by Adrian Greenwood
Stroud, Eng.: Spellmount / Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 2015. Pp. 496.
Illus., maps, gloss., chron., biblio., index. $49.95. ISBN: 0750956852
From Cabinet Maker to Field Marshal
Colin Campbell (1792-1863) was one of the most famous generals of the early Victorian era, and rare among senior officers for having rise from relatively humble beginnings as the son of a Scottish cabinet maker to field marshal with a barony. In this, the first proper biography of this now rather obscure officer, Greenwood, an antiquarian book dealer and nineteenth century military history specialist, follows Campbell from his entry into a military academy with the help of an uncle and then on into the army, where he rose to the top primarily by merit.
Campbell served in the thick of things as a junior officer during the Peninsular War, and later in garrison or in combat in the West Indies, China, India, and on the Northwest Frontier. He commanded a division in the Crimea, at the Alma and Balaklava (“The Thin Red Streak”) and at the siege of Sebastopol. Later, as Commander-in-Chief in India, Campbell suppressed the Great Mutiny, and ended his career as a highly respected old soldier.
As he tells Campbell’s story, Goodwood manages to include a remarkable amount of detail about service in the British Army of the day, such as promotion by purchase, something that Campbell was largely able to circumvent, to the complexities of “influence” on a soldier’s career, personal finance in the Victorian age, and even the Queen’s role in selecting commanders.
Good reading, this will appeal to students of the Napoleonic Wars, the British Army, and nineteenth century military practice and life.