The Southwest Virginia Campbells in the Revolution
by Phil Norfleet
Most of the male, Southwest Virginia Campbells, of appropriate age, fought in the Revolutionary War. Most were active in the militias of the counties in which they resided. Most of the White David Campbell family members resided in Washington County, Virginia throughout the Revolution where the County Lieutenant (the senior military officer in the county) was Arthur Campbell, a son of White David. The colonel commandant of that countys militia was Arthurs cousin, Colonel William Campbell. Conversely, most of the Black David Campbell related families, by 1779, were living just across the border in Northeastern Tennessee, which was then part of Washington County, North Carolina. Accordingly, one son (William) and three nephews (Elder David, Big Jimmie and Alexander) of Black David Campbell fought as part of the Washington County, North Carolina Militia that was commanded by Colonel John Sevier. However, the youngest son of Black David, David Campbell (1753-1832), had married a daughter of White David and remained in Virginia; he was a member of the Washington County, Virginia militia.
Causes of the Revolution in Virginia and North Carolina
Before discussing the wartime activities of the Campbells, it might be useful to discuss the reasons why the Whig/Patriot movement was so strong in Virginia and North Carolina.
The standard textbook reason given for the outbreak of the American Revolution is summed up in the short phrase: "No taxation without representation!" This, of course, refers to the unhappiness caused in the British Colonies by the actions of the British Parliament in London, during the years 1763-1775, following the end of the French and Indian War, to levy taxes on the colonists which had never been authorized by the various colonial legislatures.
I agree that the above described taxation issue was a major cause for political discontent in all thirteen of the British colonies. However, I also believe there were other factors, some not quite so honorable, which led the ruling classes of both Virginia and North Carolina to call for revolution and support political independence from Great Britain.
My lifetime of experience in dealing with men of many different nationalities and socio-economic groups, has led me to conclude that people are motivated almost exclusively by self-interest. Even though these same people may claim to be acting on the basis of high moral and ethical principals, they usually are found to be acting in the anticipation of some sort of tangible, material gain which will accrue to them personally. Accordingly, I believe that at least three factors (including the taxation issue) were major causes of the Revolution, at least in Virginia and North Carolina:
By the end of the French and Indian War, the debt of the British Government had almost doubled in size from what it had been at the Wars beginning, from £73 million to £137 million. This may seem like a modest sum by todays standards, but you must remember that the annual income of the British Treasury at the time was only £8 million. This means that the National Debt was more than 17 times greater than the National Income! Payment of just the interest on the debt required £5 million of the total £8 million of income!  Furthermore, the level of taxation in England was several times more than in the American colonies. Since much of the war expenditure had been in support of the 30,000 man army sent to North America, that had finally defeated the French and made the area safe for the British colonies, it is not unreasonable that Parliament wished to increase the tax burden on the colonists. Accordingly, in early 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act which required that all legal documents in the colonies would require a stamp which had to be purchased from British Agents. However due to bitter resistance on the part of the colonists, the Act was repealed about one year later. Subsequently, other revenue generating measures (such as the tax on tea) were passed by Parliament, applicable to the colonies, but they all met with fierce colonial resistance. Relations between the British colonies and the Mother Country rapidly deteriorated.
On 07 October 1763, King George III signed the famous Royal Proclamation of 1763 that established a boundary line from Canada to Florida beyond which no white settlement was permitted. The line ran roughly along the Appalachian Divide, all land drained by watercourses which flowed westward into the Mississippi River, not eastward into the Atlantic Ocean, was to be reserved for the Indians. The net effect was that most of the land gained from the French in the recently concluded Seven Years War (called the French and Indian War in the colonies) was excluded from white settlement.
The Proclamation of 1763 was intended to systematize Indian affairs and set a clear and enlightened policy governing the acquisition of Indian lands.  Four new provinces/colonies were established from the lands ceded to Great Britain by the French and Spanish at the end of the French and Indian War. These provinces were Quebec, East Florida,  West Florida  and the island of Grenada. All French and Spanish ceded land, lying outside the three new mainland provinces, was to be reserved for the Indians.
Because I consider the Proclamation of 1763 to be of fundamental importance in understanding the British Governments land and Indian policies in the years just prior to the Revolution, an extensive excerpt from the proclamation follows:
This denial of white settlement upon the lands lying on the western waters caused great dissatisfaction among the wealthy planters of colonial Virginia and North Carolina. These "great men of affairs," included people such as George Washington and Patrick Henry in Virginia and the Blount brothers (William and John Gray) in North Carolina. All of these men were land speculators, who had assumed that the annexation of the French territories would result in a financial bonanza to them derived from sales of the western lands.
The Proclamation also infuriated the many small subsistence farmers and hunters, who lived on the Frontier. These people included many squatters, who have already been described in Section 4 of the Introduction to this book. Of course the squatter element, already being a lawless group, simply ignored the Proclamation and moved onto the lands of the western waters before the ink on the Proclamation was even dry! The more law abiding and responsible people on the frontier obeyed the proclamation, but they didnt like it!
The historian, Bernard Knollenberg, who made an extensive study of the causes of the American Revolution in the 1950s and 1960s, tells us that:
After the Indian treaties of Fort Stanwix and Hard Labour were concluded in 1768, the British Government did agree to move the Proclamation Line westward into the region of the upper Ohio River. This was done primarily to appease the great land speculators, who included not only Americans but also Britons (such as Lord Dunmore, the last Royal Governor of Virginia).  In 1772, Lord Dunmore approved grants of western land to veterans of the French and Indian War, including a grant of over 20,000 acres to George Washington.  In 1774, in an action euphemistically called Lord Dunmores War, the Virginia militia defeated the Shawnee Indians and forced them to agree to the white occupation of Kentucky. Basically, Governor Dunmore had provoked the war  to assure access to Kentucky for land speculation purposes, from which he expected to make a substantial profit. Unfortunately for Dunmore, the coming of the American Revolution dashed his hopes for a western financial bonanza!
The above concessions notwithstanding, the Virginia and North Carolina colonists were never satisfied with the official British Indian and land policies. It was widely believed that removal of British authority would open the floodgates of westward migration.
3. Heavy Debt Burden of the Great Tidewater Planters
In spite of their enormous land holdings, most of the great Tidewater planters were chronically in debt to British merchants. The well-known historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, tells us that:
I am personally convinced that a major factor causing many of the wealthy planters to embrace the Whig cause was the delightful prospect of renouncing all their debts to the Scottish factors, as the result of a successful War of Independence! In 1804, the American historian and essayist, Oliver Wolcott, wrote that:
The Battle of Kings Mountain
To the "Men of the Western Waters" the most celebrated battle during the Revolutionary War was the one that took place at Kings Mountain, South Carolina on 7 October 1780. The great significance of this battle to the American cause was clearly set forth by Thomas Jefferson in a letter, written in the year 1822, to John Campbell  of Richmond, Virginia.
Participants in the Battle
Portions of approximately six regiments participated in the battle on the Whig/Patriot side as shown in the following table:
Table Militia Regiments Participating in the Battle of Kings Mountain
Out of the above forces of almost 1800 men, a picked force of about 900 horsemen were selected to march ahead of the rest of the army. It was this group of 900 who actually engaged in the battle. No official militia rosters identifying the American troops who took part in the battle have survived, if indeed, any official rosters ever existed. However, several men with the Campbell surname took part in that battle on the Whig/Patriot side, including the overall commander of the American forces, Colonel William Campbell (1745-1781). The Tory/Loyalist forces, commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson, were largely composed of loyal Scots Highlanders who had settled in the Carolinas after their defeat in the Battle of Culloden (1746). Accordingly, there were probably soldiers with the Campbell surname who fought under Ferguson, but none of their names have come down to us. On the American side, eight Campbells from either the White David or Black David Campbell families are either known to have or are believed to have participated in the battle.
Table - Campbell Participants in the Battle of Kings Mountain
Official Account of the Battle
It is beyond the scope of this book to discuss the Battle of Kings Mountain in any great detail. The noted military historian, Henry Lumpkin, gives a very good and objective account of the battle in his book From Savannah to Yorktown, at pages 91-104. The official report of the engagement, signed by Colonels Campbell, Shelby and Cleveland, was published in the Virginia Gazette on 18 November 1780 and was included in Lyman C. Drapers book Kings Mountain and Its Heroes, at pages 522-524. Prior to issuance of this official report, a shorter account had already been made in a letter written by the American commander, Colonel William Campbell, a few days after the battle. A transcript of Colonel Campbells letter is as follows:
Largely as the result of the Kings Mountain victory, Colonel William Campbell was made a Brigadier General by the Virginia Legislature in December 1780. Campbell was subsequently appointed to the Marquis de LaFayettes staff and was present at the beginning of the siege of Cornwalliss forces at Yorktown. Unfortunately, while at Yorktown, Campbell became ill with what was then called "camp fever" and died on 22 August 1781.
The Shelby Campbell Controversy
Colonel Isaac Shelby had commanded the militia regiment from Sullivan County, North Carolina during the Battle of Kings Mountain, serving under the overall command of William Campbell. In July 1822, two private letters written by Isaac Shelby to Colonel John Sevier in 1810 were published by Seviers son, Colonel G. W. Sevier. In these letters, Shelby strongly implied that Colonel Campbell had displayed a less than appropriate degree of courage during the fighting. The publication of these letters generated a firestorm of criticism of Colonel Shelby for this apparent attempt to damage the reputation of a long dead hero who was no longer able to defend himself. The Campbells were, of course, incensed by Shelbys remarks and immediately rallied to the defense of their kinsman. John Campbell of Richmond, a grandson of White David, sent a letter to Thomas Jefferson, who at the time of the battle had been the Governor of Virginia, requesting his recollection of the battle and Campbells role in the American victory. [Link to Jefferson Letter]
In April 1823, Shelby issued a pamphlet that further detailed his criticisms of William Campbell. In reply, the supporters of General Campbell obtained a number of letters from participants in the battle that refuted Shelbys accusations. One of these letters was from Colonel David Campbell (1753-1832) of Campbells Station. [Link to Colonel Campbell's Letter] The complete account of the Shelby-Campbell affair is contained in Lyman Drapers book Kings Mountain and Its Heroes, at pages 558-590.
1. John Mack Faragher, Editor, The Encyclopedia of Colonial and Revolutionary America (1990), page 367.
2. Page Smith, A New Age Begins (1976), pages 166-167.
3. This province encompassed all of the modern State of Florida, as far west as the Apalachicola River.
4. This province included the region between the Apalachicola and Mississippi Rivers, from the Gulf of Mexico to 31 degrees North Latitude.
5. Bernard Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 1759-1766 (1960), page 105.
6. R. C. Simmons, The American Colonies from Settlement to Independence (1976), page 323.
7. Bernard Knollenberg, George Washington The Virginia period, 1732-1775 (1964), page 95.
8. Sanford Wexler, Westward Expansion: An Eyewitness History (1991), page 5.
9. Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution 1763-1776 (1957), pages 35-36.
10. Ibid., page 39.
11. This John Campbell was a grandson of White David, a brother of Governor David Campbell of Virginia, and subsequently was appointed as Treasurer of the United States by President Andrew Jackson in 1829.
12. From the Campbell Papers Collection located at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Microfilm copies of the papers are available at several major libraries, including the Tennessee State Library, Nashville.