04 October 2021

“A” Legend of Ticonderoga: Retracing the Origins of the Duncan Campbell Ghost Story

Photo: Joseph Gagné 2021


I love a good ghost story. Among my fondest memories of childhood, the ones that stand out are the summers I spent riding my bicycle to my hometown library where I would pick out such books as Rupert Matthews’ Ghosts (wonderfully illustrated by Michael Bragg), or C.B. Colby’s World’s Best “True” Ghost Stories. (Out of nostalgia, I bought both off the internet and they are now proudly displayed among my collection of folklore books.) Not only do I love reading a good ghost story, but I also love telling them: after all, I did spend eleven years working for the Ghost Tours of Québec! This is why, for my main Halloween blog post this year, I wanted to share a New France-themed tale of the supernatural. This is not just any ghost story: it is one that spans across two continents, and that has been kept alive in three different countries. As interesting as this legend is, however, the story of its proliferation in the 19th century is just as fascinating…

Chasing the Legend(s) of Ticonderoga

Image from Scribner’s Magazine,
vol. 2, no. 6 (December 1887).

There have been many published versions of “The Legend of Ticonderoga” throughout the years. From its murky origins in the oral folklore of the Highlands of Scotland to that of the Lake Champlain Valley, and through the writings of famous authors like Robert Louis Stevenson or historians like Francis Parkman, by the end of the 19th century, the Legend of Ticonderoga had established itself as a classic tale which continues to be retold even in today’s digital age.[1] The following is perhaps the most concise one, as told by A.P. Stanley in 1880:

In the middle of the last century the chief of the Campbells of Inverawe had been giving an entertainment at his castle on the banks of the Awe. The party had broken up and Campbell was left alone. He was roused by a violent knocking at the gate, and was surprised at the appearance of one of his guests, with torn garments and dishevelled hair, demanding admission. ‘I have killed a man, and I am pursued by enemies. I beseech you to let me in. Swear upon your dirk—upon the cruachan or hip where your dirk rests—swear by Ben Cruachan—that you will not betray me.’ Campbell swore, and placed the fugitive in a secret place in the house. Presently there was a second knocking at the gate. It was a party of his guests, who said, ‘Your cousin Donald has been killed; where is the murderer?’ At this announcement Campbell remembered the great oath which he had sworn, gave an evasive answer, and sent off the pursuers in a wrong direction. He then went to the fugitive and said, ‘You have killed my cousin Donald. I cannot keep you here.’ The murderer appealed to his oath, and persuaded Campbell to let him stay for the night. Campbell did so and retired to rest. In the visions of that night the blood-stained Donald appeared to him with these words: ‘Inverawe, Inverawe, blood has been shed; shield not the murderer.’ In the morning Campbell went to his guest, and told him that any further shelter was impossible. He took him, however, to a cave in Ben Cruachan, and there left him. The night again closed in, and Campbell again slept, and again the blood stained Donald appeared. ‘Inverawe, Inverawe, blood has been shed; shield not the murderer.’ On the morning he went to the cave on the mountain, and the murderer had fled. Again at night be slept, and again the blood-stained Donald rose before him and said, ‘Inverawe, Inverawe, blood has been shed. We shall not meet again till we meet at Ticonderoga.’ He woke in the morning, and behold it was a dream. But the story of the triple apparition remained by him, and he often told it amongst his kinsmen, asking always what the ghost could mean by this mysterious word of their final rendezvous.

In 1758 there broke out the French and English war in America, which after many rebuffs ended in the conquest of Quebec by General Wolfe. Campbell of Inverawe went out with the Black Watch, the 42nd Highland regiment, afterwards so famous. There, on the eve of an engagement, the general came to the officers and said, ‘We had better not tell Campbell the name of the fortress which we are to attack to-morrow. It is Ticonderoga. Let us call it Fort George.’ The assault took place in the morning. Campbell was mortaily [sic] wounded. He sent for the general. These were his last words: ‘General, you have deceived me; I have seen him again. This is Ticonderoga.’[2]

I myself first encountered this chilling and tragic story in Ronald C. Finucane’s book on the evolution of ghosts in Western culture. For years following, I had wanted to write about the Legend of Ticonderoga. However, I had no idea how to discuss it beyond simply quoting the few paragraphs that I had read. Later, as I was researching an unrelated topic, I stumbled on yet another version of the story, this time as told by H.R. Casgrain in the last quarter of the 19th century. Discovering that one of the foremost specialist of French primary documents of his day had written a French version of the story was intriguing in and of itself, but what had truly grabbed my attention was that he had noted having first heard of the legend through “Dean Stanley during his passage in Québec”.[3] Who was this Dean Stanley? How did he come to meet Casgrain? Were there other versions of the Legend of Ticonderoga? Without knowing it, in trying to answer these questions, I was falling into a deep rabbit-hole spanning across the Atlantic Ocean, leading me to delve into the works of various English and Scottish men and women of letters. This was a veritable trek through the who’s who of 19th century Scottish folklore anthologists, branching off from the wider literary movement of the era then rushing to commit oral folklore to paper.

What follows is the story of this story, one that is just as fascinating as the legend itself. This is my attempt at retracing the “genealogy” of the legend of Ticonderoga: that is, how it came to be spread throughout the literary world of the 19th century and how it became a staple “For the lovers of the weird, the mystical and the eerie”.[4]

Though what follows is not an in-depth comparative analysis of every minute divergences and similarities between each story, I do highlight some of the main details at glance. Readers who wish to further acquaint themselves with the numerous versions I’ve found can consult the chronological list at the end of this post. For each, I’ve included a link leading directly to its respective first page.

Retracing each text has not been nearly as straightforward as it would seem. I could only assume most had the same basic keywords: Campbell, Ticonderoga, and Inverawe. Searching for more basic keywords (say, “murder” + “brother” + “ghost”) ended up being both too vague and too specific. Also adding to the confusion was the amount of other Duncan Campbells, both throughout history as well as contemporaries of the protagonist (for example, another Duncan Campbell was killed in 1763 during an expedition to Fort Pitt[5]). Furthermore, no matter the keywords, there was no guarantee that the OCR of the various databases I consulted would necessarily find every version that ever existed. In fact, the earliest one I’ve identified was found not through keyword searching, but through an intertextual reference. Beyond the use of search engines, the best method of teasing out the early literary life of the tale remained carefully reading the precious few notes some authors had bothered including regarding where they themselves first heard of the legend. It is important to note that despite the existence of various reprints, these clarifications where often included in later publication—proof once again that it is important to never assume all copies of primary sources are identical to their originals.

All in all, my search focused primarily on the 18th and 19th century. By the 20th century, the various reprints, retellings, and reinventions of the legend of Ticonderoga started being either reheated fare or clearly mashups of previous versions. In all, I’ve identified the following eight authors who have put the legend to paper in the 19th century, either successively or coincidentally, each with his or her own variations. Through their scant indications, I’ve been able to draw up a table of four paths through which the story proliferated.[6]

The Facts Behind the Legend

Image from Frederick B. Richards'
The Black Watch at Ticonderoga and Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe

Though I have not been able to retrace the exact origins of the story backwards beyond 1841, it is important to first parse the facts from the fiction to get a better sense of them. C.F. Gordon Cumming said of the Legend of Ticonderoga: “The story is as wholly inexplicable as it is incontrovertible.”[7] In reality, despite her conviction, historical mistakes abound throughout each retelling. Dean Stanley’s version presented previously may be considered a bare-bones version of the legend, but it is, as far as I can tell, the most authoritative as well. This comes as no surprise since Stanley has been the author who by far has put the most effort in researching this story. His version includes an extensive follow up with any and all facts he had managed to collect surrounding the legend. However, even though his is the most “accurate” version, narratively, it is far from the definitive one. In fact, as we will see, there is no such thing: like most ghost stories, especially those that first came to be through oral transmission, the legend of Ticonderoga has had so many iterations throughout the centuries that nailing down “the” version is quite impossible. Many details diverge between each, from the victim’s identity to the French name of Ticonderoga, from the chronology of events to even the very name of the protagonist! The only common thread is the ghostly foreshadowing of the main character’s death at Ticonderoga following the murder of a male relative or acquaintances, and the protagonist shielding of the murderer from an angry mob, later to be reprimanded by the spectre of the victim.

Even with historical research, pinning down the actual facts of the matter also becomes problematic when considering what sources survive and which are readily available—or not—to the researcher. Case in point: as useful as it might have been for this topic, I can only wish I could have done further research in Scotland. This is another reason why Stanley’s version stands out: his quasi-obsessive interest in the legend led him on a quest to visit every location tied to the tale both in Scotland and North America. The reader who wishes to know more about the historicity behind the legend are encouraged to read his version. To know more about Duncan Campbell, his family, Inveraw, the Black Watch, and the aftermath of this death, he or she can also consult Frederick B. Richards’ Black Watch at Ticonderoga. Considering both of these works have been written over a century ago, a new, updated biography of Duncan Campbell is certainly long overdue. For the current needs of this text, however, I will stick to basic facts taken from the historical record.

Major Duncan Campbell from Inverawe did indeed exist and did participate in the Seven Years’ War in North America. However, contrary to most versions of the legend, though wounded at Ticonderoga, he did not die there. In fact, four days after the battle of July 8th 1758 which had pitted Abercromby’s army against the defending French lead by Montcalm, Campbell had initially been marked as simply wounded. The damage he had incurred to his right arm, however, was severe enough to eventually warrant amputation, causing his death “soon thereafter.”[8] As stated in the October edition of the Scots Magazine of the same year: “[…] Maj. Duncan Campbell of Inveraw [sic], of Murray’s highlanders, died at Fort Edward on the 17th [of July]”.[9] The major would be replaced in his functions by “Gordon Graham, Major of Ld. John Murray’s highlanders” (who, by the way, had also been wounded at Ticonderoga).[10]

Campbell’s son, Alexander, was also wounded in the arm at Carillon. Unlike his father, however, he would linger long enough to make it back to Scotland before finally succumbing. As one obituary stated in January 1760: “In the neighborrood of Glasgow, Capt. Alexander Campbell, of Inverawe, of the Argyleshire regiment. He was wounded in 1758 at the attack upon Ticonderoga, and never recovered of his wounds. That attack occasioned also the death of this father, who was Major of the Royal Highland regiment.”[11] Tragedy wasn’t done with the family, as Duncan’s wife, Jean, passed away shortly after in 1761.[12]

Traces of Duncan Campbell exist outside of printed sources as well. For example, a powder horn attributed to him can be found within the collections of the McCord Museum in Montreal. Like many similar artifacts, the horn is engraved with the name of its owner as well as a map showing the many places tied to the Lake Champlain Valley campaign.[13]

The most impressive artifact tied directly to Duncan Campbell, however, is his headstone. As Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester put it best in 1878, “Of all that stricken multitude buried at Fort Edward, the name and place of only one grave is preserved to the present day. It is the grave of Duncan Campbell […].”[14] According to Robert O. Bascom in 1902:

The Gilchrist family, within whose lot the remains of Duncan Campbell now rest, were of Scotch descent. Alexander Gilchrist, the emigrant, came to this country about 1740, and undoubtedly was one of the Loughlin Campbell colony, and the original owner of Lot No. 83 of the Argyle Patent. He married Catherine McNeil after he came to this country. He died in 1768, leaving two sons — Alexander and Archibald. Alexander married Sarah White of Argyle, about 1794, and lived and died upon his father’s farm. Archibald came to Fort Edward and purchased a farm east of the present village of Fort Edward. From these two brothers have sprung large families. They were men of position and character in the community.

Alexander Gilchrist claimed, it is said, to be related to Duncan Campbell. If the tradition be true, the relationship is not known to the author, and whether or not the many Campbell families now residing in this and other localities may trace descent from Duncan Campbell, is perhaps uncertain.[15]

Richards further clarifies that Major Campbell “was buried in the family lot of the Gilchrists, in the old cemetery at Fort Edward. The body was moved to the Gilchrist lot in the new Union cemetery between Sandy Hill and Fort Edward in 1871, and in 1920 was moved again to the Jane McCrea lot in the same cemetery.”[16] Today, a granite reproduction stands in the plot, while the original epitaph is exhibited in the Cronkhite Pavilion of the Old Fort House Museum in Fort Eward.[17]

Duncan Campbell’s original tombstone. “Here Lyes the body of Duncan Campbell of Inversaw, Esqr Major to The old Highland Regt:Aged:55:Years. Who died The:17th:July:1758:of The Wounds He Received In The Attack of The Retrenchments of Ticonderoga or Carillon the:8th:Juy;1758.” From Bascom, The Fort Edward Book, plate immediately following page 80.

The Versions

1841: Thomas Dick Lauder

The earliest published version of the legend of Duncan Campbell, as well as one of the lengthiest, seems to have been written by Thomas Dick Lauder (1784-1848). Author, baron, and one-time member of the Cameron Highlanders (the 79th Regiment), he had a penchant for tales of the supernatural. As one of his biographers stated, “The scenery and legends of the district [of Elginshire] gave a special bent to his scientific and literary studies.”[18]

As Dean Stanley pointed out, this version is “told with many embellishments.”[19] These superfluous details are too numerous to be listed here. However, one notable difference is that the protagonist in the story is not haunted by his cousin, but the ghost of a stranger he happened to have met in a cave in Lorn. This version also firmly ties the legend to the Jacobite Rebellion, establishing that both men, though on opposite sides of the conflict, had earned each other’s respect through the understanding that they were both merely following orders. It is also striking that in this first printed version of the legend, both the murderer and the victim remain anonymous (the mob simply stating it was after “a man who has murdered another”).

Very much more verbose that most versions, Lauder’s happens to be quite atmospheric as well, with one of the most memorable descriptions of the specter: “The shadowy arm was extended, and the curtain was slowly and silently raised. […] With noiseless action, the figure dropped one corner of the shadowy plaid in which it was enveloped, and displayed a gaping wound in its bosom, which appeared to pour out rivers of blood. Its lips moved not; yet it spoke—slowly, and in a hollow and sepulchral tone.”[20]

Thought fraught with historical mistakes (for example, Campbell’s fellow officers deflect his fear of Ticonderoga by calling it Fort Defiance rather than Carillon), this version correctly states that the protagonist’s son was killed at the same battle, though by having him die immediately next to his wounded father, finally understanding the prophetic warning before dying himself.

1880: Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley

Besides being occasionally quoted or reprinted, the legend of Duncan Campbell doesn’t seem to have been thoroughly researched by historians and folklorists despite having become a perennial favourite in many compendiums of Scottish and American folklore. As previously mentioned, the notable exception however is the Dean of Westminster, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881). Not only is Stanley’s take on the story still one of the most researched, his own quest to dig up the details surrounding the story is just as interesting as the legend itself.

As the author puts it himself, “It was in the dreary autumn of 1877 that in the dark woods of Roseneath [Scotland] I heard the […] tale from the parish clergyman […].”[21] Stanley’s first nod to the story was in an article in which he unapologetically gushed over his visit of North America. Indeed, Stanley was clearly absorbed by the romanticized history of the United States and Canada (“What can be more stirring or more primeval than the account of those brilliant adventurers […]?”[22]). After having long desired to cross the “pond,” Stanley was finally on his way on September 6, 1878, boarding the Siberia in Liverpool. As one of his earlier biographers stated, “Every moment of the voyage was used in preparation for the coming campaign. All the books bearing on America, including not only histories, but the novels of Hawthorne and Fenimore Cooper, were eagerly devoured.”[23] As will be seen later on, Stanley seems to have singlehandedly spread the legend of Duncan Campbell in America, often bringing up the legend with his hosts in hopes of gathering more information. For example, despite being well versed in the history of the region, Bishop John Williams had never heard of this Lake Champlain ghost story; yet, he was able to inform Stanley of the existence of Campbell’s gravestone.[24] Later, Stanley would encourage his readers to visit these various historical sites themselves, also inviting them, among other things, to “Listen to the legendary lore which hangs over the mysterious death of Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, whose gravestone is still to be seen in the neighbourhood amongst the descendants of his famous clan”.[25]

Ruins of Fort Ticonderoga.
Engraving by Jacques-Gérard Milbert, 1838.

In truth, however, Stanley never did visit the gravesite himself, having only heard of its existence after he had passed through the region. During his American grand tour, he had the fortune however of visiting the ruins of Ticonderoga. The site, by then protected by the Pell family, had yet to be reconstructed as it stands today. As Stanley put it, “It is […] almost the only ruin in the United States, and the most interesting spot we have seen after Niagara”.[26] As his early biographer Rowland E. Prothero stated:

For Stanley the spot had two special fascinations. The name, in the first place, was already familiar to him from the monuments in Westminster Abbey to two English officers killed at Ticonderoga in the French and English war in 1758. One monument is to Lord Howe, erected by the ‘Province of Massachusetts Bay,’ the other is to Colonel Townsend, with the fortress and two Red Indians carved upon it. It was also, in the second place, associated with a Highland legend which he was fond of repeating, and which he told, not for the first time, to his two companions as they approached Ticonderoga in the dim twilight of an autumn morning.”

After giving an abridged version of Stanley’s take on the legend, Prothero continues:

Stanley determined to explore the spot, and, if possible, discover the traces of Campbell of Inverawe. At Hartfort, in Connecticut, he had met Bishop Williams, ‘the flower of the American episcopate,’ who had made a special study of the regions of the Lakes, and told him the story. Through the Bishop he eventually found the object of his search. At the time of his visit to Ticonderoga a mound of grassy hillocks alone marked the graves of the British officers. But in the evening, at Saratoga, he found in Lossing’s ‘Revolutionary War’ a description of the burial at Fort Edward of Jane Macrea, whose tragical story formed the basis of ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’ Her grave is near an old brown headstone, on which are inscribed the words: ‘Here lyes the body of Duncan Campbell of Inversaw (sic), Esq., Major to the old Highland Regiment, aged 55 years, who died in the 17th July, 1758, of the wounds he received in the attack of the entrenchments of Ticonderoga, or Carillon, 8th July, 1758.’ ‘My first impulse,’ says Stanley, ‘was to return to the spot. But we were already at Saratoga, Fort Edward was far in our rear, and we were due at Concord on the following night. We were forced to abandon the actual visit; but that day I wrote to Bishop Williams, stating that we had found the grave, and asking whether any particulars could be procured of the reason or manner of his burial.’

From Bishop Williams he received and account of the tombstone, which had been removed to the enclosure of the Gilchrists, a family which claimed Duncan Campbell as a near relation. on his return to England he followed up the story in all its details and ramifications. He identified the actual spot where Stuart of Appin had murdered Donald Campbell; he traced the flight of the murderer to Inverawe; he visited the Ghost Room at the Castle; he sought out every member of the two families who could add fresh particulars, and finally completed his narrative by the addition of a legend which described the appearance of Inverawe, ‘in full Highland regimentals,’ to announce to his foster-brother in Scotland his death at Ticonderoga in America.

Finally, Prothero shared this observation on Stanley’s research into the Campbell Legend:

The story is told here at length because it illustrates, not only the variety of Stanley’s interests, but the pertinacity with which, even in the last years of his life, he hunted down, and realised upon the actual spot, every detail of any incident, legendary, fictitious, or historical, which had impressed his imagination.[27]

Outside tracking down family and other filiations to Inveraw, Stanley didn’t bother revealing all of his sources (probably oral for the most part). His few indications regarding this matter do however prove the story had a life of its own outside of literary circles, at least in the surrounding area of Inverawe.

1884: C.F. Gordon Cumming

Scottish painter Constance Frederica Cumming (1837-1924)[28] heard the story from her mother, Eliza Campbell, who in turn had heard it through Sir Thomas Dick Lauder (whom she mistakenly named Landen. She is not the first to make the mistake).[29] Ironically, though shorter, the story contains many details not found in Lauder’s version, including the name of the murderer (Stuart of Appin). Furthermore, in this version, Donald is not only the name of Duncan’s son, but also that of the stranger in the cave, Donald Campbell of Lorn. Francis Parkman wrote of this version:

The legend of Inverawe has within a few years found its way into an English magazine, and it has also been excellently told in the Atlantic Monthly of September of this year, 1884, by Miss C. F. Gordon Cumming. Her version differs a little from that given above from the recital of Dean Stanley and the present laird of Inverawe, but the essential points are the same. Miss Gordon Cumming, however, is in error when she says that Duncan Campbell was wounded in the breast, and that he was first buried at Ticonderoga. His burial-place was near Fort Edward, where he died, and where his remains still lie, though not at the same spot, as they were long after removed by a family named Gilchrist, who claimed kinship with the Campbells of Inverawe.[30]

1884: Francis Parkman

Speaking of which, Historian Francis Parkman (1823-1893) requires no introduction. Parkman mentions the story at least twice in his works. It is first included in his masterpiece Montcalm and Wolfe (1884). While describing the battle of Carillon, Parkman includes a sullen Duncan Campbell, “his soul […] dark with foreshadowing of death”, before receiving “a mortal shot”.[31] The story behind this line is expanded upon in an appendix.[32] Later, Parkman would reproduce his version verbatim in his travel handbook dedicated to the history of the corridor between Québec and Lake George (1885), with the exemption of the final paragraph which analyses Cumming’s version.

Being that the story was told to him by Stanley in 1878, there is little variation if any with the dean’s version. It is worth mentioning that Parkman also added this brief evaluation of the legend: “The indisputable facts are that Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe, his arm shattered by a bullet, was carried to Fort Edward, where, after amputation, he died and was buried. (Abercromby to Pitt, 19 August, 1758.)”.[33]

1885: Lord Archibald Campbell

It is fitting that a Campbell should finally put down his own version of this story to paper. Lord Archibald Campbell of Argyll (1846-1913) wore many hats, from having an early career in trading wine and tea, to being the author of various works on Scottish culture, both social and material. Being a passionate defender of the traditional Highland regimental dress and tartans in the 19th century, there is little wonder he was also captivated by this tale of Highland honour.[34] Family tradition wasn’t the source of this version, however: the author assures his readers that the tale was told to him by a Miss Isabel Smith.

Sadly, Lord Campbell’s take on the legend suffers from a few anachronisms (for example, it was Abercromby, not Amherst, who lead the attack on Carillon). The author’s biggest sin by far is the fact that he spoils the punchline, explaining to the reader early on that Ticonderoga was the name of the targeted French fort. More details diverge: the murderer, named McNiven, is immediately hidden in a cave and not the protagonists’ house; the victim is Campbell’s cousin and foster brother; and finally, in this version, Campbell’s fellow officer hides Ticonderoga’s identity by calling it Fort Saint-Louis (which makes more sense than the name found in other variations, that of Fort George, a British moniker).

1887: Robert Louis Stevenson

The author of Treasure Island hardly needs introducing. Ironically, though this is the most well known version of the legend of Ticonderoga, it is also the least accurate, mainly because Stevenson swaps the name Cameron for Campbell. The murderer is Appin, and the victim is the protagonist’s brother once more. Stevenson also has “the plaided soldiers” travel halfway around the world to China in an attempt to justify this poetic flourish: “Many a name I have heard […] In all the tongues of men […] But never a name like that.”[35] Once more, the name of Carillon is non-existent, Sault-Marie standing it its place as the French name of Ticonderoga. Finally, it is inferred that Campbell—or should I say, Cameron, is buried on the battleground instead of at Fort Edward.

The poem, originally titled simply Ticonderoga, would be reprinted in Stevenson’s 1900 collection of poems, with the added subtitle A Legend of the Highlands. According to the few notes Stevenson included in this edition, he had relied on David Stewart’s work on Highlanders for accuracy (despite actually adding plenty of mistakes). In addition to the handful of minor corrections or word changes, this book version includes titles for each of the poem’s three sections. More importantly, this version comes with this addendum:

I first heard this legend of my own country from that friend of men of letters, Mr. Alfred Nutt, “there in roaring London’s central stream”, and since the ballad first saw the light of day in Scribner’s Magazine, Mr. Nutt and Lord Archibald Campbell have been in public controversy on the facts. Two clans, the Camerons and the Campbells, lay claim to this bracing story; and they do well: the man who preferred his plighted troth to the commands and menaces of the dead is an ancestor worth disputing. But the Campbells must rest content: they have the broad lands and the broad page of history; this appanage must be denied them; for between the name of Cameron and that of Campbell, the muse will never hesitate.[36]

Though Stevenson specifies he was told the story by Nutt, a publisher and Celtic scholar[37], no published version from his hand was found, nor any by “Mr. Cameron of Barcaldine”[38] who in turn had told him of the story. On the other hand, Archibald Campbell and Alfred Nutt’s comments following the original publication of Stevenson’s poem are readily found (see the following images).

“Ticonderoga,” The Athenaeum (London), no. 3138 (December 17, 1887): 825.

Archibald Campbell, “Ticonderoga,” The Athenaeum (London), no. 3140 (December 31, 1887): 893.

Should you wish to listen to Stevenson’s poem rather than read it, I invite you to listen to my dear friend and American colleague Matthew Keagle narrating it on the heights of Ticonderoga: https://youtu.be/2WEZmbzqgHQ.

1891: Abbé H.R. Casgrain

La Kermesse was published in the 19th century to raise funds for the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur in Montreal.

Yet again thanks to Stanley, the tale of Ticonderoga made its way into French Canada in the guise of the writings of H.R. Casgrain (1831-1904). For those unfamiliar with Casgrain, he can be arguably summed us as being the Francis Parkman of French-Canada. A man of many hats, from Catholic priest to historian to publisher, he was instrumental in publishing many volumes of primary sources on the history of New France (particularly the papers of the Chevalier de Lévis, now nicknamed the Casgrain Collection). In fact, not only did both Parkman and Casgrain become close collaborators, the latter would even end up writing a biography of his American colleague. Furthermore, and back to the present topic, just as Parkman recalled the legend of Ticonderoga in his Montcalm and Wolfe, Casgrain included it in the endnotes of his Montcalm et Lévis. Interestingly, Casgrain mentions that the Marquess of Lorne also “took pleasure in telling it back when he was the governor of Canada.”[39] Indeed, after his governorship between 1878 and 1883, the Marquess would become the 9th Duke of Argyll in 1900. Though born in London in 1845, more importantly, he was born… a Campbell.

Little can be said about Casgrain’s version of the tale since, after all, it is simply a distillation of Stanley’s version. It is interesting to note, however, that a year after its initial publication, it was reprinted verbatim in La Kermesse, in October, no less. (This, by the way, happens to be the version that had grabbed my attention and inspired me to attempt to retrace the origins of this legend!)

1897: Andrew Lang

Despite “pursuing an intellectual career too varied and eclectic” (according to his friends)[40], no doubt this very fact places Scottish anthropologist and historian Andrew Lang as one of the most prolific writers in this entire list. Co-founder of the Folklore Society in 1878, his interest for legends and myths led him to publish many books on the topic, including The Book of Dreams and Ghosts. As a contemporary reviewer stated, the “book is packed with excellent yarns.” The same reviewer also added: “As far as we can gather [on] Mr. Lang’s attitude […] he disbelieves in traditional ghosts, the ghosts that do things—but wishes it were otherwise.”[41] As Lang stated regarding his book, “The chief purpose of [it] is, if fortune helps, to entertain people interested in the kind of narratives here collected.”[42] Among these collected stories is, of course, Campbell’s ghost story.

Lang’s version of the “curious Argyll tradition of Ticonderoga” was transmitted to him by Miss Elspeth Campbell, most certainly Elspeth Angela Campbell (1873-1942), daughter of Janey Sevilla Callander and of none other than… the aforementioned Archibald Campbell! I must confess to being surprised to discover that there doesn’t seem to exist any biography of Miss Elspeth, or at least, none that that could be readily found within an evening’s worth of online research. It is quite a shame, since she apparently followed in her father’s footsteps, having been just as interesting and having also helped promote Scottish culture and folklore. For example, her work on local traditions helped contextualize certain artifacts, like this “cursing bone,” found at the National Museums Scotland. Among her handful of publications in periodicals, I would be remiss if I didn’t quote this heartwarming excerpt printed around the time her father published his own version of the story:

Lord Archibald Campbell’s Famous bagpipers continue to skirt in the West Highlands. The other day they walked abroad in Inverary headed by a young lady, who blew the pibroch with all the dexterity and success of a prize bagpiper. This was Miss Elspeth Campbell. Lord Archibald’s handsome daughter. I hear that she is really an expert player, and that she has done much to make the warlike instrument popular in fashionable circles. In any case, the Duke of Argyle is proud of her, and that is satisfaction enough.[43]

Despite the fact that the story Lang collected from Miss Campbell was essentially the same story as told by her father, there are a few differences nonetheless. These mostly have to do with certain corrections (for example, Abercromby is correctly identified as leading the British), and additions (this version has by far the best description of the actual battle of Carillon).

On a final note, Lang’s version also happens to be the one quoted by Ronald C. Finucane in his analysis of the evolution of ghosts throughout history, the first I’ve ever read about the legend of Ticonderoga.[44]


Though the previous focused on early versions of the Legend of Ticonderoga in the 19th century, the story continues to be reprinted even to this day, showing up in various media (including Inverawe’s own website!), often circulating historical mistakes and different details according to which of the “original” versions inspired them. As the New York Times put it in the first quarter of the 20th century, “There is always some old resident of the vicinage [of Fort Ticonderoga] who is willing to start the tale of the Campbell ghost just as soon as he can draw attention to the relics of the Black Watch.”[45] That said, Inverawe and Ticonderoga are not the only haunted location tied to this legend. Though Stanley had placed the murder at Barcaldine without mentioning any ghostly link,[46] one has been established since. As The Scotsman put it in 2012:

Situated near Loch Creran in Argyll, Barcaldine Castle is haunted by a pair of Campbell brothers. In the 18th century the laird of Barcaldine was Donald Campbell, who had been involved in a bitter feud with Stewart of Appin. Stewart killed Campbell with his sword and then sought refuge at the home of the victim’s brother Duncan, who had not heard about the murder. Duncan was haunted by visions of his brother, but by the time he realised what they meant, Stewart was gone.[47]

Furthermore, two more stories tied to Duncan Campbell are regularly brought up, both having to do with family back in Scotland learning of Campbell’s passing before the arrival of any official news. In Stanley, Campbell, Gordon, and Parkman, a story is told of a child relative being visited in his sleep by the ghost of Major Duncan. Again in Stanley, Campbell, Parkman, and also Lang, another story tells of two female relatives in Inverawe who see the battle of Carillon in the sky, recognizing their fallen kin, only to have their demise confirmed in a gazette’s official report from the front.

The actual origins of any of these stories tied to Duncan Campbell have been frustratingly elusive. Just as Honoré Beaugrand‘s Chasse-Galerie became the most well known version of the flying canoe story through print despite the innumerable previous oral versions, one is left wondering how much of the literary legend of Duncan Campbell truly reflects its initial roots in oral tradition. Furthermore, as entertaining as is the ghost story of Duncan Campbell, it cannot boast being original in its central motif. As Dempster wrote in 1888:

The fatality of one locality to certain persons has always been maintained. The oracle warned Cambyses that he should die in Eckbatana. The prince determined never to go there; but, on being accidentally wounded in the chase, he asked the name of the spot to which they had brought him to be treated for his wound; he was told that it was called “Eckbatana,” and immediately expired.

Twardowsky (the Dr. Faustus or Michael Scott of Lithuania) sold his soul to the devil, with this condition that the fiend could only claim it if they chanced to meet in Rome. The wizard avoided any visit to the city of St. Peter; but in a hamlet of his native land, which chanced to be called “Roma,” the devil accosted him, and Twardowsky had difficulty in baffling the fiend.

Henry IV. considered the prophecy that he should die in Jerusalem to be fulfilled by his death in the “Jerusalem Chamber” at Westminster.

The late Emperor Louis Napoleon had been told and he believed that the streets of London would be fatal to him.

Captain Campbell was warned by the ghost of a murdered kinsman that he must render his soul at Ticonderoga. He had never heard of such a place, and the name was quite unknown in Argyllshire. But the war of American Independence broke out, Campbell went to America with his regiment, and, while lying wounded under the walls of Fort-Edward, he learned just before he expired that the Indian name of the spot was “Ticonderoga.”[48]

More recently, Jennifer Westwood and Sophia Kingshill pointed out the legend’s parallels to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, act IV, wherein Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus, informing him that they will meet again at Philippi.[49] With so many examples of ghostly foreshadowing of a protagonist’s demise, it becomes quite evident that this “unique” legend is hardly such. One also wonders if the memory of other historical events influenced the story. For example, though no sources have been found supporting the existence of the murder at the heart of the narrative, one can’t help raising an eyebrow and wonder if the more famous “Murder of Appin,” which lead to the controversial accusation of James Stewart of the Glens for the 1752 murder of Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure following the Jacobite Rebellion, somehow bled into the Legend of Ticonderoga after 1841.[50]

Nonetheless, despite this repeating motif, the Legend of Ticonderoga has withstood the test of time, proving it is far from being simply rehashed fare. Through it’s combination of classic themes like the fear of death, the notion of personal honour, and our fascination for the supernatural (just to name a few), capped in the end with a tragic dénouement, there is little wonder this story has been retold again and again, and will most probably continue to spook new readers for years to come.


As Robert O. Bascom puts it, the appeal of the Legend of Ticonderoga is that it “is one of the links that not only binds the Old World to the New, but seems to unite this world, which is visible and material, with that which is invisible and immaterial.”[51] Authors such as Pyrke claimed it is “best authenticated ghost story in history,”[52] while Richards stated that “No ghost story is more widely known or better authenticated than that of Duncan Campbell of Inverawe.”[53] This is not quite true, as we have seen: though historical fact does support the background of the story, proof of its supernatural elements have, alas, remained elusive. As Lang puts it best: “The author has frequently been asked, both publicly and privately: ‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ One can only answer: ‘How do you define a ghost?’ […] my mind is in a balance of doubt. It is a question of evidence.”[54] What is undeniable, however, is that no matter the truth behind the story, Duncan Campbell’s afterlife is assured through this tale perfectly suited to being told around a fire on a cold, crisp autumn night.

I wish to finish on a personal note: I can certainly sympathise with Stanley’s slight obsession with the legend of Duncan Campbell after also falling deep into the same rabbit hole. Stanley had one important accomplishment he could claim above anyone else, however: “[…] I am probably the only person now living who has seen the Murder Ford at Barcaldine in all its beauty, the haunted castle of Inverawe, the ruined fortress of Ticonderoga, and (almost) the old brown head-stone which marks the grave of Duncan Campbell.”[55] On the other hand, I can boast having done what Stanley could not: after having first stumbled on the legend in Finucane’s history of ghosts and then through Casgrain, it slowly dawned on me that the description of Campbell’s epitaph sounded strangely familiar. After a quick verification, a cold chill ran down my spine as I realized I had also seen the tombstone, not knowing it at the time... And yet, though Stanley only wished he could have experienced seeing that headstone, inversely, I hope to imitate him and to someday complete his pilgrimage on the steps of Duncan Campbell’s life.

The new tombstone in Fort Edward. Photo: Joseph Gagné 2016.

Early Published Versions of the Duncan Campbell Story

Figure 1

Other Sources and Further Reading

“Affairs in Holland and North America.” The Scots Magazine (Edinburgh) 20 (October 1758): 546.

Anonymous. “Music in Scotland.” Musical Opinion & Music Trade Review 21, no. 241 (October 1897): 35.

Anonymous. “Review. Mr. Lang on Ghosts.” The Academy (London), no. 1323 (September 11, 1897): 193–94.

Bascom, Robert O. “Legend of Duncan Campbell.” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association 2 (1902): 32–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42889809. [Reprinted a year later with a few extra notes in Bascom, Robert O. The Fort Edward Book. Fort Edward, NY: James D. Keating, 1903, 80-88. https://archive.org/details/fortedwardbookco00basc/page/n97/mode/2up.

Baigent, Elizabeth. “Cumming, Constance Frederica Gordon (1837–1924).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online edition. Oxford University Press, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/42347.

Campbell, Archibald. “Ticonderoga.” The Athenaeum (London), no. 3138 (December 17, 1887): 825.

Campbell, Archibald. “Ticonderoga.” The Athenaeum (London), no. 3140 (December 31, 1887): 893.

Campbell, Gillespie. “Lord Archibald Campbell.” The Celtic Review 9, no. 33 (1913): 65–70. https://www.jstor.org/stable/30070279.

“Deaths.” The British Magazine or Monthly Repository for Gentlemen and Ladies 1, no. 3 (March 1760): 169.

“Deaths.” The Scots Magazine (Edinburgh) 22 (January 1760): 51.

“Deaths, and Promotions.” The Edinburgh Magazine 5 (August 1761): 447.

Dempster, Miss. “The Folk-Lore of Sutherland-Shire.” The Folk-Lore Journal 6, no. 3 (1888): 149–89. http://www.jstor.com/stable/1252632.

“Disaster in the Attack of Ticonderoga.” The Edinburgh Magazine 2 (August 1758): 143.

Donaldson, William. “Lang, Andrew (1844–1912).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online edition. Oxford University Press, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/34396.

Eccles, W.J. “Parkman, Francis.” In Dictionary of Canadian Biography 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/parkman_francis_12E.html.

Finucane, Ronald C. Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead & Cultural Transformation. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1996.

Green, Roger Lancelyn. Andrew Lang: A Critical Biography with a Short-Title Bibliography of the Works of Andrew Lang. Leicester: Edmund Ward, 1946. https://archive.org/details/andrewlangcritic00gree/page/n9/mode/2up.

Hammond, P.C. “Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn (1815–1881), Dean of Westminster.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online edition. Oxford University Press, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/26259.

Harrington, John Walker. “Fort Ticonderoga’s International Ghost Story.” New York Times, (July 2, 1922): 2 and 6.

Hudon, Jean-Paul. “Casgrain, Henri-Raymond,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 21, 2021, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/casgrain_henri_raymond_13E.html.

Hunter, James. Culloden and the Last Clansman. Edinburgh, U.K.: Mainstream Publishing, 2002.

“Inverawe Ghost Stories,” in Inverawe, accessed September 14, 2021, https://www.smokedsalmon.co.uk/inverawe-ghost-stories+pu+ghost+1.

Laracy, Hugh. “Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming (1837-1924): Traveller, Author, Painter.” In Watriama and Co: Further Pacific Islands Portraits, 69–92. Canberra: ANU Press, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hgxsb.7.

Lee, Sidney, ed. “Lauder, Sir Thomas Dick (1784-1848).” In Dictionary of National Biography, 32:198–99. New York: Macmillan and Co., 1892. https://archive.org/details/dictionaryofnati32stepuoft/page/198/.

“Lists of Births, Marriages, Deaths, &c.” The Royal Magazine (London), September 1761, 162.

“Literary Intelligence.” The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art 18 (February 1831): 192. https://books.google.ca/books?id=JpMeAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA192&ots=Z9LiyO-ePx&dq=%22Sir%20Thomas%20Dick%20Landen%22&pg=PA192#v=onepage&q=%22Sir%20Thomas%20Dick%20Landen%22&f=false

“Military Promotions.” The Edinburgh Magazine 3 (March 1759): 150.

Nutt, Alfred. “Ticonderoga.” The Athenaeum (London), no. 3138 (December 17, 1887): 825.

Prothero, Rowland E. The Life and Correspondence of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. 2 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894. https://archive.org/embed/lifeandcorrespo04bradgoog.

Pyrke, Berne A. “The Story of Ticonderoga.” New York History 27, no. 1 (1946): 14–37.

Reid, Aileen. “Campbell [née Callander], Janey Sevilla [Lady Archibald Campbell] (1846–1923), theatre producer.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Oxford University Press, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/55558.

Richards, Frederick B. The Black Watch at Ticonderoga and Major Duncan Campbell of Inverawe. Ticonderoga, NY: Fort Ticonderoga Museum, 1926. https://archive.org/details/blackwatchattico00richiala.

“Scotland’s Specters: Haunted Castles, Part 1.” The Scotsman, May 7, 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20131023062307/http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/scotland-s-specters-haunted-castles-part-1-1-2280035.

Smith, T. Clark. “The Camerons of Glen Nevis.” The Celtic Monthly 7, no. 8 (May 1899): 159–60. https://archive.org/details/celticmonthlymag05mack/page/159/mode/1up.

Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn. “The Historical Aspect of the United States.” Macmillan’s Magazine 3, no. 231 (January 1879): 261–72. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.31210019743622?urlappend=%3Bseq=274.

Stewart, David. Sketches of the Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland: With Details of the Military Service of the Highland Regiments. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Printed for Archibald Constable & Co., 1822. https://books.google.ca/books/about/Sketches_of_the_Character_Manners_and_Pr.html?id=Kodn4RGZIq4C&redir_esc=y.

Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett. History of Saratoga County, New York. Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1878. https://www.google.ca/books/edition/History_of_Saratoga_County_New_York/j8spAQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA42.

Tedder, H.R. “Nutt, Alfred Trübner (1856–1910).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online edition. Revised by Sayoni Basu. Oxford University Press, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/35269.

“The Ticonderoga Ghost.” Sacramento Daily Union 17, no. 33 (March 31, 1883): 8. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SDU18830331.2.53&dliv=none&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1.

Waite, P. B. “Campbell, John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland, Marquess of Lorne and 9th Duke of Argyll,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 21, 2021, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/campbell_john_george_edward_henry_douglas_sutherland_14E.html.

Westwood, Jennifer, and Sophia Kingshill. The Lore of Scotland. A Guide to Scottish Legends. London: Random House Books, 2009.

Wightman, Anne N., and Bartlett Cowdrey. “New York Pre-Revolutionary Powder Horns.” New York History 26, no. 1 (1945): 93–99.


[1] See Matt Keagle’s narration of Stevenson’s text on YouTube.

[2] Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 501-502.

[3] “Cette légende m’a été racontée par le Dean Stanley, lors de son pasage à Québec”. Casgrain, “Légende de Ticonderoga,” 40.

[4] Pyrke, “The Story of Ticonderoga,” 22.

[5] Stewart, Sketches, 2:lviii.

[6] See figure 1.

[7] Cumming, “A Legend of Inverawe,” 338.

[8] Richards, Black Watch at Ticonderoga, 25-6.

[9] “Affairs in Holland and North America,” 546. Campbell’s death was also announced in other period gazettes. See for example: “Disaster in the Attack of Ticonderoga,” 143.

[10] “Military Promotions,” 150 and Stewart, Sketches, 2:lviii.

[11] “Deaths.” The Scots Magazine, 51. As another obituary put it: “Alexander Campbell, Esq; of Inveraw, in Scotland, Captain in the Argylshire regiment. He was wounded in the year 1758, at the attack upon Ticonderoga, where his father fell, and had returned for his recovery”. “Deaths.” The British Magazine, 169. See also Richards, Black Watch at Ticonderoga, 20.

[12] “Deaths, and Promotions,” 447 and “Lists of Births, Marriages, Deaths, &c.,” 162.

[13] Wightman and Cowdrey, “New York Pre-Revolutionary Powder Horns,” 97 and Richards, Black Watch at Ticonderoga, 41.

[14] Sylvester, History of Saratoga County, New York, 42.

[15] Bascom, The Fort Edward Book, 88.

[16] Richards, Black Watch at Ticonderoga, 27. See also 38.

[17] I wish to thank Executive Director R. Paul McCarty for confirming this.

[18] Lee, “Lauder, Sir Thomas Dick (1784-1848),” 198.

[19] Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 507, note 12.

[20] Lauder, “The Legend of the Vision of Campbell of Inverawe,” 246-7.

[21] Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 501.

[22] Stanley, “The Historical Aspect of the United States,” 262.

[23] Prothero, Life and Correspondence of A.P. Stanley, 2:511. Hammond identifies the year of his visit as 1877. This might be a typo, since both Prothero and Stanley himself state 1878. See: Hammond, “Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn” and Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 502.

[24] Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 502 and “The Ticonderoga Ghost.”

[25] Stanley, “The Historical Aspect of the United States,” 264.

[26] Prothero, Life and Correspondence of A.P. Stanley, 2:527.

[27] Prothero, Life and Correspondence of A.P. Stanley, 2:528-30.

[28] On her life’s work, see Laracy, “Constance Frederica Gordon-Cumming (1837-1924),” 69-92.

[29] Cumming, “A Legend of Inverawe,” 334. For another example of the Sir Lauder/Landen spelling confusion, see: “Literary Intelligence,” The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art 18 (February 1831): 192.

[30] Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, 563.

[31] Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, 358 and 367.

[32] Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, 561-3.

[33] Parkman, “A Legend of Ticonderoga,” 88.

[34] On his life, see: Campbell, “Lord Archibald Campbell.”

[35] Stevenson, “Ticonderoga,” 648.

[36] Stevenson, “Ticonderoga: A Legend of the West Highlands,” 227.

[37] See: Tedder, “Nutt, Alfred Trübner (1856–1910).”

[38] Possibly Donald Charles Cameron. See: Smith, “The Camerons of Glen Nevis,” 160.

[39][il] se plaisait à en faire le récit, à l’époque où il était le gouverneur du Canada.” Casgrain, Montcalm et Lévis, 2:467.

[40] Donaldson, “Lang, Andrew (1844–1912).” For a larger biography, see also: Green, Andrew Lang.

[41] Anonymous. “Review. Mr. Lang on Ghosts,” 193.

[42] Lang, The Book of Dreams and Ghosts, v.

[43] Anonymous, “Music in Scotland,” Musical Opinion & Music Trade Review 21, no. 241 (October 1897): 35.

[44] Finucane, Ghosts, 160-61.

[45] Harrington, “Fort Ticonderoga’s International Ghost Story.”

[46] Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 507-508.

[47] “Scotland’s Specters: Haunted Castles, Part 1.”

[48] Dempster, “The Folk-Lore of Sutherland-Shire,” 151.

[49] Westwood and Kingshill, The Lore of Scotland, 26.

[50] On this murder, see Hunter, Culloden and the Last Clansman.

[51] Bascom, “Legend of Duncan Campbell,” 32.

[52] Pyrke, “The Story of Ticonderoga,” 22.

[53] Richards, Black Watch at Ticonderoga, 34.

[54] Lang, The Book of Dreams and Ghosts, xiii.

[55] Stanley, “Inverawe and Ticonderoga,” 510.

1 comment:

  1. A small correction: Sir Thomas Dick Lauder was, as the name suggests a baronet, rather than a baron; the title being created for John Lauder of Fountainhall in 1688. Sir Thomas' father assumed the surname Dick-Lauder and that, rather than Lauder, remains the family surname to this day. It might be of interest to know that Sir Thomas' g.g.g grandson, Sir George Dick-Lauder (1917-1981) soldier and author, served as an officer of the Black Watch 1937-1960.


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