"On the first night two boatmen strayed into the jungle and were not seen again. Carried off, it was supposed by tigers."

History comes to us in many forms with various interpretations. Therefore, it is often difficult to ascertain just what is fact and what is fiction. For those who prefer their history more real than imagined, Williams’ book will likely prove attractive. Short on conjecture, it is long on actual eyes-on reportage about the subjects it explores.

Williams' history focuses primarily on a Scottish-born military man who served a number of years in India, saw action in the Peninsular War of 1807 to 1814, and subsequently became a man of prominence in the early years of Australia’s development. His chronicle features major events in which Campbell’s regiments were involved. He recounts land and sea battles, uprisings and massacres, cholera epidemics, the transport and oversight of prisoners bound for The Land Down Under, and more.

Rather than telling his story entirely with prose, the author includes a plethora of documentation that includes such things as obituaries, troop reports, letters, newspaper articles, war office notices, ship’s logs, historical records, and even detailed regulations regarding specific duties for those serving aboard convict vessels. He holds a mirror to the times as he includes information about conditions of service for soldiers and their families, coroner’s inquests, and a disturbing account of a military execution harrowing in the straightforwardness with which it is described. Also included are early maps of Australian districts and squatter stations, as well as vintage photographs of the countryside, individuals, graveyards, headstones, and handwritten documents that help portray what life was really like in and around Sydney and New South Wales centuries ago. Williams’ look back at Captain Campbell’s life and times feels like not only a labor of love but also history well told.

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