In the Scottish Highlands, loyalty to family and clan was the highest virtue.
Inverawe had been a place of peace, surrounded by Duncan Campbell’s extended family, and thus safe from the turmoil of warring highland clans; but there was a dark side to Inverawe, and it was not merely the steep part of the glens that saw little sunlight. It was a warm summer’s eve when that accursed knock came upon the door just after dusk.
It was a clansman in the colors of the Appin Stewarts–his clothes stained with sweat and blood, panting so hard he could barely get his words out.
"Sanctuary, kind sir! I… am pursued… I’ve triumphed in an affair of honor, and my … opponent’s kinsmen seek my life…"
Duncan knew such a predicament was all too common in the highlands, and a favor done for the Appins could be traded in the next time the Stewarts and the Campbells were at each other’s throats.
"Aye, I give you the hospitality of Inverawe!" Duncan said with some pride, beckoning the man to cross the threshold.
"Do you swear it, Sir? Do you swear it upon thy dirk?"
Duncan laughed. "You have need o’ that? Ah well, rest easy then." Duncan said, placing his right hand upon the dirk at his side.
"I do swear it! Now come in from the damp, laddie!"
After he’d seen to the comfort of his guest, placing him in the keep of the house, he began to settle his own affairs for the night when there came another knock upon the door.
It was half a dozen of Duncan’s own clansmen, with torches now that the night had come.
"Inverawe! Be alert! There’s a murderer hereabouts, somewhere in the glens… Your cousin Donald has been slain by his hand. There was word of a duel, but when we came upon his body, the fatal wound was struck upon his back!"
"Well then…" Duncan said, looking down upon his own hand resting upon the hilt of his dirk. "I’ll see to it that the grounds are thoroughly searched… Uhm… in the morning, when my gillies can see what they are about."
Duncan bid them goodnight, and raced to his keep and his guest.
"It is my own kinsmen who seek your blood, and they say you stabbed my cousin Donald in the back!" Duncan drew his dirk.
"Tis true my broadsword found his back…. We’d been at it for some time, and we were both spent… He launched a mighty swing at my head, I ducked and thrust forward. His swing turned him about just as I did so. I do swear to it!"
"And I’m to take the word of an Appin against my own family?!"
The Appin slowly lowered his eyes to the dirk in Duncan’s hand, then raised his head and looked him in the eye.
"My oath…"
"Aye, your oath."
"This night only. On the morrow I will set ye in a safe place an’ be done with you!"
Duncan retired to his chamber. Sleep finally came, but it was as if he had a fever. He awoke to a light that at first he thought was the morning sun, but it was coming from the wall opposite the window.
There stood, surrounded by this light, the specter of Donald Campbell.
The face had death’s pallor, and blood dripped from his mouth. A lament played upon a bagpipe, but as if the piper was a mile away.
"Inverawe! INVERAWE! Blood has been shed; shield not the murderer!"
The words came not from the specter, but as if spoken by the very air in the room. Then all was dark once more.
Duncan trembled beneath his blanket until the sun did peak through the window – where it belonged. He hurriedly dressed in his hunting attire. Out through the back way and a hidden path through the rocks on the slope of Ben Cruachan he went, prodding his erstwhile guest ahead of him, until they reached a cave.
"There’s safety in this cave for the present, and so I have kept my oath… God help you if the next man to see you wears the dark plaid of the Clan Campbell!"
That evening Duncan sat by his fire, enjoying a pipe smoke. Again in what was the darkest corner of the room a light shone, and the specter formed.
"Inverawe! INVERAWE! Blood has been shed; shield not the murderer!"
The apparition left as quickly as it came.
Duncan wondered if he was losing his mind. Again at dawn the next day he raced to the cave, but there was not a trace of the Appin. There is nothing more to do, he thought, with a mixture of resignation and relief, but the relief ended abruptly at midnight, when the light shown again in his bedchamber.
"Farewell Inverawe! Farewell till we meet at Tekontaroken!"
That was the last he’d seen of the spirit in his homeland, and that name meant nothing to him.
The Campbells had sided with the government against the Jacobites and Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ’45, and so the subsequent proscription on the wearing of the kilt and the playing of pipes was not much enforced in Campbell country. Still, it would be grand to do so once again, proudly and in the open for all to see and hear. The only place for that now was in the army. There was no highland regiment older or bolder than the 42nd Regiment of Foot – "Black Watch," and so Duncan signed up, as did most of the men in his family of fighting age. With its domestic affairs finally settled upon the moor at Culloden, Britain turned again to defending and advancing its empire. As the Seven Years war began, Duncan found himself a major in command of a battalion of the Black Watch, encamped before a French fort in in the upper reaches of the American colony of New York, where Lake George pours itself into Lake Champlain via the Le Chute River…
Duncan sat staring at the Oneida scout on the other side of the campfire. As the summer night breeze waxed and waned, smoke in his eyes would blur the image of the native, and then it would clear again. He heard the howl of wolves echoing in the forests beyond, and was pleased with himself for remembering that a mere two or three wolves can intimidate by echoing their howls till it sounds like there are scores of them. Their noise was soothing, for it brought his mind back home – the House of Inverawe was nestled between the heights of Ben Cruachan and the River Awe in the Scottish highlands – where there were wolves sounding remarkably like these, and forests and glens not unlike the wilds of America in which he found himself. There, as here, he was surrounded by family and clan. The "gallan’ forty-twa" was filled with Campbells–even their Freiceadan Dubh (Black Watch) tartan was a variation of a Campbell sett.
The smoke again irritated his eyes, but as he rubbed them and tried to focus, the Oneida’s blanket turned plaid, the tuff of dark hair became a blue bonnet, the face hollowed out and the eyes sunk in, almost skull-like. The red war paint upon his face appeared to ooze and drip from his mouth, and the wolves’ howls became the skirl of a piper playing a lament.
"Leave me in peace!" Duncan cried, trying to rise, but nearly toppling over.
"Father! What ails you?!" Lieutenant Alexander Campbell steadied his father with a grip upon his shoulder. "Did you see him again?"
"Aye… Fetch your poor father a dram of John Barleycorn, would you, Sandy? Spirits to fight spirits, eh lad?" Duncan managed a smile, but could see his own hand shaking. He counted it to good fortune that it was too dark for the men to see it, though he was sure from their odd looks some of them thought he’d had a dram too many as it was.
Sandy returned with a cup, and both men sat down again upon the plaid spread beneath them, as Duncan brought the cup to his lip with both hands and leaned towards his son.
"I won’t fear it deep in my bones, until I hear the name of the place of which he forewarned. Tis a strange name, neither from the English tongue, nor the Gael. Tell me again – what is the redoubt called, that we have been tasked to take from Monsieur le Francais?
"Fort Carillon."
"French tinkle bells… Hardly an odd name, an’ not sounding at all like the one the spirit gave out."
Duncan retired to his tent, unpinned his plaid and wrapped it around himself as a blanket. He reclined on the cot, but knew his restless mind would not allow him to sleep until he had recounted in his mind the three visits of the spirit back home, and the circumstances surrounding them. He hoped that somehow the recollection would serve as an exorcism, for the spirit had followed him across the sea. Tonight was not the first time he’d been visited here, and he feared it would not be the last. He felt he was being inexorably drawn towards a time and place of finality.
The next morning the army crossed the Le Chute in barges, and began a march down roads through the forests that were little more than cow paths, until they reached a clearing and formed battle lines.
"Fix bayonets!" rang out, and so Duncan knew that there would be no preliminary volleys. Whatever they were to take, they would take with cold steel. Colonel Grant yelled out some orders Duncan could not hear, and the front rank slung their muskets upon their backs, drawing the weapon peculiar to the highland soldier – the basket-hilted broadsword.
As Duncan reached the clearing, to his horror he saw why. There was nary a Frenchman in sight, though he knew from scouts they were not far ahead. The "enemy" was acres of felled trees, their branches sharpened and sticking out in all directions at various lengths. "Frenchie" was sure to be ensconced behind log and earth ramparts just beyond this massive abatis. The front line was expected to hack its way through, with the lines of bayonets following.
"Grant! Is Abercrombie out of his bloody mind?!" Duncan hollered, as he reached his commander’s side, so angry he omitted the customary "sir" or "colonel."
"I have my orders and you have yours, Major."
"Where are the heavy guns?!"
"Awaiting transport on the other side of the river."
"And do you suppose, sir, that the French have no cannon?!"
"I suppose nothing of the kind, sir."
Seeing further discussion to be futile, Duncan looked about to further assess the situation. A conversation a few yards behind him riveted his mind. It was not so much what was being said, but the odd sound of words he could not understand. Despite the July heat, Duncan felt a chill. An American militiaman and the Oneida scout were conversing in an odd fashion, each using bits of his native tongue and snatches of the other’s, with sign language mixed in. Duncan approached them.
"Ask him what his people call this place." He said to the militiaman, who then related the question to the scout in their peculiar way.
The Indian pointed to the ground and then made an undulating movement with his hands as he brought them together.
"He says ‘place where two waters meet.’"
"No, in his own tongue!"
The militiaman asked the question again, but this time pointed to the scout’s mouth.
"Tekontaroken." The scout replied.
"Ayah, that’s what we call it too – Ticonderoga…" added the militiaman.
Duncan looked down at the hand that had sworn the oath upon his dirk, and wished he could hack it off with his own broadsword then and there.
Upon taking his place in the line at the head of his battalion, terror began to turn to tranquility, as Duncan looked up and down the ranks containing uncles, cousins, and his own son.
"Second and third ranks–CHARGE BAYONETS!!"
In the lines behind the swordsmen the musket butts went to the right hips, with the bayonets angled forward 45 degrees.
Duncan considered that, even if the spirit was leading him on to physical destruction, would this not be a death he might have chosen on his own? It was a fine day, and the regiment never looked more proud and brave. Were he to die this day, it would be a death fitting for a highlander born and bred, and among his own kith and kin.
"Pipe March… Nut Brown Maiden!"
The drums gave two rolls, and the pipers struck up that ancient tune.
"Forward…. MARCH!
No sooner had the swordsmen begun hacking at the fallen trees, solid shot from the French cannon began tumbling men about as pins upon a bowling green, but in gory mutilation. Still, paths were cleared and the lines of bayonets moved forward.
Closer still, shells began to explode overhead, raining down death from above. Still the bayonets moved forward, though much fewer than before.
As the smoke eddied about the field he could see the French now, firing muskets and cannons from behind their earthen and log wall. Canister shot tore great holes in the ranks, but these gaps closed up, as the lines of bayonets moved forward still…
Little more than half of them were left, as they approached to within the range of French grapeshot. Duncan waved his men on with his sword, and he could still hear the pipers playing. He knew as long as they played, no highlander would turn his back – especially not with family on the field.
Some of the bayonets were upon the ramparts now, but too few. Scores of French bayonets awaited them on the other side of the wall. Duncan could see a French officer, head and torso bravely exposed atop the wall, waving his sword and shouting–not cries of bloodlust, but of pity and pleading:
"Au nom de Dieu, Ecossais, recule! RECULE!!!"
Next to the Frenchman stood the tartan clad specter of Donald Campbell; his bony fingers summoning Duncan forward…
A round of grapeshot came in on Duncan’s right side, killing two men instantly and rupturing his eardrum. As the battlefield turned silent, he looked down and saw that his right hand and arm were just bloody shreds of flesh and shattered bone below the elbow. Before the shock and pain set in Duncan smiled, and saw the ghost nod his head. Then all went black.
Duncan awoke as a local colonial mistress wiped his face with a wet cloth. He gradually came to see he was lying upon a cot in a room full of other wounded men, some groaning, some crying. He felt hot – hotter than he had ever been. He could still feel his forearm and hand, but as he looked down, he could see nothing but a bandaged stump. A man wearing a bloody apron approached.
"My son! Sandy… Is he…"
"He is wounded as you are, Major Campbell, but his youth is his ally. He will make it back home," answered the surgeon.
Look at his pallor, doctor… He’s lost too much blood and his fever is rising." The woman whispered, but the doctor bade her to be silent with a wave of his hand.
Duncan looked at a figure standing at the foot of his cot. It was again the image of Donald Campbell, but there was no blood, the face was full and ruddy, and it bore a smile. Part of a Bible verse popped into Duncan’s head:
"And if thy right hand offends thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee…"
Again the air itself seemed to speak for Donald.
"You’re done with your penance, laddie… It’s time to go home."
Duncan felt as though he was being drawn towards Donald, and behind him the room seemed full of smiling, laughing clansmen. In the distance he heard a piper playing a slow air:
I Must Rise an’ Gang Awa’.
Author’s Note: The tale of the ghost of Inverawe has oft been told–first by Duncan Campbell himself to his comrades on the eve of the Battle of Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) July 8, 1758. The details above were whispered in the author’s ear during quiet times, late at night or upon solitary walks, presumably also by Duncan Campbell himself, but one can never be sure…

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