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Charles Campbell Papers

Identifier: Mss. 65 C17

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Scope and Contents

The Charles Campbell papers consist of papers received or collected by Charles Campbell (1807-1876), Virginia historian. The papers fall into four general headings: historical papers collected by Charles Campbell, correspondence, manuscript volumes, and miscellaneous. These include personal and professional correspondence as well as eighteenth century documents collected by Charles Campbell, newspaper clippings, diaries, scrapbooks, and notebooks, covering then period 1743-1896. The papers reflect Charles Campbell's interests in history, teaching, newspaper editing, railroad engineering, politics, genealogy, publication of his works, and the town of Petersburg where he lived for most of his life.

The personal papers include Charles Campbell's correspondence with his father John Wilson Campbell, brother Alexander Campbell, sister, wife and children as well as cousins in Tennessee, Alabama, and Virginia. These include copies of Charles Campbell's letters, as well as letters received by him; biographical material; genealogical material; autograph collecting material; and letters received by Charles Campbell's second wife Anna Burdsall Campbell. These also include correspondence relating to organizations with which he was affiliated, such as the Petersburg Library and the Petersburg Lyceum.

His professional correspondence consists of letters to the editors of the "Southern Literary Messenger", to historical societies, to publishing firms, and to other historians and authors. The writing, publishing and critic of Charles Campbell's book "Virginia History", concerns much of these material. Charles Campbell also corresponded with genealogists and antiquarians interested in Virginia history.

The eighteenth century documents collected by Charles Campbell include letters by John Quarles, John Byrd, George Dabney, William Degge, Edward Hill, John Jameson, Alexander Moore, William Aylett, and Theodorick Bland, as well as parts of William Aylett's account books (1770-1776).

The manuscript volumes include Charles Campbell's diaries (1861-1864), Anna Burdsall Campbell diaries (1840-1870), scrapbooks, Charles Campbell's historical notes, newspaper clippings, Anderson Seminary account books, Charles Campbell's pupil exercise books, pamphlets, copies of Charles Campbell's articles, and household account books (1848-1863).

There are many letters from Mary B. Carter of "Shirley," Charles City County, Virginia to Mildred Walker (Moore) Campbell, Charles Campbell's mother.

Acc. 1977.17 Addition:

Genealogical information of the Moore Family.

Acc. 1992.33b:

Series 5 on the inventory: Typescript by William Cryer of the Charles Campbell diaries, 1860s (in 3 parts).


  • Creation: 1743-1896


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical Information:

Charles Campbell (1807-1876) was born on 1 May 1807, in Petersburg, Virginia, the firstborn child of parents John Wilson Campbell (d.1842), and Mildred Walker Moore Campbell. John, 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 this 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, he 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.


15.00 Linear Feet

Arrangement of Materials:

Organization: This collection is organized into five series. Series 1 contains historical manuscripts; Series 2 contains family and professional papers; Series 3 contains manuscript volumes; Series 4 contains miscellaneous material; and Series 5 contains the addition 1992.33b. Series 6 contains all the printed material removed from the general collection and grouped together.  The inventory is NOT on the pdf inventory but listed separately under the Finding Aid/Inventory (below).

Arrangement: This collection is arranged into series and then chronologically by date. Series 3, containing family and professional papers, is arranged into subseries by decade and then into additional subseries by individual year.

Acquisition Information:

1942.111 Purchased: 5,144 items, 11/23/1942. 1946-09 Inventory of furniture, books, belonging to the Anderson Seminary, Aug 9,1868. 1 p. Intellectual arithmetic by Warren Colburn, New York, Hurd and Houghton etc 1849. 176 pp. This volume was used at the Anderson Academy in 1868 1977.17 Gift of Ms. Alice Milton,  1 item, 06/01/1977. 1992.33 Gift of Ludwell Johnson, 1 item, 06/25/1992.

Related Materials:

The materials at Duke are comprised of copies of historical documents and letters, and personal papers of Charles Campbell (1807-1876), historian, editor, and antiquarian. Included are original letters from St. George Tucker, Lewis Cass, Pierre Soule, Edward Everett, Beverley Randolph, Andrew Jackson, Robert Beverley, and others, as well as copies of letters from Richard Henry Lee, Arthur Lee, Theodorick Bland, Jr., Captain John Smith, John Randolph of Roanoke, John Adams, Powhatan Ellis, Patrick Henry, John Jay, and others. The papers also contain rough drafts and preliminary notes for Campbell's publications, a number of manuscript poems, and a transcription of the minute book of the city council of Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1795. The volumes contain personal accounts, records of Anderson Academy, Petersburg, Virginia, of which Campbell was principal, and historical notes.

Papers of Charles Campbell, Manuscript Department, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Charles Campbell Papers, 1617-1895.1,313 items and 5 volumes.Collection number: 858

Alternate Extent Statement

5300 items.


Other Information:

Additional information may be found at


Guide to the Charles Campbell Papers
Special Collections Staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • May 24th, 2018: Updated by Anne Johnson in 2009.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository