Lady Harriot Acland’s American Adventure 1776-1778

Joint Zoom event DHS/Exeter & District Branch of the Historical Association

Speaker: Dr Robert Guyver

The Acland family is normally associated with Killerton House (now a National Trust property) near Broadclyst, but it had other properties at Pixton and Tetton in Somerset where Lady Harriot lived. Her husband, John Dyke Acland, a Tory MP and a Colonel in the Devon Militia was made a Major in the 20th Foot and went to war in April 1776 accompanied by his wife Harriot who left her two young daughters behind with her mother, the Countess of Ilchester. This is the story, mostly told in her own words, of her experiences in North America (Canada and further south) in two campaigns (1776 and 1777) culminating in the wounding and capture of her husband in the battle of Saratoga in October 1777. With help she arranged for a safe-conduct to take her behind enemy lines to care for her husband who was in Albany’s military hospital in New York State for 10 weeks. Heavily pregnant Harriot (with her husband John) was able to return to England where further significant events would happen. Her descriptions of military and everyday life, including both the lives of settlers and of Indigenous people, in difficult conditions in North America at this time are worth reading (or hearing). Lady Harriot’s daughter Kitty (Elizabeth) married into the Herbert family (of Highclere in Hampshire) and became the 2nd Countess of Carnarvon.

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