In the mood for a ghost story?

By Karen Zautyk 

No, that’s not a scene from an upcoming episode of “Outlander.” It’s a depiction of the 42nd Highland Regiment — the Black Watch — at the Battle of Fort Carillon during the French & Indian War.

In the fierce engagement on July 8, 1758, a combined force of 15,000 British and American colonial troops (including a New Jersey regiment) faced off against approximately 3,600 French.

The French won.

But this column isn’t about the battle, per se. It’s about one of the Scottish combatants, Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe. The legend varies a bit, depending on the storyteller, but basically it goes something like this:

One night, years before, Campbell had been sitting in his Highland castle when there came a hammering upon the door. Answering it, he found a frightened man who ran into the great hall, touched the hearth, and pleaded for asylum. The stranger confessed that he has slain another man in a fight and was being hunted down.

According to the story, there was an unwritten Highland law “that sanctuary must be given to any man who touches your hearthstone.” (Why, we have no idea.) In any case, the laird swore an oath to shelter the fugitive. He hid him in the castle and then in a cave, and the man eventually escaped to freedom.

However: When those who were hunting the killer reached the castle, Campbell learned that the person who had been murdered was his own cousin (or foster brother, depending on which story you read), Donald.

That’s when the nightmares began. Donald appeared in a dream, “imploring him to give up the murderer, but Inverawe was honour bound and was forced to refuse.” Twice more, the ghost appeared — the final time leaving with a warning, vowing that he would meet Campbell again, in death, “at Ticonderoga.”

Campbell had never heard of the place. (Nor had anyone else in early 1700s Scotland, we presume.)

Years later, having joined the Black Watch and risen to the rank of major, he was dispatched to North America, where the French & Indian War was raging. On the shores of Lake Champlain, near Lake George, stood Fort Carillon, which the British forces were ordered to seize from the French. The night before the attack, Donald once again came to Campbell in a dream, repeating the warning about where they would meet one last time.

In the battle that followed, Campbell was mortally wounded, and he died nine days later.

He is buried in Union Cemetery in Fort Edward, N.Y. The inscription on his tombstone reads: “Here Lyes the Body of Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, Esq., Major To The old Highland Reg., Aged 55 Years, Who Died The 17th July 1758 of The Wounds He Received in The Attack of the Retrenchment of Ticonderoga or Carillon the 8th July 1758.”

Yes, “Carillon” was the French name for the fort.

The Native Americans called it “Ticonderoga.”

[Note: Scottish singer Isla St. Clair has recorded a beautiful ballad version of the legend. To hear it, just google her name and “Ticonderoga.”]

Learn more about the writer ...