maintenance. Not knowing the military strength of the Scots in Caledonia, the decision was taken to despatch a force down the Pacific Coast from Panama and cross the continental divide in order to attack the Scots over land.
The Indians alerted the Scots to the approach of the Spanish, and those Scots soldiers able to fight surprised the exhausted Spanish force, which withdrew, as one of their officers argued, to fight another day rather than risk probable disaster.
But it was only in a matter of months that a French ship arrived in Caledonia with the news that the new governor of Cartagena was planning a major assault on the colony. The Scots, who had probably buried a third of all those who had originally sailed from their homeland, lost hope. The provisions and replacements they needed had failed to arrive, the fort was unfinished, and disease was rampant. The announcement by Governor William Beeston in Jamaica in April 1699 that King William had forbidden his North American and Caribbean colonies to give any assistance to the Scots – England was at peace with Spain for once – was the last straw.
In the knowledge that the Spanish appeared determined to expel them, and with their resistance and their numbers because of disease, dwindling day by day, the colonists virtually unanimously agreed to abandon Caledonia, leaving behind little more than 400 graves.
On board the only ship of the original five to survive the return to Scotland was William Paterson. With him was John Campbell. In an account of events to the director dated December 9, 1699, Paterson wrote: “... Tuesday, the 21st of November, in company with
By the time a second expedition for Caledonia had sailed in August 1699, arriving in Darien in November to restock the colony with urgently needed supplies, all that remained of Caledonia were the ruins of the fort, burnt-out huts, rusting cooking vessels, scattered cannonballs, and graves. The thriving entrepot they expected to find simply did not exist. John Campbell could not have sailed with the second expedition as he had returned to Scotland three months earlier. However, it is likely that he came back to the Caribbean on a vessel shortly after.
The five months the second expedition was to spend in the Caribbean were marked by the relentless scourge of sickness, a pathetic attempt to mutiny, and constant bickering among the men appointed to provide leadership.
A single episode was to evoke pride in the Scots. When Colonel Alexander Campbell of Fonab arrived to take charge of the defence of the colony, he set out on a pre-emptive strike against a gathering Spanish force. With John Campbell in its ranks, the Scots and their Indian allies took the Spanish by surprise, securing victory.
This defeat reinforced Spain’s determination to drive the Scots out of Darien. A naval fleet and soldiers from military garrisons from nearby colonial possessions met little resistance from the weakened and dispirited colonists. On March 31, 1701, the settlement capitulated and was given two weeks to collect its possessions and withdrew with military honours.
Colonel Campbell of Fonab was carried on board on a litter and instructed the captain of the Ann of Caledonia to sail for Scotland, a command that probably saved his life. The Rising Sun, Duke of Hamilton and Hope set out for Jamaica, of which the first two arrived in Bluefields Bay, Jamaica. Among the survivors was John Campbell of Auchenbreck. (To be continued).