An­thony Gam­brill

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - An­thony Gam­brill is a play­wright. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­

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).


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