Ghosts and Oaths, Exhumations and Lore

“Inverawe! Inverawe! blood has been shed.
Shield not the murderer!”
The ghost of Donald Campbell about 1750.


Location: Inverawe Estate East of Taynuilt , Argyle, Scotland
Note: Lairds were often called by the name of the estate they owned.

Ghost Room post
Inverawe house photographed in 1910.1

The laird of Inverawe in 1750 was Duncan Campbell. He had just bid farewell to the last of his guests for the evening. Before retiring for the night he was winding down in the great hall perhaps with a night cap, when loud incessant pounding began on the gates to the estate house. Campbell went to the gates himself instead of calling for a servant. Standing there was a stranger in total disarray who was demanding to be admitted. “I have killed a man and am pursued by my enemies. I beseech you to let me in. Swear upon your dirk—upon your cruachann—swear by Ben Cruachan—that you will not betray me.”

Note: The Scottish dirk is a symbol of a Highlanders honor. Oaths were sworn on a dirk because the steel was thought to be holy. Breaking an oath sworn on a dirk was believed to bring dire supernatural consequences. Ben Cruachan is the name of a mountain. In 1750 it was part of the Inverawe estate and was a rally point for Clan Campbell during battle. Their battle cry was Cruachan. In Gaelic cruachann means hip which is where a dirk resides and cruachan means conical hill.

Swear on your dirk postDuncan Campbell gave his oath not to betray the fugitive and hid him away in the lower levels of the house. Within moments of hiding the fugitive a second pounding occurred at the gates. Two armed Highlanders, “Your cousin Donald has been killed. Where is the murderer?” Campbell’s oath prevented him from disclosing the fugitive’s location and he sent the Highlanders on a fool’s errand. Campbell went to the fugitive and said, “You have killed my cousin Donald. I cannot keep you here.” But the fugitive countered, “You have sworn on your dirk!” And so, Campbell granted him a night’s reprieve.

That night Campbell slept fitfully. He was startled awake, with sweat dripping down his brow, only to find his cousin Donald standing at the side of his bed, covered in blood. Donald spoke, “Inverawe! Inverawe! blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer!” The following morning Campbell escorted the fugitive to a cave in Ben Cruachan mountain leaving him to his own devices. That evening when Campbell retired he was again visited by his cousin Donald. “Inverawe! Inverawe! blood has been shed. Shield not the murderer!”

Inverawe house with mountain postOriginal image from a postcard in the authors collection.

On the second morning Campbell headed to the cave on the mountain discovering that the fugitive had fled. On the third night Donald appeared again. “Inverawe, Inverawe, blood has been shed. We shall not meet again till we meet at TICONDEROGA!”2

Side Bar
There are several versions of this tale. Some claim Donald was Duncan’s brother. Some speculate that the cousin was actually Colin Roy Campbell who was murdered 14 May 1752 and the fugitive was none other than Allan Stewart who was the main suspect in the murder. Allan’s brother James Stewart was arrested for the crime, found guilty and hanged even though he had an alibi and there were no witnesses to the murder. The Appin Murder as it is known today remains one of Scotland’s longest known mysteries. As recently as 2013 modern forensics have been used to try to solve the case.3 The version I have portrayed is based on the version told to A.P. Stanley, [who published his article, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga” in the October 1880 issue of Fraser’s Magazine], by a parish clergyman from Inverawe in 1877, over a hundred years after the events in question. The clergyman did not name the fugitive or if he had Stanley did not record the name.

Ticonderoga is from the Iroquois word tekontaró:ken, meaning “it is at the junction of two waterways.” It is the name of a village and a fort in northern New York. The French built the first fort at Ticonderoga and called it Fort Carillon.
End Side Bar

Over the next several years Duncan Campbell often spoke of Donald’s visitations all the while pondering the meaning of this strange word Ticonderoga, unknown to anyone in Scotland. Soon after the ghostly visitations Duncan joined the the 42nd regiment of foot, soldiers known as the Black Watch and later as the Royal Highlanders eventually becoming its Major. The French and Indian War (1754–63) as it is called in the United States was the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years’ War of 1756–63. In May 1756 war was formally declared between England and France. The following month in June the Black Watch along with other British troops were deployed to the colonies.4 From the time of their arrival until July 1758 the Highlanders did little in the way of engaging the enemy. By the 9th of June 1758 the 42nd had arrived at Fort Edward, then Albany County now Washington County, New York.5 Fort Edward is located about 50 miles south of Ticonderoga. On the 8th of July 1758 the British army engaged the French army at Ticonderoga. The battle is known as The Battle of Carillon or the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga. Even though the British out numbered the French by a large majority the British army suffered a stunning loss. It was during this battle that Major Duncan Campbell was wounded, a wound he would die from 9 days later.

Wall PaintingThe Black Watch at Fort Ticonderoga6

On the eve of the battle it is said that Major Campbell’s men and the other officers conspired to alleviate his concerns and fears by telling him, “This is not Ticonderoga. We are not there yet. This is Fort George.”7 The morning of the battle Major Campbell confronted his men. “I have seen him! You have deceived me! He came to my tent last night! This is Ticonderoga! I shall die today!”8 Another version of the story has Major Campbell seeing a ghost of himself with a wound to the chest. By the laws of “second sight” he knew he would not survive the coming battle. Entering the village he asked, “What is the name of this place?” The villagers replied “Carillon.” “Is there another?” Campbell asked. “Ticonderoga.”9

General Abercrombie, commanding officer of the British troops, wrote in his after action report dated 12 July 1758: “Wounded–Major Duncan Campbell…”10 The General further reports Major Campbell was sent to Fort Edward. On 19 August 1758 General Abercrombie reports: “Major Duncan Campbell of the 42nd who was wounded in the arm at the battle on the 8th was obliged to have it cut off and died soon thereafter.”11

THE REST OF THE STORY

Topographical Map of part of Hudson River 177612
Hudson River Map 1

The wounded Major Campbell was supposedly brought to the home of my 4 times great-grandfather Alexander Gilchrist in Fort Edward. Stanley writes in 1880, “Alexander Gilchrist daily attended Major Campbell at Fort Edward during the weeks he lingered there before his death, and it seems strange that more is not known among the Gilchrist’s of today of him who was so prominent in the land, and so nearly associated with their ancestors.”13 Richard’s 1910 history The Black Watch At Ticonderoga recounts the story slightly differently “Major Campbell was sent to Fort Edward and upon his death nine days after the battle he was buried in the family [p]lot of his relatives, the Gilchrists.”14

The problem with this part of the story is it didn’t happen the way it has been told. Yes, Major Duncan Campbell was eventually buried in what would become known as the Gilchrist family plot but not at the time of his death and it is questionable that Alexander was even present when the Major died.

Could Alexander Gilchrist have been at Fort Edward in 1758?

In 1758 Fort Edward was a military fortification. One of a number of forts along the Hudson River it was somewhat sparely populated and was built probably about 1756–57. On 18 August 1755 General William Johnson put forth a plan to build a fort, to be erected near the spot of the old Lydius House15 named after John Henry Lydius and the acknowledged first settler of Fort Edward. He built a trading post in 1731 known as Lydius House, Fort Edward’s second name.16 Its first name was the Great Carrying Place.17 It would not be called Fort Edward until after the fort was built. Lydius would live at the trading post during the trading season spending the winters in Albany. The French destroyed the trading post in 1745 and it appears that Lydius rebuilt the House sometime around 174918

Militia RollMuster Roll Duncan Gilchrist

Almost all of the colonial muster rolls that had survived from the years 1664–1775 were lost in the 1911 fire at the New York State Library. The muster rolls held by the library had been transcribed and were published prior to the fire by the New York Secretary of State. Not all of the colonial militia rolls survived to be sent to the state prior to the 1911 fire. The law of land required all able–bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 to be organized into militias.19 According to Alexander’s tombstone he was born in 172120 and would have been of age in 1758 to belong to a militia. To date I have found no records for Alexander on any of surviving militia rolls in New York. There is one muster roll that contains an associate of Alexanders, Duncan Gilchrist. It is not known how Duncan and Alexander are related but they did immigrate together and lived in the same county in New York while waiting for the land that was promised them.21 Duncan Gilchrist has been found on one Orange County muster roll for the year 1759. His age is given as 50 suggesting he was born about 1709.22

Deed and LetterAlexander & John’s deed, Letter to Duncan Campbell & others

Five years before Major Campbell died on 2 February 1753 Alexander can be found in Orange County, New York where he is dividing 500 acres of land with John Gilchrist who appears to be a brother or at the very least a relative.23 Ten years later on 23 February 1763 a letter was sent to “Duncan Campbell near Wallkill, Orange County.” Other recipients of the letter included Duncan Gilchrist, John Gilchrist, Alexander Gilchrist and others. The letter was in regards to the petition that had been filed on their behalf for the lands they were promised when they left Scotland in 173724 The letter clearly indicates that Alexander is still in Orange County. All three of the above mentioned Gilchrists were of age to serve in the militia. Yet only one appears for one year only. Why? Unfortunately I cannot answer that question.

While Alexander could have been in a militia unit that participated in the 1758 Battle at Ticonderoga I have not found any evidence to support the possibility.

When Did Alexander Move to Fort Edward?

Lot Overlay Highway MaptArgyle Patent Lots overlaid on a 1993 Highway Map

The Argyle Patent was approved on 2 May 176325 and issued 21 March 1764.26 more than five years after Major Campbell died. Alexander Gilchrist and his wife Catherine McIlepheder drew lots 83 and 136 respectively in the Argyle Patent. They settled lot 136 which today lies in the northern part of the town of Fort Edward. The lot is east of the original Fort and does play a roll in the Revolutionary War, but that is another story.

Where Was Major Campbell Initially Buried?

In a dispatch to William Pitt [The 1st Earl of Chatham and the man for whom Pittsburgh was named.] dated 29 June 1758 General Abercrombie wrote: “Arrived Fort Edward on the 9th, where Lord Howe was encamped with the 42nd, 44th, and 55th Regiments and 4 companies of Rangers.”27 By the end of the 17th century a regiment was roughly 1000 men and a company was anywhere from 80 to 150 men. The English casualties were over 3000 men. The 42nd lost more than 300 men and 8 officers.28 With this many deaths in the area logic would dictate that there was a designated burial ground.

Plan of Fort Edward
Burial locations of Major Duncan Campbell

From the above information we know that Major Campbell could not have been originally buried in the Gilchrist family plot. It did not exist at the time of his death. He was originally buried in the “old graveyard in Fort Edward.”29 Today it is known as the State Street Cemetery. Located just outside of the original footprint of the fort and part of Lydius’ land grant, Henry Cuyler donated the land for the State Street Cemetery.30 Cuyler was the husband of Catherine Lydius, daughter of John Henry Lydius the first settler of what is now Fort Edward.31 This cemetery was the only cemetery used by the inhabitants of Fort Edward until 1847.

Will and stoneAlexander & Catherine’s Tombstone; Alexander’s Last Will & Testament

Alexander Gilchrist penned his will on 20 September 1776 just two and a half months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.32 He was about 55 years old. He would live for another two years before he died on 29 September 1778.33 Family tradition claims that prior to Alexander’s death he was asked: “Where do you want to be buried?” He replied: “ I wish to be laid by the side of Duncan Campbell, my nearest relative in America.”34 Shortly after Alexander’s death he was buried in the State Street Cemetery. I do not know if he was laid to rest next to Major Campbell in the State Street Cemetery or not.

The Exhumations:

On 31 July 1847 the Sandy Hill and Fort Edward Union Cemetery Association was organized.35 Plots were sold and in 1871 Walter C & James H Gilchrist (grandsons of Alexander) purchased36 what became known as The Gilchrist Family Plot. The cemetery plot purchased was in section 8 number 83. (As an aside Alexander drew lot 83 in the Argyle Patent 84 years earlier — coincidence or intentional? I can not say.) Shortly after Walter and James purchased the cemetery plot they removed Alexander, his wife Catherine, several other family members and Major Campbell to the recently purchased plot in Union Cemetery.

Gilchrest Brothers postWalter C. Gilchrist and James H. Gilchrest37

Major Campbell’s “body was found in a sealed leaden casket in a brick lined grave.”38 Being Gilchrists, the brothers could not resit the temptation to look inside the coffin. As the lid was cracked and pushed to the side, what the Gilchrist brothers saw must have startled them for in front of their very eyes was the intact and natural looking body of Major Duncan Campbell. As the fresh air kissed his body it fell away to dust. The brothers described Major Campbell as a large man with a dark complexion.39 It is at this time that Major Campbell was interned in the Gilchrist Family plot next to Alexander Gilchrist and his wife Catherine. But alas this would not be the last time he was exhumed and reburied.

Gilchrist Plot AnalysisAn analysis of photographs taken in 1910 and 2014 to determine if Alexander Gilchrist was interned next to Major Campbell.40

Shortly before 31 May, Memorial day in 1920 Major Campbell was exhumed for a second time. On Memorial day 1920 the New York State Historical Society re-interned Major Campbell to a grave site near the entrance of the cemetery along side Jane McCrea41 and it would later be discovered Mrs. Sarah McNeil (she was in Jane’s grave on top of her). Jane McCrea was a loyalist and she was scalped by General Burgoyne’s Indians 27 July 1777. But that is another story.

Duncan Cambell StonetMajor Duncan Campbell’s current resting place with a replicated tombstone.42


  1. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), unnumbered between pp. 396–97, photograph of Inverawe; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). The photograph was digitally enhanced and manipulated by Ann C Gilchrest, 2018. 
  2. Fraser’s Magazine New Series Volume 22 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1880), October 1880, A. P. Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” p. 501–510. 
  3. “The Appin murder: Scotland’s 261–year search for a killer,” BBC News (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-23960171 : accessed 7 July 2018). 
  4. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.372; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  5. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.381; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  6.  “The “Black Watch” at Ticonderoga, July 8, 1758,” digital image, The New York Public Library Digital Collections, (http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f478-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99 : accessed 07 July 2018); citing “The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection,” The New York Public Library, New York. The image has been enhanced and digitally altered. 
  7. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.398; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  8. Ibid. 
  9. Fraser’s Magazine New Series Volume 22 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1880), October 1880, A. P. Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” p. 509. 
  10. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.388; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  11. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.389; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  12. Sauthier, Claude Joseph, and William Faden. A topographical map of Hudsons River, with the channels depth of water, rocks, shoals &c. and the country adjacent, from Sandy-Hook, New York and bay to Fort Edward, also the communication with Canada by Lake George and Lake Champlain, as high as Fort Chambly on Sorel River (London: Wm. Faden, 1777); digital image, Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/74693013/ : accessed 23 July 2018); citing, “A topographical map of Hudsons River, with the channels depth of water, rocks, shoals &c. and the country adjacent, from Sandy-Hook, New York and bay to Fort Edward, also the communication with Canada by Lake George and Lake Champlain, as high as Fort Chambly on Sorel River. 1776.,” Library of Congress Control Number, 74693013, Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington DC. 
  13.  Fraser’s Magazine New Series Volume 22 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1880), October 1880, A. P. Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” p. 506. 
  14. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.389–390; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  15. William Hill, Old Fort Edward Before 1800 (Fort Edward, NY: Privately printed, 1929), p. 27–35. 
  16. Ibid. 
  17. Johnson & Crisfield, History of Washington Co., New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Engisn, 1878) p. 314. 
  18. William Hill, Old Fort Edward Before 1800 (Fort Edward, NY: Privately printed, 1929), p. 27–35. 
  19. James C Neagles, U.S. Military Records A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Inc., 1994), p. 10. 
  20. Union Cemetery (Fort Edward, Washington County, New York), Catherine and Alexander Gilchrist gravestone; photographed by Ann C Gilchrest, 6 August 2014. 
  21. [^19]: The Names & their Decendants [sic] that came Over from the Island of Isla [sic] in North Brittain [sic] in the three Vessels with Capt. Lauchlin Campbell,” no date, series A0272, “New York, Applications For Land Grants, 1642–1803,” microfilm roll 16, folio 142; New York State Archives, Albany. This list was part of the application in 1763 for the land grant called the Argyle Patent. The list contains the names of the passengers, whether they are still living or dead, number of children and/or grandchildren and if they had subsequently married. The ships sailed from Islay to New York in 1738, 1739 and 1740. 
  22. New York Historical Society, Muster rolls of New York provincial troops. 1755-1764, Vol. 24 (New York: New York Historical Society, 1891), p. 154–56; citing original manuscript by E B O’Callaghan and B Fernow. Added an appendix of documents relating to New York’s part in the war. 
  23. Ulster County, New York, Deed Book GG, p. 143–148, Jane Colden and Alice Colden to John Gillchrist [sic] and Alexander Gillchrist [sic]; FHL microfilm 944743. 
  24. Compiler Kristin Johnson, The Argyle Papers (Fremont, Indiana: The First National Bank, 1995), p.109; Washington County, New York Archives, Fort Edward. The Washington County Archives holds a copy of the book and the original documents used to create the book. I photographed the book at the archives on 4 April 2014. The original documents were donated to the Washington County Archives by Professor Leo Hershkowitz of Queens College NYC. 
  25. Jennie M. Patten, History of the Somonauk United Presbyterian Church near Sandwich, De Kalb County. Illinois : with ancestral lines of the early members, (Chicago: Privately printed, 1928), “The Argyle Patent and Accompanying Documents,” Document III, p. 302–305. 
  26. James McNaughton, Jr., The Argyle Patent and Its Early Settlers, (Hopkinsville, Kentucky: The Sleeper Co., 1999), p. 3. 
  27. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.381; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  28. Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.org), “Battle of Carillon,” rev. 03:17, 21 June 2018. 
  29. Johnson & Crisfield, History of Washington Co., New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Engisn, 1878) p. 323. 
  30. William Hill, Old Fort Edward Before 1800 (Fort Edward, NY: Privately printed, 1929), p. 31. 
  31. Johnson & Crisfield, History of Washington Co., New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Engisn, 1878) p. 323, 326. 
  32. New York State, probate file Gilchrist, Alexander of Argyle, Charlotte County, filed 29 July 1784, AG44; Historical Documents Collection, Queens College Library, Flushing New York. The Historical Documents Collection no longer exists. The probate files where microfilmed by FamilySearch in 1967. The file is located on FHL microfilm 481439. The original files were transfered in 1982 and 1985 to the New York State Archives, Probated wills, 1665-1815 New York Court of Probates, Albany. 
  33. Union Cemetery (Fort Edward, Washington County, New York), Catherine and Alexander Gilchrist gravestone; photographed by Ann C Gilchrest, 6 August 2014. 
  34. Fraser’s Magazine New Series Volume 22 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1880), October 1880, A. P. Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” p. 506. 
  35. Johnson & Crisfield, History of Washington Co., New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Engisn, 1878) p. 323. 
  36. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.401; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  37. Johnson & Crisfield, History of Washington Co., New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Engisn, 1878) p. 331–2. 
  38. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), p.401; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  39. Ibid. 
  40.  2014 Photographs: Union Cemetery (Fort Edward, Washington County, New York), Catherine and Alexander Gilchrist gravestone; photographed by Ann C Gilchrest, 6 August 2014. 1910 photographs:. Frederick B Richards, “The Black Watch At Ticonderoga,” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Vol. 10 (1911), unnumbered pages, between pp.390–1 and pp 402–3; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889991 : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  41. “Historical Society in Charge,” article, The Greenwich Journal and Fort Edward Advertiser (New York), 9 June 1920, p. 7, col. 2. Frederick B Richards, The Black Watch At Ticonderoga and Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe (Glens Falls: Printed for Fort Ticonderoga Museum Library, 191?), p. 38. Note a reference in the book states, “Twenty years have passed since the account of the Black Watch at Ticonderoga as written for the 1910 meeting…” This indicates this booklet was published about 1920. 
  42.  Union Cemetery (Fort Edward, Washington County, New York), Duncan Campbell gravestone; photographed by Ann C Gilchrest, 6 August 2014. 

8 thoughts on “Ghosts and Oaths, Exhumations and Lore

  1. tschwartz1935wowwaycom

    As always, Ann, a fascinating story, excellent illustrations, and deep documentation. This is a most-worthy modern addition to the “Appin Murder” saga.

    Like

  2. “…and she was scalped by General Burgoyne’s Indians 27 July 1777. But that is another story.” Leave us wanting more, Ann. For sheer creepiness, this is tops so far.

    Like

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