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A Few Weeks in 1755, the Expulsion of the Acadians Begins

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

A Few Weeks in 1755, the Expulsion of the Acadians Begins

This description of the very earliest days of the Expulsion of the Acadians, is based upon Report and Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Volume 3, Halifax, 1883. It comes from English records and only tells their side of the story. There are other articles about the Expulsion in this blog, and they are listed at the end.

Acadians at Annapolis Royal by Samuel Scott, 1751

From Wikipedia

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Preparations were in their final stages when, by late August of 1755, troops had been stationed in several places along the Bay of Fundy coast of Nova Scotia and arms and ammunition were distributed. Transport ships were marshalled, and whale boats were being positioned to blockade river outlets. The principal military camps were in Annapolis, Pisiquid, Chignecto, Grand Pré and Minas.

None of the Acadians knew what was about to happen, but all of the military commanders knew that the Acadians were to be gathered up and shipped out of Nova Scotia. Plans for what would happen after the expulsion were vague, with only a few references to “intended [English] settlers.”

The ordinary soldiers must have known what was unfolding since, earlier in August, orders were issued at Fort Cumberland:

All Officers, Soldiers and Retainers are to take Notice, that all Horses, Oxen, Sheep, and all Cattle Whatsoever Which were the Property of the French Inhabitants are Become forfeited to Majesty; Wherefore no Bargains on any Pretence whatsoever For the Purchase of said Cattle will Be allowed.

The soldiers were kept in camp, however, and could not even go out to collect water without a guard. The secret was kept.

It was nearly September, the weather was good, and that the Acadians were busy harvesting their crops. They assumed that the camps were to accommodate the soldiers over the winter, but they were curious about all of the transport ships. They were told that the ships were to transport troops to wherever the local commander wanted them to go.

The instructions from Governor Lawrence were explicit. Reading from a memorandum written in mid-August, in synopsis:

You must collect the inhabitants for transport either by stratagem or force as required but, above all, you shall not pay attention to any remonstrances or memorials from any of them who may want to staying behind. If there are more people than can be accommodated at the rate of two persons per ton of ship, then send for more ships, but make no delay in embarking.

The inhabitants will be allowed to carry their household furniture with them, but no useless rubbish to encumber the vessels. They and their bedding must be embarked first and, if afterwards there is room, allow them to carry whatever else they can.

A final reconnoiter of several Acadian villages was made on September 3rd. The Canard River was found to be a fine country, full of inhabitants with a beautiful church and abundant provisions of all kinds. Similar reports came from other villages.

On the morning of September 5th, the soldiers were assembled and arms and ammunition were distributed. At 3 PM, 418 Acadian men and boys over ten from Grand Pré, Minas, Canard, Habitant and Gaspereau were gathered together at their church to hear the King’s orders. A similar gathering was made for the people of Pisiquid, and adjacent villages. The proclamation, in synopsis, was:

Gentlemen,

I have the King’s Commission in my hand, by which orders you are brought together to hear His instructions.

My duty though necessary is very disagreeable. As a fellow human being, I know it will be grievous to you. But it is my business to obey orders, and therefore I shall deliver his Majesty’s instructions to you.

Your lands and tenements, cattle of all kinds and livestock of all sorts are forfeited to the Crown with all your other effects, saving your money and household goods and you yourselves are to be removed from this Province.

Thus it is that all French inhabitants of these districts are to be removed and I am, through his Majesty’s goodness, directed to allow you to carry your money and what household goods you can without inconveniencing the transport vessels. I shall do everything in my power that you are not molested and that families are kept together. I know that this will give you a great deal of unease, but hope that in whatever part of the world you arrive you may be faithful subjects.

I must also inform you that you will now remain under guard as the King’s prisoners.

The Acadian men then complained with grief that their families had no way of knowing what had happened to them, the prisoners. They pled that representatives be allowed to go back to inform the women the women and children, agreeing also to collect together some men who had not assembled to hear the decree. Two groups of ten men were thus allowed to carry the news home.

Similar roundups were taking place elsewhere; 183 in one case, and 500 in another. Local commanders were under pressure: “I have here near two French men to every English man in my camp, and have nothing to keep them in subjection but my marquetry.” He added that going out to collect more of the inhabitants would have to await another day. Another complaint read as follows:

“The French People not having any Provisions with them and Pleading Hunger Begd for Bread on which I Did, and ordered that for the Future they be Supplyd from their respective Familys. Thus Ended the Memerable fifth of September, a Day of Great Fatigue & Troble.

The Expulsion then proceeded, but not always smoothly:

Camp Cumberland, in synopsis: It is with grief that I inform you that Major Frye was ordered to burn buildings and bring in the women & children, 23 of whom were put aboard ship. He burned 253 buildings and had also sent 50 men to burn the church and some additional buildings. During this work they were attacked by about 300 French & Indians who came suddenly upon them and killed Doctor March, Shot Lieut. Billings through the body & through the arm & killed or took 22 and wounded six more. The attackers retreated to the dikes and Major Frye landed with what men he could get, but he was outnumbered and forced to retreat.

That report indicated that the action occurred on September 2nd, three days before the Expulsion began in the Annapolis Basin. Other reports of the event vary in detail, but are the same in general:

Camp Cumberland, in synopsis: I bring melancholy news of the defeat of a detachment sent out under Major Frye who went with two hundred men to burn buildings. After burning 181 buildings we sailed up a river and burnt along both sides all morning. At about one o’clock Major Frye ordered Capt. Adams to land his men opposite to the mass house in order to burn a small village below it. Doctor March then broke off with a smaller party to burn the mass house, but before they could accomplish this, they were beset by above 300 French and Indians and our men were soon defeated. Doctor March and five or six privates were killed, and twenty-three men are missing. We have eleven wounded. I was in a small village nearby, burning other houses, when I heard the attack going on and repaired there to join them, but before I arrived most of the men had left their officers. Our powder was wet, no water & but two days provisions obliging us to return without proceeding further. We had burned 253 buildings with a large quantity of wheat, flax &c.

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And so the Expulsion of the Acadians began. There are other accounts of the Expulsion in this blog, including:

  • Bureaucracy and the Expulsion of the Acadians – Apr. 12, 2017
  • The Acadian Fugitives – Mar. 23, 2016
  • The Expulsion of the Acadians, a Military Surgeon’s Diary – Sept. 9, 2015
  • A Letter about the Acadians and the Expulsion – Aug. 5, 2015

The corresponding links are:

Written by johnwood1946

December 6, 2017 at 8:44 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Just found your site. Cheers

    Kelly MacKay

    December 7, 2017 at 8:04 AM


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