The Seven Years’ War, which has often been called the first world war, pitted Britain against France and involved allies of both parties. While France concentrated hostilities in Europe, Britain dispatched 20,000 troops to North America in an attempt to bring down the colonial empire of France. The ensuing war led to the fall of New France.
As the events unfolding in Europe affected Acadians and British settlements in Nova Scotia, the new British administration, the Council of Nova Scotia, decided to revisit the issue of the neutrality of the Acadians. She did so with more vigor than in the past when her control of the province was more theoretical than real. In the years to come, a series of several complex incidents would culminate in the Grand Dérangement or the deportation of the Acadians. This term refers to numerous forcible evictions that were to occur over a period of seven years from 1755.
The decision to deport the Acadians.
In the early summer of 1755, the Surveyor General of Nova Scotia, Charles Morris, prepared a detailed plan for the Council of Nova Scotia indicating how it would be possible to expel the Acadians from their lands in Nova Scotia. and to disperse them elsewhere in other British colonies.
This plan revived a school of thought among the British dating back to a few decades earlier, around the 1720s, according to which it was felt that it would be better to expel the Acadians from Nova Scotia and replace them with Protestant subjects. , British or foreigners who are unquestionably loyal to the British Crown. The British also noted the value of the extraordinary fertility of the farmland belonging to the Acadians, which served as an economic engine for the region. The idea of attracting foreign Protestants surfaced from time to time for several decades. Even before the British Crown brought in Protestants of German and Swiss descent to settle in the new town of Lunenburg in the early 1750s, a plan dating from 1748 indicates where Protestants might settle in the Grand-Pré region. The 1748 plan precisely notes where the New England Planters would establish their town.
In June 1755, an expedition initiated by Governor of Nova Scotia Charles Lawrence and Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts captured two French forts in the Chignectou region, Fort Beauséjour and Fort Gaspareau. When news reached Halifax that 200-300 Acadians, under pressure from the French fort commander, had participated in the defense of Fort Beauséjour, the Halifax authorities interpreted this as a sign of the Acadians’ complicity with the French. The Council of Nova Scotia then decided that all the Acadians of the Chignectou region would be rounded up and deported, whether or not a member of their family had been active in the defense of the French fortress. A month later, on July 28, 1755, after meeting twice with members of the Acadian community of mainland Nova Scotia, the Provincial Council resolved to expel all Acadians – men, women and children – from all over the province. New Scotland. The Deportation therefore began in Grand-Pré and in the neighboring town of Pigiguit at the beginning of September.
Even if it is understood that the deportation of the Acadians was intended to disperse a group disloyal to the British Crown, it cannot be denied that the extent and fertility of the lands of Grand-Pré and elsewhere had a very of great importance in the context of UK settlement plans. Thus, the Governor of Nova Scotia Charles Lawrence expressed the following opinion in a letter written on October 18, 1755 to the Trade Lords of London, England:
“As soon as the French have left, I will do my best to encourage the People of the Continent to colonize these lands
and the additional circumstances of the inhabitants who evacuate the Country will, I welcome,
to greatly speed up this event since it provides us with a large amount of good land ready for cultivation immediately. ”
At the end of those seven years, more than three-quarters of the approximately 14,000 Acadian men, women and children were deported to other parts of North America or Europe. The rest fled or hid.
Deportation to Grand-Pré
The events at Grand-Pré were among the first and also the most important of the Deportation. What is more, they have been recorded by some of the UK’s main players. Their files provide history with a detailed account of events and their impact on Acadians and set up the context for possible representations of Acadian culture. They also provide future generations of Acadians with a description of an event that had the effect of transforming their cultural history. The following information is taken from two of the most important sources, the campaign diaries of Lieutenant-Colonel John Winslow and one of his junior officers, Jeremiah Bancroft.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Winslow of Massachusetts was the officer responsible for rounding up and deporting the Acadians from Grand Pré. He arrived in the village on August 19, 1755 with about 300 New England provincial soldiers. He didn’t hint at what was going to happen, but rather gave the impression of a routine mission. His first task was to establish a secure base of operations as his troops were far outnumbered by the approximately 2,100 Acadian men, women and children who resided in the Minas Basin region. Winslow chose to establish his headquarters in the area surrounding the parish church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines in Grand-Pré. His soldiers erected a palisade around the rectory, church, and cemetery, and his soldiers pitched their tents in the compound (see Figure 2–32). In order not to upset the Acadians unnecessarily, Winslow asked representatives of the community to remove sacred objects from the church before it was used as a military base. By early August 1755, priests from the parish of Saint-Charles-des-Mines or Grand-Pré and neighboring parishes had already been arrested and taken to Halifax while awaiting deportation to Europe.
Between late August and early September 1755, the Acadians of Grand-Pré and the surrounding villages busied themselves with harvesting in the marshes and on the heights. The Acadians were far from suspecting that this harvest would be their last in Grand-Pré.
On September 4, 1755, Lieutenant-Colonel Winslow issued the order that all men and boys aged 10 and over in the Grand-Pré area were to report to church the next day at three in the afternoon. – midday for an important announcement. Captain Alexander Murray had used the same pretext to invite all Acadian males from the Pigiguit region to come to Fort Edward the same day at the same time. In fact, the British had used a similar ploy on August 11 in the Chignectou area to attract and imprison some 400 local Acadian men at Fort Beauséjour – renamed Fort Cumberland after its capture – as well as at Fort Lawrence. John Winslow and his men had witnessed it just before their departure for Grand-Pré.
On September 5, 418 Acadian males flocked to the church of Grand-Pré – now surrounded by a fence and controlled by armed men – to hear the announcement. Once the men had gathered inside the church, Winslow asked French-speaking interpreters to tell the assembled residents that they were – along with their family members – to be deported. He told the Acadians the following:
“Your lands and dwellings, your cattle and your herds of all kinds, are confiscated by the Crown
with all your other effects,
except your money and your movable property, and that you yourselves will be deported out of this province. ”
Jeremiah Bancroft, one of Winslow’s junior officers, writes in his diary that the expression on the faces of the Acadians upon hearing the announcement was a mixture of shame and confusion, as well as anger. He adds that the Acadians’s countenance was so altered that it was indescribable.
The eviction of around 2,100 people who lived in Grand-Pré and the surrounding villages did not go smoothly or as quickly as expected. Winslow had to contend with a shortage of ships and a lack of provisions. The men and boys had to spend more than a month imprisoned either in the Saint-Charles-des-Mines church or on board the boats anchored in the Bassin des Mines before the rest of the population was also crowded on board the ships. . Winslow describes the scene of the first contingent of young men marching from church along the marsh path to the shore of what is now Horton Landing in these terms:
> “They went praying, singing and crying, the women and children calling out to them all along with many lamentations
and falling on his knees and praying. ”
On October 8, 1755 began the embarkation of men, women and children in the waiting boats. The departure of the small boats was from Horton Landing. The people of Grand-Pré and Gaspereau were the first to leave. Winslow noted in his journal that,
> “[The inhabitants] left against their will, the women in great distress carrying their children in their arms,
while others carried their decrepit parents in carts and all their belongings, moving in great confusion.
It was a pathetic scene of great pain. ”
The Acadians lived together in large extended families. This was the basis of their settlements and a key element in their success in building dykes, as well as the source of their sense of independence. Although Winslow ordered that the families should not be separated, in many cases this was not possible in the confusion and the small size of the boats. As a result, friends, relatives and neighbors were separated never to see each other again.
From October 19 to 21, 1755, the soldiers forced part of the families of the communities surrounding Rivière-aux-Canards to assemble at Grand-Pré with a view to possible boarding the boats. This group of about 600 inhabitants was made up of 98 families. While awaiting the arrival of transport, they were lodged in the recently evacuated Acadian houses not far from Winslow’s camp and on the heights overlooking the marsh. These families were deported to the Anglo-American colonies just before Christmas 1755. This time the starting point was not Horton Landing, but another location nearby.
In the decades to come, thousands of Acadians docked in ports all over the world only to leave immediately in search of a place where they could return to their native Acadia. It was during this odyssey that the Acadian diaspora was born.
Between 1755 and 1762, the British authorities organized the gathering of the Acadian population at key locations to embark them on ships and send them in convoys to various destinations.
In the last months of 1755 alone, 6,000 Acadians or nearly half of the entire population had been deported from the region of the Minas Basin, including Grand-Pré, the region of Pigiguit, Chignectou and Port-Royal.
That year, 2,100 Acadians were expelled from the Bassin des Mines region. This included the expulsion, at the end of October 1755, of more than 1,500 Acadian children, women and men – the children making up the bulk of the contingent – from Grand-Pré and neighboring villages who had been forced to board. boats. The convoy set out from the Minas Basin for Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts. At the same time, the boats transporting 1,119 Acadian deportees from the Pigiguit region also headed south towards the Anglo-American colonies. The boats formed a convoy to which were joined the boats carrying the 1,100 deportees from the Chignectou region who were to be sent to the colonies further south of the Carolinas and Georgia. In December, some 1,664 Acadian men, women and children from the Port-Royal area were also deported from Annapolis Royal to the Anglo-American colonies.
In the years that followed, thousands of other Acadians were deported, mostly to France, after the fall of Louisbourg in 1758. Some 4,000 Acadian refugees from Île-Royale (Cape Breton) and Île Saint- Jean (Prince Edward Island) were deported directly to France in the fall of 1758, as were more than 200 residents of the Cape Sable region who suffered a similar fate in 1758 and early 1759. In l In the summer of 1762, another group of 915 Acadian men, women and children were deported from Halifax to Boston. The city authorities refused to let them disembark and they were forced to return to Nova Scotia where they were kept as prisoners of war.
These refugees were sent to various places at the wish of Governor Charles Lawrence who wanted to distribute the Acadians among the colonies so that they could not easily find each other. Some were sent to the colonies of New England where the authorities were to provide them with refuge and food. Many of the settlements did not want to shoulder this burden and did not allow the boats to dock, forcing them to continue on their way to another port. In many cases, families were separated, children were assimilated into Protestant families, and adults were subject to imprisonment or servitude. In some settlements, governors who wanted to get rid of refugees issued safe-conducts so that they could travel freely between borders. They thus hoped that the Acadians would return to Nova Scotia.
In the spring of 1756, the Acadians deported from Virginia were sent back as prisoners of war to Great Britain where they were scattered throughout the coastal towns of southern England. Eventually, these joined the ranks of the thousands of refugees who had been deported to France. Their settlement in France, however, offered little consolation, as there was too little land there for them to settle there. Many of them ended their lives in utter destitution.