Archibald Campbell, Engineer

In 1768, Campbell was seconded to the Corps of Engineers, and employed by the British East India Co. in Bengal to work on Fort William in Calcutta.

The original fort had been completed in 1706. However, in 1756, after the Nawab of Bengal attacked the fort and conquered Calcutta, it was determined to make a fort strong enough to withstand any future attack.

Ft William in 1760

The Company began construction of the 'new' Fort William in 1858 (after the Battle of Plassey). What with one thing and another, it did not complete the project until 1781. According to Sandes, there were, basically, two problems: a scarcity of trained artisans and labourers; and an inadequate supply of materials with which to build the darned thing. People had to be trained to build in the European manner as well as to make bricks suitable to the task at hand. And all around, as the Fort grew, the City grew, and there were better jobs 'in the private sector.' The Company's guidance was inconsistent and uncertain; there were changes in plans; and of course, there was some dishonesty on all sides.

Most Chief Engineers did not last for more than two years. By the time Lieut Col Archibald Campbell arrived to take up this position, "... Calcutta had not been been fortunate in her Chief Engineers. Brohier was clever and dishonest; Amphlett and Polier, well meaning but inexperienced; Martin, upright, but obstinate and niggardly. In Archibald Campbell, however, she got at last the man she needed, energetic, methodical, of high integrity and good ability." (vol. 1, p. 133, Sandes)

Campbell arrived 20 February 1769, and the works at Fort William "were at last reduced to some order and system... When he assumed charge in Fort William, he made his assistants keep books in which they were obliged to record every important engineering transaction. Also, he caused an exact survey to be made of all the engineering stores, and proper returns to be drawn up, and he prepared a careful plan and state of the works. ' ( vol. 1, p. 133 Sandes)

In 1771, he resigned from the Company and his post as Chief Engineer of Bengal. It had become the rule that one could not retain a position in BOTH the King's AND the Company's Armies. Campbell decided to remain with the Royal Army.

Making a Fortune

While he was in Calcutta, Campbell laid the foundation of his wealth. With Captain Henry Watson, he (privately) invested in a dockyard at Kidderpore (south of Fort William). The two men acted as contractors for building and repairing ships until the Government purchased their concern. It was a legitimate business, as private trade by Company employees was still allowed. Also, the Dictionary of National Biography notes that Campbell made a fortune trading in silk.

According to "Wikipedia, "the 'new' Fort William is still in use, and is presently the headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. It is heavily guarded by the Indian Army and civilian entry is restricted.

On the next page of this story, we have a painting of Campbell as a young man. After he returned to Britain, he became the Member of Parliament for Stirling. He also purchased Knapdale's Inverneill Estate and Danna Estate.

My principal source for this part of Campbell's life is:
Lieut Col EWC Sandes, DSO, MC, RE (Ret), Military Engineer in India. Chatham, Great Britain, Institution of Royal Engineers, 1933, 2 vol.