On beautiful, sunny mornings there is no better way to start the day than a walk or bike ride with the dogs. They all set off with me, although some are slightly more circuitous about their return, preferring to inspect any bins for food. One morning, turning past the azalea beds, I stopped by the black gates leading to the Castle to chat to some security men who had been posted there through the night due to an upcoming event. With close cropped hair and in camouflage, they were huddled together and explained nervously that they had undoubtedly seen a ghost that morning.
We walked along the drive together while they told of seeing a small figure dressed in white which had then disappeared into the central window of the Castle. Amusingly, it quickly dawned on me that it was just the back of a painting, the other side of which is, in fact, a little boy dressed in a white dress, accompanied by his dog. I didn’t let on as some stories are better left!
That child grew up to be Major Sir John Acland, the father of the second Countess of Carnarvon and he has quite an extraordinary story. His wife was born Lady Harriet Fox-Strangways, daughter of the Earl of Ilchester, and part of the 18th century Whig aristocracy. In contrast, her husband was a Tory country squire, fond of hunting. He bought his colours (joined the army) and in 1776 left to fight in the American War of Independence. Lady Harriet boarded the ship as well and accompanied him throughout the campaign.
They set sail across the Atlantic in early April 1776. The crossing was not without incident and “one of the sailors died who had been ill in a fever”. There was an outbreak of measles and arguments over direction. Finally, on May 17th, Lady Harriet notes that they “saw land on each side of the ship”.
They had arrived in “the River St Laurence. Great part of the day fine, warm weather.” The British General John Burgoyne was to lead a large invasion army southward from Canada in the Champlain Valley and hope to meet a similar British force marching north from New York City, whilst another British force would march east from Lake Ontario.
“Saratoga” became the shorthand for the two ensuing battles that marked the “coup de grace” to the British invasion from Canada. The journal here notes that the first battle on September 19th “lasted 5 hours and half with only momentary interruptions and was at length terminated by night”. The advantage might have just fallen to the British, but reinforcements from south and east failed to materialise.
October 7th “A detachment of 2,000 men march’d out of the camp and halted a mile from it. Attacked by a very superior number … unfortunate turns of war the enemy (American) got possession of the 2 12 pounders, and 4 or 5 six pounders ….Towards the close of evening Major Acland was wounded through both his legs… and fell into enemy hands.”
He was described by the American general Horatio Gates as “a rough fellow, who was drunk almost every day but nevertheless a brave officer”. Waving a flag of truce, his wife was allowed to enter the enemy camp and remained with him, nursing him back to health. Major Acland spent nine weeks recovering before he was given parole by his captors to sail home. This little journal is a remarkable record of these ten months.
Having returned home to Devon in south west England, Major Sir John Acland took umbrage at Lieutenant Lloyd who had made disparaging remarks about the integrity of American officers and challenged him to a duel in defence of American honour.
As a result of this duel, plus a nasty bout of pneumonia, Acland died two weeks later.
I absolutely love your historical posts. Thank you so much Lady Carnarvon.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I just love reading your posts! I always look forward to something new on Monday morning.
You have a wonderful way of taking us back in time in such a warm and interesting way. You’re able to mix history, humour and a little bit of your life in every post. It’s brilliantly and genuinely written each and every time.
Funny note is I was just reading your book about Lady Almina last night before I went to sleep and then I woke up to your recent blog so I guess you could say I “book-ended” my sleep with your words!☺️
Once again thank you for consistently writing on your blog because it’s a special treat for your readers!
I hope you have a wonderful day and week.
Blessings from Canada
Thank you – this story began of course in Canada!
This is truly one of the best stories you’ve shared with your readers! Thanks very much!
May Major Acland rest in peace. God bless him for defending our American honor!
Thank you –
What a lovely story and what a brave couple they were. How sad he died after all they had gone through. Thank you.
Such bad luck –
Brilliant posting and outstanding story, keep them coming because I love to read your stories filled with history, humor and fun facts about the castle and those who inhabited it.
You are kind
What a wonderful story. I love your historical ones. Did you know that there is an American quilt block called “Burgoine Surrounded” and relates how American troops doubled back and surrounded Burgoine. It’s a lovely pattern and rather complex as must have been the actual event.
My goodness – I had no idea – it is probably quite a key little journal as there are quite a few quotes etc
This gives me the opportunity to ask you if you were at Harry’s and Meghan’s wedding? I thought I saw you walking in with the crowd before the ceremony?
Have a wonderful summer.
I wished them well, as we all did, but have not ever met them.
Major Aclands wife was a very brave lady on many levels. A remarkable woman.
Lovely! Thank you so much! Your dogs are so cute and fun to see in your photos!
Thank you for sharing some history that I never learned in school. Fascinating!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
This post moved me to tears. I was recently installed in the DAR, which, if you are not familiar with it is the Daughters of the American Revolution. So far there are 16 of my ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. I have read many of the accounts of the battles and the people who fought in them on both sides. Isn’t it sad they could not come to an amicable resolution to the dispute without all of the bloodshed.
At times, I forget that the England does not celebrate the 4th of July with us! Feeling such a deep connection with the UK, I honestly forget we were on opposite sides at one time. I love England and look forward to the Heros over Highclere event in September! We are planning to be there! My Vietnam Veteran Husband and I will be there if we can. I sure hope we can meet you, Lady Carnarvon. My friend, Debbie told me she saw you a few days ago and enjoyed a nice chat. I hope to do the same. You have become very special to me through your kindness and your concern for veterans, no matter what country they come from. Thank you for these pictures and your thoughtful words. God Bless you!
Mrs. L. Sue Smith
The engraving of the honourable burial of a British man on your soil (in this blog) is just the same as the honourable memorial to your men who died here. Die or survive they are all heroes
Lady Carnarvon: Thank you for your Blogs. I love the history, humor and information about Highclere. This one was particularly interesting for me, as my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather on my Mother’s side, John Pollock, was in the Battle of Saratoga.
The information about Major Acland and his wife was interesting as well, and the different British Troops they thought were coming in from different directions coincides with the history we have of his Revolutionary War History.
Reading about how they tried bring in reinforcements, I am not surprised the British lost. The first stage of the story was just to land at the right place.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Fascinating to hear the “other side of the story”! I grew up in New England, just north of Boston; vacationed in the Adirondacks and thoroughly familiar with Saratoga! And all that went with the Revolutionary War. We were, of course, grilled in school with the awesome arrival of the “red coats”, and how brave our Patriots were to stand against the mighty British troops! I still think so! Of course, some of that, I think, was smoothed over during WW I and WW II when we joined forces for the survival of Britain and France. I love both of our histories. It’s amazing how things have turned out, and we all love both the UK, it’s idyllic countryside, and literary history; and America and all it has stood for. Thank you for sharing this fascinating account. Lady Acland was one brave and committed lady to come to our wild wilderness (then), when she could have remained in the comfortable English countryside!
She was an amazing to sail the Atlantic – the account is fascinating
Lots of history
Thanks for share
What an amazing account of this man’s life and adventures. It is good to know there were gentlemen on both sides of that war. I am glad he was treated well by the Americans, and it is heartening to know that he returned the kindness by defending their honour. So sad, though, that he did not survive long after the duel. We are so fortunate to have these histories written down. Thank you for sharing it with us.
I am glad to hear from you today. Your world seems real – a pleasant accompaniment to my morning cuppa.
Wow! That is Awesome! This gave me chills to read about events happening where I live in New York, USA and my affection for you in England. We LOVED the royal wedding joining our two nations.
It was a beautiful wedding
It did not join our two nations. The marriage joined two people who love each other.
Thank you for this wonderful story. One of my favorite quilts is Burgoyne Surrounded. I knew the history of the pattern but your information made it come alive for me.
Thank you Lady Carnarvon, you make history come alive and it is always so refreshing to read your accounts. How wonderful to have journals and writings from the past, what treasures you have in the Highclere archives, and also amazing volumes in the library, I am sure! Lady Acland was such a brave woman to across the sea to the rough wilds of the new world. And ’tis sad to consider all the battles, won and lost, all the wars, all the fighting and all the struggles between peoples, when one day in the future (and even 200-300 years later is but a drop in the ocean of human existence really) those “enemies” will become allies and friends, …and even Royal family!
It is the second commandment love thy neighbour – easy to repeat but such a fragile one to respect
I like to be able to sit outside, in the mornings (especially, these days, as Summer comes quickly, in north central Texas and it can be the only hours of the day that aren’t too awfully hot), listen to songbirds (and the occasional airplane) and have my coffee.
It’s when I send messages, to catch up with my children (that live in Illinois and North Dakota) think about what needs to be done and how I’ll plan my day, check in on the social media outlets that I like to follow and…read your blog posts. These are all so wonderfully written, it’s as if I’m having my morning coffee WITH you and listening to you talk, rather than just reading.
In these times with all the abbreviation and, what I refer to as “online language” (most of which are absolutely code-like, to me), it means so much to be able to enjoy a read from someone taking the time to compose their writing as well as you do. Thank you for “sitting outside with me”, in the mornings!
Thank you so much!
At the battle, the British were surprised in their beds, if I remember correctly. It was over in a very short time. General “Gentleman” Johnny Burgoyne was emprisoned in Adams House at Harvard for the rest of the war. It was the house my father and I were both in. Not unlike Gen. Sam Houston who surprised Santa Anna in his “jammies” one Sunday morning in Texas, literally!
P.S. My father, in the prohibition, had a small still in the attic of Adams House. He never was caught although the President of Harvard, showing a guest around, at the last moment decided not to go up the stairs. Whew.
Here’s a picture of the quilt.
Lady Carnarvon, you write beautifully of history as well as every other topic you tackle. Your words are engaging and draw in the reader regardless of subject matter. What a gift! Your posts always make me smile. I can’t wait to see the estate in person this September but until then, I will continue to look for your insights into life in Highclere.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, it was delightful to meet you in your wonderful home today. We cannot wait to see the celebrations and commemorations of the centenary of the Royal Air Force and the end of the Second World War.
As ex-RAF pilots, my good friend Jonathan and myself keenly feel the heritage and history of our Nation that you are so keen to celebrate.
Thank you once again
Thank you for coming today. I much enjoyed listening to Debbie(Horsfield) she is really remarkable!
September 8/9 is the First World centenary, the beginning of the end of that war…but on the Sunday, I am highlighting the story of the unknown airmen from WW2 whose stories and names were lost. It is a way of saying thank you with a service and memorial to them. I have just seen sketches of the benches by the statue and they are in the shape of wings – fun but they hold some of the remains of the planes. Geoffrey de Havilland made his first flight from here in 1910 – I have early photos of Voison’s planes as well. (He stayed here)
Maybe Nevil Shute Norway, the author and plane engineer was there at some point?
Forgot to say Shute worked for Havilland
I am researching planes -I am sure I will find more names that will suddenly leap out!
That is so interesting! I live between where they arrived in Canada and just north of Saratoga, NY! There is a National Battlefiend in Saratoga with all of the details you shared here! It is a beautiful spot with so much history! Fort Ticonderoga is just around the corner as well as Crown Point. Summer in the Adirondack Mountains is magical! You should come across the pond one day and explore NY!
I would love to bike around the property with you someday! I’ll bring the travel treats!
Enjoy the weekend!
( I visited last December with my daughter and we LOVED chatting with you!)
Thank you – I have more detail too – and comments from your generals. I do enjoy biking round – today however I went for a ride. It is a great way to see the landscape here at Highclere (no phone) just the scents of the trees after rain…
Oh my what an interesting story! Truth is better than fiction and this is the beginning of another wonderful book. American and British history always interests me.
Fascinating account of a sad time in the history of both America and England. It is always a tragedy when lives are lost…
I agree – it comes back to many of the lines expressed in the First World War poetry the futility of war, the undone years.
During your coming research about the air war of WW2, will you look into the Eagle Squadrons? In case you are not familiar these were three fighter squadrons of Americans who flew with the RAF before the US entry into WW2.
Will do – the next blog …