire, which was not only against orders” but also endangered his own soldiers’ effort to turn the enemy’s left flank. He spurred his horse over to Campbell to confer. As they spoke, Campbell took a ball in the chest. Lee recalled that Campbell “dropped on the pummel of his saddle speechless,” after which Lee’s orderly dragoon guided Campbell’s horse to the rear of the line. There, according to Lee, the seven-year veteran expired “the moment he was taken from his horse.”[45]

A little more color is added by veteran William Davis’s 1832 attestation “that he was one of the sentinels left till others brought in Col. Campbell who was wounded in the engagement” and that “he was near being taking prisoner by seven men of Tarltons [Corps], but was relieved by his own [mess mates] . . . who in return took the 7 as prisoners.”[46]

Whether Campbell regained consciousness before he died or not will never be known for sure. Lee was on the field and Ramsay was not, but it should be acknowledged that Lee’s memoirs have been challenged for accuracy and neither he nor Ramsay was with Campbell the moment he died.[47]

Campbell’s son, Archibald, who was about nineteen, witnessed his father’s death. He lost his own life a decade later at St. Clair’s Defeat trying again to subdue the Ohio Indians. He served there with the man who had spent a year contesting his father’s rank: William Darke.[48]

Despite his steadfast service, Richard Campbell, like the battle in which he died, is little remembered now. Even in the place where he lived almost his entire life, his memory is overshadowed by that of the celebrated General Peter Muhlenberg who lived there for fewer than four years. In front of the Shenandoah County Courthouse at Woodstock there are both a bust and a statue of the general. Muhlenberg Street is a block away. Peter Muhlenberg Middle School is on the south end of town. But nobody remembers Dick Campbell.


[1]Jeremiah Brann Pension; Zackquil Morgan Pension; George Puntenney Pension., Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements and Rosters, transcriptions by Will Graves and C. Leon Harris,

[2]Louise Phelps Kellogg, ed., Frontier Advance on the Upper Ohio, 1778-1779 (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1916), 59; John Walter Wayland, A History of Shenandoah County, Virginia, second edition (Strasburg, VA: Shenandoah Publishing, 1969), 107.

[3]Dunmore County Revolutionary War Papers, Library of Virginia mss, Richmond, VA; Jonathan Clark Diary, Filson Historical Society mss., Louisville, KY.

[4]Ordinances Passed at a Convention … the 1st of December, 1775 (Richmond: Ritchie, Trueheart & Duval, 1816), 65, 93, 105.

[5]Dunmore County Papers.

[6]Charles Lee, The Lee Papers,Henry Edward Bunbury, ed. (New York: New York Historical Society, 1871-1875), 1: 390-391, 396.

[7]Lee Papers, 1: 393-394, 406-408, 410-411, 406-408, 438-440, 477-480, and 2: 23-24.

[8]Peter Force, ed. American Archives (Washington: U.S. Congress, 1837-1853),ser. 5, 1: 438; Lee Papers, 2: 91-94; James Johnston Pension,

[9]Force, American Archives, ser. 5, 1: 631; John Robert McNeill, Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 52; Peter McCandless, “Malaria,” South Carolina Encyclopedia,

[10]Helphenstine [Helphinston] Pension File, Library of Virginia mss; Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, Anno Domini 1776 (Richmond: Samuel Shepherd & Co., 1828), 35; “Rank of the Officers in Colo Abraham Bowman’s regiment as Settled by the Board of Officers appointed by the Hon Brig. Gen. Scott,” [1777], Filson Historical Society mss.

[11]Lee Papers, 2: 253; American Archives, ser. 5, 1: 631; William Moultrie, Memoirs of the American Revolution (New York: David Longworth, 1802),186.

[12]Moultrie, Memoirs, 186; Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Dobertstein, eds., The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1958), 3: 3; H.R. McIlwaine, et. al., eds. Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1931-), 1: 339; W. W. Abbot, et al., eds., The Papers of George Washington (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1987- ), Revolutionary War Series, 10: 382-383.

[13]Papers of George Washington, 8: 429; “Rank of the Officers;” Gabriel Neville, “A Forty Year Bond: William Darke and George Washington in Politics, Business and War,” Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, 84 (2018): 23-38; Papers of George Washington, 8: 507-508, 9: 438-439, 10: 642, 11: 81-82, 11: 343;Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (Washington: Library of Congress, 1907), 7: 351-352; John Fitzgerald to Richard Campbell, August 4, 1777, George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 3b, Varick Transcripts, Letterbook 4: 13,; Compiled Services Records of American Soldiers Who Served in the Continental Army During the Revolutionary War, National Archives, 1042:116, 118-119, 134, 146.

[14]Papers of George Washington, 13: 656–657.

[15]Ibid., 13: 686–688.

[16]Ibid., 14:360; Compiled Service Records, 1056: 88-89; E.M. Sanchez-Saavendra, A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1787 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1978), 68.For evidence that Campbell was in the Shenandoah Valley see Wayland, History of Shenandoah, 119 and Pennsylvania Archives,Samuel Hazard, ed. (Philadelphia: Joseph Severns, 1856), Ser. 1, 12: 211.

[17]Kellogg, Frontier Advance, 59-60.

[18]Papers of George Washington, 15: 167-168, 204-205.

[19]Ibid., 15: 345, 373.

[20]Kellogg, Frontier Advance, 31; Sanchez-Saavedra, Guide, 69.

[21]Louis E. Graham, “Fort McIntosh,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 15 (1932): 94; Randolph C. Downes, Council Fires on the Upper Ohio (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1968), 218.

[22]Kellogg, Frontier Advance,164-165.

[23]Ibid., 167, 441.

[24]Ibid.,167-168, 169-170.

[25]Ibid., 24, 172-175, 183-184.

[26]Ibid., 190-191, 240-242, 254, 256-257, 462.

[27]Ibid., 29-30, 200, 350, 360, 364.

[28]Pennsylvania Archives, Ser. 1, 12: 136.

[29]Ibid., Ser. 1, 12: 146-148.

[30]Ibid., Ser. 1, 12: 154, 155-158.

[31]Ibid., Ser. 1, 12: 200; Henry A. Muhlenberg, The Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1849), 69.

[32]Louise Phelps Kellogg, Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779-1781 (Madison, Wisconsin Historical Society, 1917), 149-150.

[33]George Washington to Peter Muhlenberg, October 17, 1780, George Washington Papers, Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775 to 1785, Subseries 3B, Continental and State Military Personnel, 1775 to 1783, Letterbook 12:- Dec. 31, 1780., accessed 10/14/19; Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952), 4:214, 239; Kellogg, Frontier Retreat, 335-336.

[34]Richard K Showman, ed., The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, 13 vols. (Chapel Hill: Published for the Rhode Island Historical Society by University of North Carolina Press, 1976-2005),7:362-363; Michael Cecere, “Picking Up the Pieces: Virginia’s ‘Eighteen-Months Men’ of 1780-1781,” Journal of the American Revolution, October 15, 2019.

[35]Papers of General Nathanael Greene, 7:394, 414.

[36]Cecere, “Picking Up the Pieces.”

[37]Laurence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard, Long Obstinate and Bloody: The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 56-57, 143-144, 164-169.

[38]Papers of General Nathanael Greene, 8: 156; Papers of Jefferson, 5: 325.

[39]Robert Twait Pension,; Papers of General Nathanael Greene, 8: 54-55, 155-157, 168-169; Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America(London: T. Cadell, 1787), 470; John Buchanan, The Road to Charleston,94-99.

[40]Buchanan, Charleston,156; Miecislaus Haiman, Kosciuszko in the American Revolution(New York: Polish Insitute, 1943), 114.

[41]Papers of General Nathanael Greene, 8: 408-409; Buchanan, Charleston, 157.

[42]Dunkerly and Boland, Eutaw Springs, 20, citing Dennis Conrad.

[43]Lee, Memoirs, 472-473; Dunkerly and Boland, Eutaw Springs, 41, 47-58.

[44]David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution(Philadelphia: R. Aitken & Son, 1789), 2: 253.

[45]Lee, Memoirs, 473.

[46]William Davis Pension,

[47]Babits and Howard, Guilford Courthouse, 110.

[48]Richard Campbell Bounty Land Warrant, Archibald Campbell Bounty Land Warrant,Archibald Campbell Virginia Land Warrant,; Dunkerly and Boland, Eutaw Springs, 58.


  • This is a great article about one of General Greene’s little known brigade commanders during the Southern Campaign. Has anyone done a similar article on Col. James Webster who served as a brigade commander under Cornwallis in the South until he was mortally wounded during the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781? Here is another brave officer who served on the British side during the American Revolution that many of us know very little about. Most of the information I’ve seen on Webster came from the Guilford Courthouse Osprey book, Dr. Babit’s Long, Obstinate and Bloody book plus the dated ‘Oatmeal for the Foxhounds’ website.

  • Thanks for a great article. I learned a lot about this highly under recognized individual. I recently read Dunkerly and Boland’s “Eutaw Springs”. It gives a very descriptive comparison of the battlefield to current maps. Unfortunately, only 14 acres have been preserved in todays memorial park. I understand that 150 plus American dead were soon buried to the west of the park. I assume this would include Richard Campbell. These lost unmarked graves are all on surrounding private property, making archaeology and preservation difficult. Still, it would be nice to see an updated memorial to Col Campbell and those who sacrificed on this day.

    1. Totally agree that there needs to be a memorial or monument to the Patriots who lost their lives during the Battle of Eutaw Springs. I am glad Richard Campbell is getting the exposure he deserves today. Has anyone ever done an article on Col James Webster who served under Cornwallis as one of his brigade commanders in the South? Webster was mortally wounded at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and buried near Elizabethtown, NC as Cornwallis’ British forces made their way towards Wilmington, NC.

  • Would it not be a nice gesture if you could find the descendants of Lt. Col. Richard Campbell so they might could place a memorial for him?

    1. If there is an SAR or DAR chapter that would like to lead the effort to place a monument for Campbell, I can connect them with Campbell descendants. Email me via the webform at

  • Very informative article on Col. Richard Campbell. Truly a courageous officer and soldier. My 5th Great Grandfather Hezekiah Lindsay served under Richard Campbell while with the 13th Virginia regiment. Now I’m even more proud. Yes he deserves to be honored and remembered.

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