Campbell's Island was the site of the Battle of Rock Island Rapids, one of the westernmost battles of the War of 1812, when a band of approximately 500 Sauk warriors allied with the British Army clashed on July 21, 1814 with an American force led by Lieutenant John Campbell of the 1st U.S. Regiment of Infantry. Campbell was leading three gunboats along the Mississippi River to carry military supplies to Fort Shelby, located at the present site of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. One boat carried 42 people – soldiers of the 1st U.S. Regiment of Infantry and members of their families. The other two boats carried 66 U.S. Rangers. The British-allied Indians attacked the flotilla in their canoes and forced Campbell to turn back. The American loss was 8 men of the 1st Regiment killed and 16 wounded;4 Rangers killed and 8 wounded. This victory helped to enable the Sauk to maintain their control over the Quad Cities area for almost 20 more years. A 1905 state monument commemorates this battle.
Five currently active infantry battalions of the Regular Army (1-1 Inf, 2-1 Inf, 1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf and 4-3 Inf) perpetuate the lineages of elements of the old 1st and 7th Infantry Regiments that were at the Battle of the Rock Island Rapids.
However, the movement of Euro-American militiamen and families into northwestern Illinois continued, and in the Black Hawk War of 1832 the Sauk were decisively defeated. The Quad Cities area was "opened to settlement," and Campbell's Island was named in honor of the loser of the 1814 battle, John Campbell.