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Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde (October 20, 1792–14 August 1863)


By the time Colin Campbell arrived in India to take command of all military operations for the relief of Lucknow in 1857, he was, at the age of 65, already on the point of retirement at the end of a long and distinguished career which stretched back to the Peninsular campaigns in Portugal and Spain during the Napoleonic wars. Unlike many of the other gung-ho British commanders, Campbell was noted for his ‘steady coolness and military precision’, a careful and prudent officer, whose safety-first attitude led those who derided him to call him ‘Old Slowcoach’ and ‘Sir Crawling Camel’.


He was also more lowly born than many of his contemporaries. The son of a Glaswegian carpenter, he was born Colin Macliver but received an upward push when his mother’s brother, Colonel John Campbell, removed him from the High School of Glasgow at the age of ten and sent him to the Royal Military and Naval Academy at Gosport. Five years later, his uncle pulled strings with the Duke of York and the teenager enlisted under the name of Campbell.


In mid-1808 he sailed as an ensign to Portugal in the expeditionary contingent under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) and fought at Rolica and Vimeiro against Napoleonic forces.  In the following year he was with his regiment in Sir John Moore’s advance to Salamanca, and then the disastrous retreat to La Coruña. Among those who escaped, Campbell next found himself in the Netherlands months later in the unsuccessful Walcheren Campaign intended to open another front against France. His uncle, then a lieutenant-general, promoted his nephew to the rank of lieutenant and attached him to the Spanish army in 1810. He fought throughout the Peninsular War, receiving serious wounds while storming San Sebastián and again crossing the Bidasoa river on the Spanish-French border, for which he was invalided home.


Campbell served briefly in the last year of the Anglo-American War (1812–14), then devoted himself to the study of war for the better part of a decade while serving in Gibraltar (1816), Barbados (1818–21) and British Guiana (1821–25), at which point he purchased his commission as a major and returned to England. Campbell had reached the rank of captain in five years but it took almost another 30 years before he attained the rank of colonel. Having purchased a further commission, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 98th Foot in 1835 and burnished its reputation for efficiency until it was declared the best fighting outfit in the north of England. They had a chance to show off the training in China, where the 98th was sent to reinforce the army there in 1841 during the First Opium war (1839–42). At the end of the war he was made a full colonel.


Next came the Second Sikh War (1848–49), where Campbell was wounded in the battle of Chillian Walla and during the decisive victory of Gujerat. He was rewarded for his bravery with the Order of Bath, Knight Commander. He then fought in the Crimean War (October 1853–February 1856), commanding the Highland Brigade which distinguished itself at the Battle of Alma and in repulsing the massed Russian assault on Balaclava. Returning to England at the end of the conflict, Campbell took command of the southeastern district and was soon appointed inspector-general of infantry.


News of the death of General Anson, commander-in-chief, India, reached London on 11 July 1857. The prime minister, Lord Palmerston, immediately sent for Campbell. The men he led were devoted to him and Campbell had shown himself to be a selfless and brave leader, but which attributes he tempered with prudence and caution, exactly the qualities Palmerston felt were needed to bring India back to the British heel. He offered him the post of commander-in-chief which Campbell accepted. The following day he left for India, arriving in Calcutta in mid-August. By that time, Major-General Archdale Wilson had recovered Delhi and further to the east Sir Henry Havelock had taken Kanpur. Preparations for the relief of Lucknow had begun.


He took two months in Calcutta to organise his resources, and set out on 27 October 27. The second relief of Lucknow came on 17 November and the final capture in March 1858. He was rewarded with a peerage as Lord Clyde of Clydesdale and a pension of £2,000 a year – probably in the region of £150,000 today ($232,000). With his health failing, he finally left India in June 1860. Back in England, Lord Clyde became colonel of the Coldstream Guards and was made a field marshal in 1862. He died on 14 August 1863 at Chatham, Kent and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 22 August.

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Sir Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde of Clydesdale


Sir Colin Campbell

Appears in Chapter 19, 20, 21, 23