• Stephen Callaghan

Peninsular Wars to Anglo-Burma War - Colonel Alexander Campbell, 38th Foot

Alexander Campbell was born in Auchinbreck, Argyllshire, Scotland on 10 October 1795. Possibly related to the Campbells of Auchinbreck, which was a branch of the Campbell Clan, who were historically a large and powerful Scottish Clan.


Alexander was commissioned, without purchase, on 17 December 1813 as an Ensign in the 1st Battalion, 38th Regiment of Foot. The 38th had been raised in 1705 (though had existed twice before this latest incarnation). At the time of Alexander’s commission, the 1st Battalion was already heavily engaged against Napoleon in the Peninsular Wars (1807-1814), having arrived in June 1808.


Ensign Campbell took part in the Battle of Bayonne (14 April 1814), which was the last battle of the Peninsular War. Campbell left France in September 1814, but later returned after the Battle of Waterloo (1815) remaining until December 1815. Despite actually being in France and taking part in a battle, it seems Ensign Campbell was not entitled to the retrospective campaign medal, the Military General Service Medal, which was issued in 1847 to surviving members of the campaign.


Service from June 1818 to March 1822 was in the Cape of Good Hope, where the 38th Regiment of Foot took part in the Fifth Xhosa War. This was a series of nine wars between European settlers and the Xhosa Kingdom, which resulted in their surrender in 1879.


Promotion to Lieutenant, without purchase, in November 1821. In March 1822 Lieutenant Campbell served with his regiment in Bengal and Ava. He acted as adjutant for the battalion during the duration of the First Burmese War (1824-26), the war ended with British victory and the beginning of British rule in Burma. His service would later entitle him to the retrospective campaign medal, the Army of India Medal with clasp Ava, which was issued in 1851. Campbell was promoted to Captain, without purchase, in September 1828. He remained with his regiment in Bengal until December 1829.


After service in India the regiment remained in England and Ireland until 1840. While serving at home Captain Campbell married Barbara Eliza Perry, the widow of Captain J P Perry, 38th Foot, in St Paul’s Church, Dublin on 18 December 1833.


The 38th Foot later served in the Greek Island of Zakynthos in 1840. In November 1841 Campbell was promoted to Brevet Major. In March 1843 the battalion was posted to Gibraltar.


Major Campbell retired from the army on full pay on 22 March 1844. He moved to Birr sometime around of before 1854 as he listed on the 1854 Griffith’s valuation, Slater’s Directory of 1870 lists him as living in John’s Place. It’s interesting to wonder if the Major took note of the memorial to the “Butcher of Culloden” in Cumberland Square, a reminder of how the Campbell Clan fought on the government side during the Jacobite Wars. His promotion to Colonel was probably around this time and likely honoury.


Colonel Campbell spent the rest of his days in Birr and he died on 3 November 1874, aged 82 years, at his home on John’s Place. He died from fatty heart. He was interred in an unmarked grave in Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr.

Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr.

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