Skip to main content

Major Campbell’s Coat

Curated Submission
1800 - 1812
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
84 x 38
Materials & techniques
Wool, brass
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 972.903
If the owner of this uniform could speak to us today, the stories he could share would be nothing short of spectacular. Donald Campbell was born on Islay, an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, in the second half of the 18th century. Islay suffered from severe food shortages during this period, and over 1,300 Scots left Islay for North Carolina in search of new opportunities in America, Donald Campbell among them. Soon these settlers were confronted with another major decision: either remain loyal to the Crown or support the revolutionaries in their fight for independence. A Loyalist, Campbell enlisted in the British Army in 1775 and was taken prisoner with Lord Cornwallis after the siege of Yorktown in 1781. Following his imprisonment and subsequent parole, Campbell was granted land in Nova Scotia in 1784 for his loyal service.
Campbell’s military service continued, and he was appointed Fort Major of Fort George in 1800 and remained in charge of the fort until his sudden death on December 1, 1812, at age 57. Campbell was buried in the central west bastion of Fort George; whether his grave was disturbed during the reconstruction of Fort George in the 1930s remains unknown. The Campbell family suffered substantial war losses; they lost a loved one and a major source of income, were caught in the middle of the Battle of Fort George on May 27, 1813, and endured the American occupation, after which their home was torched along with the rest of the town on December 10, 1813.
Major Campbell’s red wool coat with black flannel wool is a very early type, common shortly after 1800. It features blue facings, buttons in pairs, a rounded cut at the waist, and white piping. The high stand-up collar is missing, as are its adjustable lapels. There is a silver epaulet at the left shoulder, but it may not be original to the coat. As Fort Major, Campbell could have worn a coat of one of his previous regiments, but none of them had blue facings with paired buttons. There is a possibility that Campbell bought this coat from another officer, and it does resemble the uniform of the 10th Royal Veterans Battalion stationed in Canada at the time. The 10th Royal Veterans Battalion was a regiment created by Isaac Brock and was ideal for soldiers who were getting on in years but could still serve in administrative positions. It is also likely that the coat was made for Campbell in a generic British officer’s style, as there appears to be no specific uniform requirement for his position. The coat is a powerful link to Canada’s military past as a haven for veteran Loyalists from the Revolutionary War. This pool of military knowledge would serve Canada well in preparation for war with the United States in 1812.
Submit a related artifact
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Pinterest Email More...

Main sponsors

  • Logo of the Imperial Oil Foundation with accompanying characteristic oval 'Esso' symbol.

Institutional partners