Margaret Eustace and Her Family Pass through the American Revolution


September 3, 2020
by Robert Scott Davis Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

John L. Smith, Jr. introduced readers of the Journal of the American Revolution to Margaret Eustace in his article, “The Scandalous Divorce Case that Influenced the Declaration of Independence.” She had a second act in the American Revolution. In Georgia, late in the war, she made a name for herself.

In November 1772, Thomas Jefferson represented Eustace’s daughter Catherine “Kitty” Blair in a divorce from Dr. James Blair of Williamsburg, Virginia, son of four time acting Governor Dr. John Blair Sr. and of the prominent Blair family that had founded the College of William and Mary. The marriage proved a failure literally from day one but continued on by court order for four months until Kitty Eustace Blair sued for divorce for a second time.

Rumors abounded of Kitty Blair’s infidelities with Virginia’s colonial governor, the “flamboyant Scotsman” John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore. Blair died before his divorce went to trial and, after long legal proceedings over his estate involving Jefferson and the famous William Byrd III, Patrick Henry, and Edmund Pendleton, Kitty Blair’s attorneys won and she became a wealthy widow.[1]

Margaret Eustace played roles throughout this notorious affair, an episode in her epic career as a survivor. Born into the Campbell family of Ormaig, a branch of the Campbells of Duntroon, Scotland, in 1733, Margaret married Dr. John Eustace, novel collector and correspondent with novelist clergyman Laurence Sterne. With limited opportunities in Scotland, in 1739 these Eustaces moved to Ulster County, New York, following her father Capt. Lauchlin Campbell of Isle of Isla in Argyllshire, a kinsman to Archibald Campbell (1692-1761), Earl of Ily, 3rd Duke of Argyll. Lauchlin Campbell (d. 1750) brought eighty-three families to New York at his own expense in 1738-1740 on the false promise of New York colonial governor William Alexander Cosby of 100,000 acres.

Captain Campbell returned to Great Britain to serve in the British army in putting down the Scottish Rebellion of 1745 for which he and his son Donald would fail to receive compensation. The children of Lauchlin Campbell, however, successfully sued for 10,000 acres as compensation for their father’s Argyll Patent in the New York courts in 1763.[2]

Dr. John Eustace abandoned Margaret and their several children in New York when he moved his practice to North Carolina in 1764 or 1765. He died in Wilmington in 1769.[3] After settling her husband’s estate, Margaret Eustace and her daughter Kitty moved in with Dr. Archibald Campbell (any relationship not known, died 1799) in Norfolk, Virginia, beginning the chain of events that led to the Blair marriage. Dr. Campbell had lived there since 1744.[4]

In 1779, Margaret Eustace became the subject of a mysterious letter. On January 17, Samuel Elbert, colonel commandant of the Georgia Continentals and brigadier general commanding the Georgia militia, penned a note from Silver Bluff, South Carolina, to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commander of the American forces in the South. British troops had captured Savannah and controlled the coast of Georgia. Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell then marched a column of the King’s battalions into the interior, overcoming what little resistance that Elbert’s soldiers could make.

Elbert that day did not write about the eminent threat to nearby Augusta. Instead, he asked permission for the widow Margaret Eustace, “of family & Reputation” who had recently arrived in Georgia with her daughter, to pass through the British lines to visit Margaret’s brother, the British commander Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, and to enquire of her son serving with him! She mentioned that her son-in-law served with Elbert—Maj. Seth John Cuthbert, married to the widow Kitty Eustace Blair.[5]

This letter was filled with errors, perhaps honest misunderstandings by Samuel Elbert, but also conceivably a carefully crafted set of lies invented by Margaret Campbell Eustace to facilitate her passing through the enemy lines to British-occupied Savannah. The Archibald Campbell (1739-1791) who threatened Augusta in January 1779, for example, was not her brother. Margaret Eustace might have confused that Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell of the 71st Regiment with Maj. Archibald Campbell (1757-1825) of the 74th. Her son was presumably be Capt. Charles Eustace of the 33rd Regiment.

Maj. (later full general) Archibald Campbell (1757-1825) was also not the brother of Margaret Eustace, however.[6] Details of the careers of the different Archibald Campbells who served in the American Revolution sometimes became confused. Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell (1739-1791) of Inverness did briefly tear “a star and a stripe” from the American flag when he conquered Georgia in 1779. Ironically, that Sir Archibald Campbell enjoyed the patronage of Archibald Campbell (1682-1761), the previously mentioned 3rd Duke of Argyll. The British government decommissioned of the 74th Regiment (1777-1784) of Col. Archibald Campbell (1757-1825) but Gen. Archibald Campbell (1739-1791) recreated it for service in India in 1787. The latter and Sir Archibald Campbell (1769-1843) of Ava, governor of New Brunswick are sometimes confused, even with regards to their portraits.[7]

Capt. (later lieutenant general) Charles Eustace was not the son of Margaret Eustace.[8] Most likely, she referred to her son John Skey Eustace, but he served as an officer throughout the war in Georgia and ended the Revolution as a colonel and chief advisor to Gov. Stephen Heard. He likely even served with Elbert at the moment that Margaret appealed to Elbert for the pass through the British lines![9]

This widow Eustace did have a brother Donald Campbell who served as a lieutenant in the Seven Years’ War in the 42nd Regiment at Havana, Louisburg, Martinique, and Quebec. He left Britain heavily in debt. Campbell resigned his commission in the King’s army early in the American Revolution to become a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army. He commanded the American forces fighting in Quebec in 1775-1776 for which he would later be found guilty by court-martial of cowardice. The Continental Congress overturned the verdict. John Trumbull’s painting The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775(1786) depicts Campbell.[10]

Margaret Eustace also had two other brothers who were officers in the British army in 1779. James Campbell, also a veteran of the Seven Years’ War, served as a captain in the British 48th Regiment, which did not serve in the American colonies during the Revolution. He retired after thirty-eight years of service in that regiment as a major in 1796. He died in London. Their brother George served in Gibraltar, Havana, Martinique, and Quebec during the Seven Years’ War. During the American Revolution, George Campbell commanded American provincials in the British army and received a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Loyalist cavalry that served in Georgia and South Carolina at the time Margaret Eustace lived there. After the war, George Campbell rose through the ranks of the Honorable British East India Company and died as a major general in Madras in 1799.[11]

No reply to Elbert’s letter survives in General Lincoln’s letter book. Margaret Eustace may have taken it with her and made a personal visit to Lincoln. In September 1779, she again requested permission to cross the British lines to go into Savannah on business. Georgia’s executive council, after some debate, voted to give her permission but only if she assured Gen. Lachlan McIntosh that she would not pass information to the enemy. The following December, the council received word of her making “several expressions” while living at Shell Bluff. An investigation was made but the consequences are not known.[12]

Margaret Eustace had a colorful career in Georgia. She claimed that her daughter, the widow Catherine “Kitty” Eustace Blair, deeded to her all of her property before marrying Seth John Cuthbert in February 1777. Kitty Cuthbert died in 1780. After Margaret applied for letters of administration in 1788, Seth John Cuthbert unsuccessfully sued for that estate in 1792. By 1790, Margaret Eustace had become such a friend to Catherine Moore, that the following year Moore left her and her son John Skey Eustace the Cattell Park Plantation and mill, which Margaret offered for sale two years later. John lived there for several years.[13]

In 1799, Margret Eustace, with the help of her son, sold out what remained of her Georgia property as she inherited what remained of the distressed estate of her brother Donald Campbell in New York, and by the following year she moved to New York City. She died in Newburgh in 1809. Historian Samuel Eager wrote of her, “For dignity of manners, good sense and lady like deportment, she had few equals at that time in that part of the country.”[14]


[1]Frank L. Dewey, Thomas Jefferson Lawyer (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 57-62. Lord Dunmore would be remembered for offering emancipation to slaves who joined the British forces in the American Revolution. See James Corbett David, Dunmore’s New World: The Extraordinary Life of a Royal Governor (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2013).

[2]William M. MacBean, Biographical Register of the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York, 2 vols. (New York: Marlborough Craft Press, 1922, 1925), 1: 3-5, 11-12, 23, 85, 98; “Died,” Weekly Museum (New York, NY), November 11, 1809, p. 3 c. 5; Margaret Isabella Lindsay, The Lindsays of America (Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1889), 150; Thomas O’Connor and Carl Sherman, comps., In the Court of Appeals of New York Volume 2 Pages 721-1444 [volume 116] (Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon, 1924), 1746-1748; Hal T. Shelton, General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution (New York: new York University Press, 1996), 218n28. In 1734, Governor Cosby became infamous for suing newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger for libel, leading to the American principle that truth is a defense against a libel suit. See Richard Kluger, Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America’s free Press (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017).

[3]Alan D. Watson, “Combating Contagion: Smallpox and the Protection of Public Health in North Carolina, 1750 to 1825,” North Carolina Historical Review90 (January 2013): 26-48; George Morrow, A Cock and Bull for Kitty (Williamsburg, VA: Telford Publications, 2011) 23-25; Arthur s. Marks, “Sterne, Shandy and North Carolina,” Lower Cape Fear Historical Society Inc. Bulletin 45 (September 2000): 1-7.

[4]Morrow, A Cock and Bull for Kitty, 23-25; MacBean,Biographical Register of the St. Andrew’s Society, 1: 111; Peter Wilson Coldham, American Migrations 1765-1799: The lives, times, and families of colonial Americans who remained loyal to the British Crown before, during and after the Revolutionary War, as related through their correspondence (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2000), 540.

[5]Samuel Elbert to Benjamin Lincoln, January 17, 1779, Keith Read Collection, Ms921, Box 7, folder 38, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries; Gordon B. Smith, Morningstars of Liberty, 2 vols. (Milledgeville, GA: Boyd Publishing Company, 2011), 2: 113.

[6]Lindsay, The Lindsays of America, 150; “Historical and Genealogical Notes,”Tyler’s Quarterly Magazine1 (July 1919-April 1920): 70-71; Kathleen Marjory Stewart-Murray, Dutchess of Atholl, ed., A Military History of Perthshire, 1660-1902 (Perth, UK: R. A. & J. Hay, 1908), 438-40.

[7]Archibald Campbell, Journal of An Expedition against the Rebels of GEORGIA IN NORTH AMERICA Under the Orders of ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL ESQUIRE LIEUT. COLOL OF HIS MAJESTY’S 71ST REGIMT 1778, ed. Colin Campbell, (Darien, GA: Ashantilly Press, 1981), 115n95; Robert S. Davis, “Portrait of a Governor,” Atlanta History 26 (Spring 1982): 45-48; MacBean, Biographical Register of the St. Andrew’s Society, 1: 120-21; Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 178, 203; Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of National Biography Index and Epitome (London: Smith, Elder, 1903), 193-94; “The 74th Regiment”: Nothing in Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell’s accounts, journal, or official correspondence mentions Margaret Eustace.

[8]Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire (London: Harrison & Son, 1865), 1258; “Sir Evan Lloyd,” Old Wales: A Monthly Magazine of Antiquities for Wales and the Borders1 (January 1905); 167-71.

[9]Smith, Morningstars of Liberty, 1: 276, 292 n. 52, 2: 113-14; Mary Bondurant Warren, comp., Revolutionary Memoirs and Muster Rolls (Athens, GA: Heritage papers, 1994), 25. Born in Flushing, Long Island, New York in 1760, John Skey Eustace briefly attended the College of William & Mary in 1772 and was made a member of the Georgia Bar by act of the state assembly in 1784. During his early service in Georgia, he served under Generals Charles Lee, Nathanael Greene, and other prominent officers, and later associated with such famous persons as Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton. In 1784, Eustace left America for Europe and Latin America. He published tracts about his service in the American and French Revolutions and he became a Marshal of France. Eustace returned to Georgia in the 1790s but died in Newburgh, New York in 1805, at only age forty-five. Christopher Tozzi, “Between Two Republics American Military Volunteers in Revolutionary France,” Journal of the Western Society for French History 39 (2011):;rgn=main; David Barclay, “Lauchlin Campbell of Campbell Hall and His Family” in Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands (Newburgh, NY: E. G. Hulse, 1900), 34-36; J. S. Eustace Remarks, MSS1358, Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, Washington; Robert Morris, The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781-1784: August-September 1781, ed. E. James Ferguson, 9 vols. (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburg Press, 1973), 2: 156; William Allen, An American Biographical and Historical Dictionary, Etc. (Cambridge, MA: William Hilliard, 1809), 37. John Skey Eustace to Alexander Hamilton, October 27, 1798,” Founder’s Online:

[10]MacBean, Biographical Register of the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York, 1: 4-5; Shelton, General Richard Montgomery, 143, 218n28.

[11]Coldham, American Migrations, 197; MacBean, Biographical Register of the St. Andrew’s Society, 1: 64-65, 74-75.

[12]Allen D. Candler, comp., The Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia, 3 vols. (Atlanta: Burke, 1908), 2: 179-80, 184.

[13]Deposition of Jean Watts, July 1, 1780, Colonial Georgia Miscellaneous Book JJ (1779-1780), 285, microfilm reel 40-37, Georgia Archives, Morrow; deposition of John Blair, n. d., Blair Family Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia; Genealogical Committee of the Georgia Historical Society, comp., Early Deaths in Savannah, Georgia 1763-1803 (Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1993), 152, 185; Mabel Freeman Lafar and Caroline Price Wilson, comps., Abstracts of Wills Chatham County, Georgia 1773-1817 (Washington, DC: national genealogical Society, 1963), 92; Smith, Morningstars of Liberty. 1: 160n16.

[14]Barclay, “Lauchlin Campbell,” 34; MacBean, Biographical Register of the St. Andrew’s Society, 1: 11-12; Georgia Gazette(Savannah) January 17, 1793, p. 4. C. 2; John Skey Eustace to Alexander Hamilton, October 27, 1798.

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