William Campbell was born in Augusta County about the year 1745, and was of Scotch origin. He received a liberal
education, and early displayed a taste and genius for military science. He was of well proportioned and commanding
figure, being over six feet high, and of grave and dignified demeanor. In 1775, he joined the first regular troops
raised in Virginia, having been commissioned a captain in the first regiment. In 1776, he resigned, owing to the
danger to which his family and friends were exposed from Indian hostilities, and returned to Washington county,
where he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the county militia, and the year following to the colonelcy on
the resignation of Col. Evan Shelby, se'r. In this rank he continued until after the battles of King's Mountain
and Guilford, when he was appointed by the Legislature of Virginia to the rank of Brigadier General, and was ordered
to join LaFayette in opposing the British in 1781. After the defeat of the British General Furguson, Cornwallis
imbibed a personal resentment, and had the temerity to threaten Gen. Campbell with death if he fell into his hands.
To these threats Gen. Campbell responded by declaring that if Cornwallis fell into the hands of the Americans he
would meet the fate of Ferguson. This, soon after, at the battle of Guilford, had nearly been the case, for had
all the militia behaved with the firmness as did the wing commanded by Gen. Campbell, the British army must have
met with total defeat.
On forming the army in Virginia, in 1781, under LaFayette, Gen. Campbell became a favorite of Lafayette, who gave
him command of the brigade of light infantry and riflemen. A few weeks before the siege of Yorktown, illness caused
him to retire to the country house of a friend, and there, in the thirty sixth year of his age, he expired.
To military genius he united moral and social virtues and an exemplary life. His military career was short but
brilliant. With an inferior force of undisciplined militia, he marched in a few days near two hundred miles, over
rugged mountains, in search of the enemy, who were commanded by experienced officers, and who had chosen at King's
Mountain his field for battle. It was a strong position, more in the nature of a fortification than an open field.
The assault on the British was impetuous and irresistible, and their victory glorious. It caused the retreat of
the British army, and broke up their plan of an invasion of Virginia in that year. It also reanimated the friends
of Liberty in the southern states, and was the prelude to the final triumph the following year at Yorktown.
The Virginia Legislature voted him a sword, horse and pistols for his conduct at King's Mountain, and named a county
in his honor. Congress passed in his favor highly complimentary resolutions.
At the time of his death, LaFayette issued an order regretting the decease of "an officer whose services must
have endeared him to every citizen and soldier," as one who had "acquired a glory in the affairs of King's
Mountain and Guilford which will do his memory everlasting honor and ensure him a high rank among the defenders
of Liberty in America."
History of Augusta County, Virginia
By: J. Lewis Payton
Samuel M. Yost & Son. Publisher
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