Campbell, Neil (1776-1827) (DNB00)

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CAMPBELL, Sir NEIL (1776–1827), general, second son of Captain Neil Campbell of Duntroon, was born on 1 May 1776. He was gazetted an ensign in the 6th West India regiment on 2 April 1797, and exchanged into the 67th regiment on 29 Oct. 1798. He was for a time the commanding officer in the Caïcos or Turks Islands, and was publicly thanked by the inhabitants. On 23 Aug. 1799 he purchased a lieutenancy in the 57th regiment, and in 1800 returned to England and volunteered to join the 95th regiment, afterwards the rifle brigade, on its first formation. He purchased his company on 4 June 1801, and proved himself an admirable officer of light troops. His fleetness of foot was especially remarkable, and a story is told by Sir William Napier of his beating even Sir John Moore, with whom he was a great favourite, in a race at Shorncliffe. From February 1802 to September 1803 he was at the Royal Military College at Great Marlow, and on leaving it was appointed assistant quartermaster-general for the southern district. He purchased a majority in the 43rd regiment on 24 Jan. 1805, which he exchanged for a majority in the 54th on 20 Feb. 1806. After two years in Jamaica with his regiment he returned to England, became lieutenant-colonel on 20 Aug. 1808, and was sent to the West Indies as deputy adjutant-general. In this capacity he was present at the capture of Martinique in January 1809, of the Saintes Islands in April 1809, and of Guadeloupe in January 1810. In 1810 he came to England and was at once sent to Portugal with strong letters of recommendation to Marshal Beresford, who appointed him colonel of the 16th Portuguese infantry, one of the regiments of Pack's brigade, in April 1811. In January 1813, after doing good service at Ciudad Rodrigo and Salamanca, he returned to England on sick leave, and was then sent to join Lord Cathcart, who was British minister at the Russian court, and military commissioner with the Russian army in Poland. Campbell was attached by him to Wittgenstein's column, with which he remained, almost uninterruptedly, until the entry of the allies into Paris on 31 March 1814. Campbell was not satisfied to act as British representative only, but took every opportunity of fighting, and in the battle of Fère-Champenoise, fought on 24 March 1814, he headed a charge of Russian cavalry, and during the mêlée was mistaken for a French officer and severely wounded by a Cossack. He was strongly recommended by Lord Cathcart to Lord Castlereagh, and selected to be the British commissioner to accompany Napoleon to Elba. He was gazetted a colonel in the army 4 June 1814, made a knight of three Russian orders, C.B. 1815, and knighted by patent on 2 Oct. He accompanied Napoleon to Elba with the express orders from Lord Castlereagh that he was in no way to act as his gaoler, but rather to put the late French emperor in possession of the little island of which he was to be the sovereign prince. Campbell had further instructions as to the settlement of Italy, which clearly showed Lord Castlereagh's intention that he should not remain in Elba longer than he thought necessary. At Napoleon's request, however, Campbell promised to make Elba his headquarters until the termination of the congress of Vienna, and it was the supposed residence of the English colonel there which put the English naval captains off their guard, and enabled Napoleon to escape so easily. It was, however, during one of Campbell's frequent visits to Italy, from 17 to 28 Feb. 1815, that Napoleon effected his escape. Many people at the time believed that the English colonel was bribed, but the ministry at once declared that Campbell's behaviour had been quite satisfactory, and even continued his powers in Italy. But in this capacity he met with an unexpected rebuff from Lord Exmouth, came home, and joined the 54th regiment, in which he still held the regimental rank of major, in Belgium. With it he served at the battle of Waterloo, and he afterwards headed the column of attack on the Valenciennes gate of Cambray. During the occupation of France, from 1815 to 1818, he commanded the Hanseatic Legion, which consisted of 3,000 volunteers from the free cities of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck, and afterwards paid a short visit to Africa to see if it were possible to discover any traces of Mungo Park. On 29 May 1825 he was promoted major-general, and applied for a staff appointment. The first which fell vacant was the governorship of Sierra Leone; he was begged not to take it by his family, but he laughed at their fears, and reached the colony in May 1826. The climate, however, proved too much for him, and on 14 Aug. 1827 he died at Sierra Leone.

[Napoleon at Fontainebleau and Elba, being a Journal of Occurrences in 1814–15, with Notes of Conversations, by the late Major-general Sir Neil Campbell, Kt., C.B., with a Memoir by his nephew, Archibald Neil Campbell Maclachlan, London, 1869.]

H. M. S.