Tuesday, 8 May 2012

8th May 1812: Attack on the home of Colonel Campbell at Woodhouse, Leeds

In the evening of Friday, 8th May 1812, an attack was made on the home of Colonel Campbell, the commanding officer of the Leeds district, at Woodhouse.

The attack took place between 10.00 and 11.00 p.m. that night. Two men armed with muskets had concealed themselves in a plantation 20 yards behind the house and fired them at 2 Hussars near to the guard house: the shots missed, and instead hit a tree. Sentries pursued the men, who were seen ascending a wall at the rear of the property and got away.

It's possible that this attack was a decoy for the main target. At virtually the same time as the shots from the rear, a shot was fired by one of up to five men at the front of the property, and aimed at the Colonel's son and another soldier who were at the south-east corner. The shot failed to find a human target, and again, the would-be assassins got away.

Campbell arrived home not long afterwards, and set about strengthening the guard.

In a letter to Lieutenant Colonel Grey the following day, Campbell explained that those at home knew something was amiss:
voices were heard all round about my house which stands detached from other buildings & persons I now find were seen all the early part of the night lurking about my house—I suppose watching for my return home

As reported in the Leeds Mercury of 16th May 1812. An identical account appears in the Times of 12th May 1812. Campbell's letter to Grey was dated 9th May 1812, and can be found at HO 42/123.

In his version of the events of that night, Robert Reid (1986, p.166) has chosen to portray the event as being a direct attempt on Campbell's life as he returned home. This may be because Campbell's letter is ambiguous in one respect - "just as I returned to my house in Leeds last night some desperate assassins made an attempt upon me" - but when Campbell goes on to relate what happened, it's clear he wasn't there at the time, but 'on his way home', and the Mercury report clarifies this.

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