John Archibald Campbell was born to Col. Duncan Greene Campbell (17 February 1787-30 July 1828) (for whom Campbell County, Georgia is named) and Mary Williamson (February 15, 1788-) in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia on 24 June 1811. A child prodigy, he entered Franklin College (now University of Georgia) in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia at the age of 11, and graduated first in his class in 1826. He then spent two years as a cadet at United States Military Academy in West Point, Orange County, New York, but resigned to take care of his family upon the death of his father. He studied law under former Georgia Governor John Clark (28 February 1766-02 October 1832) and was admitted to the bar by special act of the Georgia legislature in 1829, on account of being only 18 years old. He then moved to Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, and married Anne Esther Goldwaithe (17 September 1804-13 February 1883) on 30 December 1830.

     His knowledge of legal matters brought him lifelong notoriety and recognition. In 1836, he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives and was Chairman of the Bank Committee. Following his term, he relocated to Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama. He was tendered appointments for Secretary of Legation to Great Britain by U.S. President Andrew Jackson (15 March 1767-08 June 1845), and Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama by Governor Clement Comer Clay (17 December 1789-07 September 1866), but declined both. He was re-elected to the Alabama legislature in 1846, and was a delegate to the convention of the Southern states in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee (03-12 June 1850). In 1852, he again declined appointment to the Supreme Court of Alabama. The following year, he accepted the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, which was tendered him by U.S. President Franklin Pierce (23 November 1804-08 October 1869), and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

     Known as a conservative thinker and strong believer in compromise, he hoped that secession might be averted. For those reasons he became the mediator between Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Henry Seward (16 May 1801-10 October 1872) and Confederate Commissioners Martin Jenkins Crawford (17 March 1820-23 July 1883), John Forsyth (31 October 1812-02 May 1879) and André Bienvenu Roman (05 March 1795-26 January 1866) in March and April 1861. Seward intimated to Campbell that the policy of the Lincoln Administration was that of peace, and that he should persuade the Confederate commissioners to trust the U.S. Government fully. However, as he was pledging this assurance, the Federals were organizing a coercion movement to reinforce Fort Sumter and maneuver the South into firing first. This, and Lincoln's subsequent call for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South was sufficient confirmation to Campbell that he and the Confederacy had been dealt with deceitfully. He resigned his seat on the bench on 30 April 1861, and returned home to Alabama.

     President Jefferson Davis (03 June 1808-06 December 1889) appointed him Assistant Secretary of War on 21 October 1862, a position he capably held until the end of the war. On 03 February 1865, with Senator Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter (21 April 1809-18 July 1887) and Vice-President Alexander Hamilton Stephens (11 February 1812-04 March 1883), Campbell was a member of the failed Hampton Roads Peace Conference. After the fall of Richmond, he was arrested on 22 May 1865 and imprisoned with Hunter, James Alexander Seddon (13 July 1815-19 August 1880), and George Alfred Trenholm (25 February 1807-09 December 1876) at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. Following his release on 11 October 1865, he resumed his law practice in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana and went on to argue many cases before the very same U.S. Supreme Court, of which he had once been a member. Campbell died in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland on 12 March 1889 and is buried in Green Mount Cemetery.

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