Charles Campbell (1807-1876) was born on 1 May 1807, in Petersburg, Virginia, the firstborn child of parents John Wilson Campbell (1779-1842), and Mildred Walker Moore Campbell.
John Wilson Campbell, a bookstore owner, was also a historian. In 1831 he published the History of Virginia to 1781. Later, he held the position of Federal Collector of Customs in Petersburg, Virginia. Mildred taught at the Petersburg Classical Academy in the 1840's. In addition to Charles, the couple also had two younger children, Alexander (Aleck) S. Campbell, and Elizabeth (Betty) Campbell Maben (d.1871).
Charles' mother, Mildred Walker Moore Campbell, was the granddaughter of Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740). Mildred Walker Moore Campbell and her siblings Mary Fairfax Moore Keller, Dr. Alexander Spotswood Moore, Ann Evelina Moore Henley, William Agustin Moore, Eliza Moore McDonald, and Lavinia Moore McPheeters wrote and received numerous pieces of personal correspondence that are available in the SCRC collection.
Charles Campbell attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) from 1823-1825. Upon graduation he enrolled in Henry St. George Tucker's School of Law in Winchester, Virginia. However, he suffered from chronic headaches which caused him severe physical and mental exhaustion. By 1829, these health issues would force him to leave the law profession. Following his departure from law, Campbell worked as an engineer of the Petersburg Railroad. Later he ran a private school for boys in Glencoe, Alabama.
On 13 September 1836, Charles Campbell married Elvira N. Callaway (1819-1837) of Monroe County, Tennessee. In 1837, Elvira died shortly after the birth of a son, Callaway Campbell (b.1837). In his distress, Campbell left his son with Elivira's siblings, Thomas and Lucinda Callaway. Later, this would result in a court case to regain custody of his child.
Following the death of his wife, Campbell worked as a clerk in the office of the Collector of Custom in Petersburg, Virginia (a position he obtained from his father John Campbell). From 1840-1843, Campbell also owned, published, and edited a Petersburg newspaper, The American Statesman. He returned to teaching in 1842 by opening a classical school in Petersburg, becoming both teacher and administrator in the Anderson Seminary. He would hold these positions until the formation of free public schools in 1870.
Campbell remarried in 1850 to Miss Anna Birdsall of Rahway, New Jersey. They had four children, Mary Spotswood Campbell Robinson (b.1852), Nanny Campbell (b.1854), Charles Campbell (b.1856), and Fanny Campbell (1858-1860's). Charles Campbell was committed to Western Lunatic Asylum at Staunton, Virginia, in 1873 where he remained until his death on July 11, 1876. He was buried at Blandford Church Cemetery, Petersburg. Like his father, Campbell was a historian. He began contributing to journals in 1834. Some of the journals to which he frequently contributed included; The Southern Literary Messenger or The Southern and Western Literary Messenger and Review, The Farmer's Register, The New Yorker, and the Petersburg Intelligencer. His most important work, however, was the History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia. This work built upon his father's book and concerned Virginia history from the colony's founding to the Revolutionary War.
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- The diary of Charles Campbell, October 5, 1861-April 5, 1862, Marian L. Moran.
- Campbell, John Wilson. A history of Virginia from its discovery till the year 1781 with biographical sketches of all the most distinguished characters that occur in the colonial, revolutionary, or subsequent period of our history. Philadelphia: W. Fry, 1813. Swem Library Rare Books F229.C211.