Acland, Christian Henrietta Caroline (DNB00)

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ACLAND, Lady CHRISTIAN HENRIETTA CAROLINE, generally called Lady Harriet (1750–1815), was the third surviving daughter of Stephen, first earl of Ilchester, and was born on 3 Jan. 1749-50. In Nov. 1770 she was married, at Redlynch Park, Somersetshire, to John Dyke Acland [see Acland, John Dyke]. When her husband was ordered to attend his regiment to Canada in 1776, he was accompanied by Lady Harriet Acland, and the narrative of her sufferings during the campaign, which has been often printed in both England and America, forms one of the brightest episodes in the war with the American people. He was taken ill in Canada, and she nursed him. On his partial recovery his services were required at the attack of Ticonderoga; but at the express injunction of her husband she remained behind. During the conflict he received a dangerous wound, and his heroic wife hastened to join him, and to bestow upon the sufferer the most devoted care and attention. Her husband commanded the British grenadiers, and his corps was often at the most advanced post of the army. On one of these occasions the tent in which they were sleeping caught fire, and both of them had a narrow escape of their lives. A few weeks afterwards the troops under the command of General Burgoyne were defeated in the second battle of Saratoga (7 Oct. 1777), when Major Acland was badly wounded in both legs and taken prisoner. With the protection of a letter from Burgoyne to General Gates, and in the company of an artillery chaplain and two servants, she proceeded in an open boat up the Hudson River to the enemy. When she arrived at the outposts of the American army, the sentinel threatened to fire into the boat if its occupants stirred, and for eight ‘dark and cold hours,’ according to one account, though this is denied in the American papers, she remained waiting for the break of daylight, and for permission to join her husband. On her return to England, says the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ her portrait, as she stood in the boat with a white handkerchief in her hand as a flag of truce, was exhibited at the Royal Academy and engraved. Some copies of the print are still in the possession of the Acland family. The story that her husband died in a duel, that she became temporarily insane, and afterwards remarried, has no foundation in fact. She was left a widow in 1778 with two surviving children, her son, John, succeeding to the baronetcy, and her daughter, Elizabeth Kitty, marrying Lord Porchester, afterwards second earl of Carnarvon. By this marriage the Acland property near Dulverton and Taunton ultimately passed to the Earl of Carnarvon family. Lady Harriet Acland died at Tetton, near Taunton, on 21 July 1815. Her remains were interred at Broad Clyst on 28 July. Her portrait, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1771–72, and the property of the present head of the Acland family, was engraved by S. W. Reynolds. The painting was exhibited at Burlington House, at the Winter Exhibition, 1882, and the face was that of a woman of great determination of character. Several years before, whilst a little girl, aged seven, she had been painted by the same artist standing at her mother's knee.

[Gent. Mag. 1815, pt. ii. p. 186; Burgoyne's State of the Expedition from Canada (1780); Mag. of American Hist. vol. iv. p. 49; Leslie and Taylor's Life of Sir J. Reynolds, i. 439; Lippincott's Mag. xxiv. 452–8 (1879); E. B. de Fonblanque's Political and Military Episodes from Correspondence of Gen. Burgoyne (1876), pp. 301–302; Travels in America by an Officer (i.e. Lieut. Anburey), 1789, ii. 61–63.]

W. P. C.