In the story, we are not given the full name of the sheriff. However, we are told that he is known as Sheriff Campbell and often referred to by his former military rank of Colonel.
Colonel Campbell is the sheriff of Branson County. The text tells us that he is "far above the average" in "wealth, education, and social position." In fact, Sheriff Campbell's family owned several large estates and numerous slaves before the Civil War. Sheriff Campbell was purportedly an ardent supporter of the Union. However, due to circumstances, he fought on the side of the Confederates during the war.
After the war, Sheriff Campbell was chosen to be the sheriff of Branson County. It is said that he is a popular sheriff, and his constituents trust in his ability to do justice to the office. The story also tells us that Sheriff Campbell once had a son with a slave named Cecily.
Due to financial challenges, Sheriff Campbell sold Cecily and their son, Tom, to a speculator. In the story, Sheriff Campbell does not initially realize that he is holding his own son as a prisoner in his jail cell. For his part, Tom steals the sheriff's revolver when the latter's attention is turned toward the lynch mob.
Tom tells the sheriff that he has little choice but to kill him. Father and son trade barbs with one another until Polly (the sheriff's daughter) arrives. Seeing her father in apparent danger, Polly shoots Tom. She does not realize that Tom is her half brother.
The story ends on a sad note. The injured Tom dies during the night, and the sheriff finds his body in the morning. Apparently, Tom tore the bandage from his wound and bled to death during the night. He chose to die rather than face the likelihood of being convicted for a crime he did not commit.