Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe was fatally wounded at the Battle of Carillon in 1758 during the Seven Years’ War. The night before the battle Campbell had a ghostly encounter with his dead foster-brother, and after that meeting he knew that the battle was going to kill him.
Years before Duncan Campbell was even in the army he was spending a quiet night in his Inverawe home when all of a sudden a frantic man rushed in to the house and ran over to touch the hearth, claiming sanctuary. Slightly perplexed by this sudden burst, Campbell asked the stranger what the problem was. The intruder explained that he had killed a man and needed somewhere to hide out. Duncan decided to give the killer the refuge that he so desperately wanted, and hid him in the upper part of the house. Not long after sending the new guest to the room a group of men turned up looking for the killer. The posse told Duncan, to his devastation, that the murder victim was in fact his own foster-brother. However, not wanting to breach the laws of Highland hospitality, Campbell decided to not give up his now very unwelcome guest to the group outside. But rather than keep the killer in his house, Campbell, in a form of compromise, sent the man off to hide in a cave on the remote Ben Cruachan.
That night, as the story goes, the spirit of Duncan’s foster-brother appeared asking if he would give up his killer to recieve the punishment he deserved. Duncan refused the ghost’s request and opted to keep the murderer’s wherabouts a secret. The next night the ghost appeared again, asking the same question and once again Campbell denied the request. The ghost of the foster-brother returned to Duncan again one last time the following night, but this time he did not ask for the killer to be given up. Instead all he said was goodbye, and that he would see him again at “Ticonderoga”, which, at the time, meant nothing to Duncan.
The next day Duncan went up to the cave to bring some food to the murderer, but of course, he had fled, never to be seen again.
As the years passed Duncan Campbell thought less and less of that final nights visit and eventually completely forgot about it. Duncan went on to join the army, where he did well; rising through the ranks to the position of Major in the 42nd Regiment, the Black Watch. During the Seven Years’ War Duncan’s regiment was sent over to North America to fight the French for control of the colonies.
In the July of 1758 British troops, including the 42nd Regiment, under the command of General James Abercrombie, were sent to attack the heavilly defended French fort at Carillon, or as it was known by the natives, Ticonderoga in the modern-day state of New York.
It was unknown to Campbell what the native name for the fort was, until after a final visit from the spirit of his foster-brother. Not long after seeing the ghost, Campbell promptly inquired about whether the word “Ticonderoga” meant anything to anyone. He was soon told that it was the name the natives gave for the area, and as soon as Duncan heard that he knew that he was soon to die.
The attack on Fort Carillon on the 8th of July, 1758 was a disaster for the British troops. General Abercrombie’s tactics were severely criticised, and he was described as an “imbecile”, a “coward”, and even an “old woman” by contemporary and future writers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Abercrombie had a much larger force leading him to be overly confident, believing that it was going to be quick victory for the British, ignoring all of the strategic options that were open to him. Instead he chose to go for a full on frontal assault, which proved to have been one of the worst choices. The British soldiers flung themselves at the French defence, and were cut down by the score.
Abercrombie had plenty of opportunity to withdraw his men and regroup to change his tactics when he saw that his original plans were blatantly failing. Yet he decided to stick to his initial plans and continued with the assault.
The Black Watch regiment were eventually sent in to attack the French fort, and just like the men before them, they were fighting in vain, and suffered heavy casualties.
Among the fallen was Duncan Campbell of Inverawe. He was severely wounded and, in fulfillment of the fate bestowed upon him by the ghost of his foster-brother, died ten days later from his injuries.
Legend has it that, on the afternoon of the attack, the clouds over Inverary Castle replicated the attack, showing the carnage and British loss.
For the Black Watch in particular this battle was disastrous. They saw the highest individual loss out of all the regiments fighting, with 300 men, including 8 officers killed. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the First World War until the Black Watch would again witness such casualties in battle.