The Breadalbane Campbells , The Campbell Brothers of Crieff and The American Civil War Part Two

Mary Ann McOwan , niece of the brothers born at The Cross Crieff

The Breadalbane Campbells , the Campbell Brothers of Crieff and the American Civil War


In Part One we followed John and Clementina from Kenmore at the eastern end of Loch Tay . We know from information obtained from census returns that prior to coming to Crieff , the Campbells set up home in the Parish of Kilmadock which lies between Dunblane and Callander . It is supposition but John may have worked as a mason either on Lanrick Castle which underwent alterations in the 19th century or perhaps but less probable, repairs to the older Doune Castle . On the 30th January 1824, their first child arrived . John Campbell was , in Scottish family tradition named after his paternal grand father John Campbell . Their first daughter ,Janet McLaren Campbell was born in Kilmadock on the 30th March 1827 followed by Mary on the 25th January 1829 and then Peter on the 2nd January 1831 . After this the family for some reason that is not clear left Kilmadock and headed towards Crieff , settling down in a small house in the Water Wynd at the foot of Mitchell Street .In November 1832 a daughter named Ann was born followed in April 1835 by James McLaren Campbell . In 1838 the last child to be born to John and Clementina arrived and was named , Alexander Campbell to be known to his family as Sandy .

The 1841 census was the first national census carried out in the UK to provide details of each household . It confirms that Clementina Campbell is at the little house in Mitchell Street with five of her children – Janet aged 12 , Peter aged 8 , Ann aged 7 , James aged 5 and Alex aged 3 . Absent were her husband John and oldest son ( also named John ) as well as daughter Mary . It should be pointed out that in Scotland Statutory Registration did not commence until the 1st of January 1855 and that prior to this deaths were seldom recorded especially in the smaller rural parishes and towns . Whether father John had died or not must be conjecture but in the days before proper Poor Law legislation persons in need were at the mercy of the Kirk Session as to the nature of any handouts . It is clear that Clementina would have ben struggling to make ends meet . This was the period of the “ tatty “ ( potato ) famine which struck Scotland a s well as Ireland . Food was expensive .Crieff , where for the last two decades hand loom weaving and its ancillary occupations had engaged some 60 % of the working population , the industry was on its uppers . Raw material costs of cotton “ webs “ had soared whilst the basic wage had more than halved . In Crieff , the once dominant Weaver’s Guild with their Hall in Commissioner Street was wound up . In 1852 Janet married a local carter called James McOwan . Her young brother James had by then also left home and was working as a farm labourer at Eastertown Farm Auchterarder . It was getting more and more difficult to survive .and so James decided to seek his fortune elsewhere . About 1855 he sailed for then USA . His younger brother Sandy followed separately a few years later .

James Campbell settled in Charleston where he worked as a drayman and clerk, joining a Confederate militia company known as the Union Light Infantry, sometimes called 42nd. Highlanders (probably after the 42nd. British Black Watch Regiment because of its predominately Scottish ethnicity). His brother Alexander settled in New York, but spent time in working as a stone mason on the new U.S. Customs House being built at the end of Market Street shortly before the war. While in Charleston he also enlisted in a militia company later identified in letters from his brother as "the H.G.s" which was probably the Home Guards, composed of foreign-born residents of Charleston. In March 1862, James and the Union Infantry were consolidated into the Charleston Battalion. In New York, Alexander joined the 79th. Highlander Regiment. As preparations for war were made on both sides, the brother's corresponded. Alex's unit was transferred to Charleston and occupied parts of James Island in early June 1862, placing him in sight of the city where he and his brother had once lived and that's conquest he had sworn to help obtain. Federal Alex learned of his Confederate brother's service in the vicinity of Secessionville from Henry Walker, a prisoner captured in a skirmish on June 3, 1862. He relayed the information home in a letter to his wife on June 10. "We are not far from each other now . . . this was a war that there never was the like of before Brother against Brother."

Neither knowing at the time, they fought each other at Secessionville. At the peak of the first, and most successful attack against Ft. Lamar, Alexander, now a Colour Sergeant in the 79th. planted the United States Flag before the parapet of Ft. Lamar and kept it there in the face of massed musketry and canon until ordered to withdraw. In the midst of the fighting, when Confederate resistance began to buckle, James, now a Lieutenant in the Confederate army, mounted the parapet unarmed, rolled a log down into the mass of advancing federal troops, seized a Federal musket and continued fighting. The Charleston Mercury reported, "The foe, it is true, displayed admirable courage, the famous Highland regiment, the 79th. New York, occupied the prominent place in the picture, but their desperate onslaughts were of no avail against the stubborn resolve and lofty valour of our brave boys."

The Charleston Courier editorialised on the two brothers, "another illustration of the deplorable consequences of this fratricidal war." It stated Alexander Campbell, "fought gallantly in the late action" and "displayed ... a heroism worthy of his regiment and a better cause" while James Campbell "was conspicuous and has been honourable mentioned on our side."

Afterwards Confederate James wrote his Federal Brother, "I was astonished to hear from the prisoners that you was colour Bearer of the Regiment that assaulted the Battery at this point the other day." James continued, "I was in the Brest work during the whole engagement doing my Best to Beat you but I hope you and I will never again meet face to face bitter enemies on the Battlefield but if such should be the case You have but to discharge your duty for your cause for I can assure you I will strive to discharge my duty to my country and my cause." The letter from brother to brother was carried across the bloody fields of James Island under flag of truce. Shortly after the battle, Confederate James tried to visit his federal brother by going to the Union lines and asking if the 79th. N.Y. was on picket duty. They weren't and the officer in charge of the Federal troops would not allow James to cross the lines and search for his brother nor would he send for Alex so he could be brought out for a meeting.

Alexander wrote his wife in New York, sending along a copy of James' letter, "it is rather bad to think that we should be fighting him on the one side and me on the other for he says he was in the fort during the whole engagement (.) I hope to god that he and I will get safe through it all and he will have his story to tell about his side and I will have my story to tell about my side."

After Secessionville the war continued for these two brothers. Alexander went with his regiment to be wounded in the foot carrying the U.S. colours in the aftermath of the Federal defeat at 2nd. Manassas (2nd. Bull Run) He was one of five Highlander colour bearers wounded during that Battle. At that battle General Isaac I. Stevens took the flag from one of the colour Sergeants to rally his men, crying, "Give me the colours! If they don't follow now, they never will!" The General charged forward a few feet and was killed by a shot though the head. It is unknown if Alex Campbell was present at this incident, or had already been wounded.

Alexander never fully recovered from his wound, was promoted to 2nd. Lieutenant and eventually resigned his commission and left the Federal army in May 1863.

James continued to fight for the Confederacy, helping to defend Charleston. In the famous attack on Battery Wagner by the 54th. Massachusetts. and other federal units on July 18, 1863, James was in the fort, having endured a terrible artillery barrage. The Federals overran part of the fort. James volunteered to investigate. He jumped atop the dark parapet in the night, demanded the troops identify themselves and was attacked by two federal soldiers who lunged at him with their bayonets. He pushed them from the parapet. They fell on their own bayonets and James ordered the other Federals there to surrender. They grabbed him by the leg and dragged him into the ditch below. When they withdrew from the fort, they took James as one of their five prisoners. Newspapers reported, "the oath of allegiance was tendered (Campbell) at Hilton Head, but rejected with the utmost scorn and contempt." While a prisoner, he was promoted to 1st. Lieutenant. While a prisoner, he corresponded with his brother Alexander. He was eventually freed on June 12, 1865 and returned home to Charleston.

After the war James managed a Plantation and eventually bought land on the Ashepoo River South of Charleston. He was active in Charleston's St. Andrews Society and the United Confederate Veterans. Alexander moved to Connecticut and established a business manufacturing "artistic monuments." They corresponded with each other and were on good terms after the war. James died in 1907 and Alexander died in 1909.

What transpired at a later date that Mary Ann McOwan , James and Sandy’s niece , left Crieff and went to live in Charleston North Carolina with her Uncle James . The date was 1877 . She later married and died in Cranford New Jersey in 1953 aged 83 .


  1. What a great piece of local history. I'm supposed to be hard at work on anoil painting featuring part of the brother's story...but I haven't even started it yet. This helps me get going again!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Comrie of Old

Methven : Some Historical Tales including a defeat for Robert the Bruce . Methven the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty