New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Expulsion of the Acadians Continues, 1756 to 1764

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From the blog at

The Expulsion of the Acadians Continues, 1756 to 1764

A French Settlement on the Miramichi

“Drawn on the spot by Capt. Harrey Smyth, Etch’d by Paul Sandby” from Wikipedia

The expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia began in 1755, when large number of people were gathered together, loaded onto ships, and transported to the more southern colonies. One of the main considerations in planning the expulsion was to save money, and the shipping agent, Apthorp & Hancock, was selected on the basis of cost. Conditions onboard ship were therefore awful. One man who visited a transport in Boston harbour wrote of a dying woman who could not be brought ashore since the authorities were not ready to permit it. She had three small children and, to save her life, he defied regulations and brought onto land. Her last words before she died were that her rescuer should “ask the Governor, in the name of their common Savior, to let her children remain.”

The Acadians were not welcome in the southern colonies. In Massachusetts, for example, there were instances of physical abuse and financial fraud against them, and the perpetrators knew that the authorities were unlikely to step in to prevent it. It is certain that such abuses occurred since laws were eventually passed to prevent them.

Several months elapsed, and the costs of supporting the refugees mounted. In addition, Massachusetts troops had been sent to Nova Scotia in the previous year and the authorities wanted them to be brought home. The Governor’s Council complained about these things, and the Governor agreed that he would recall the troops. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do about the costs, however, and he only agreed to take it up with London. Governor Lawrence of Halifax was not happy, and wrote to Boston saying that the Massachusetts soldiers were constantly complaining that they wanted to go home, but that he absolutely could not spare them since his efforts to recruit new troops had been unsuccessful. Meanwhile, there were as many as 1,500 Acadians and French soldiers and Indians at the Saint John River, and other groups elsewhere, including on the Passamaquoddy, at Cape Sable, and along the eastern and northern coasts of what would become New Brunswick. The English were under a continual threat of attack and there had already been skirmishes. People had been killed on both sides.

Nonetheless, about two thousand New England soldiers were released in April of 1756 and Governor Lawrence took one last opportunity to get a bit more out of them. “You are therefore hereby required & directed to put into Cape Sable … in your way to Boston and with the Troops under your command, to … Seize as many of the said inhabitants as possible, & carry them with you to Boston, where you will deliver them to his Ex. Govr. Shirley… You are at all events to burn & destroy the Houses of the said Inhabitants, & carry their utencils & cattle of all kinds, and make a distribution of them to the Troops under your Command as a Reward for the performance of this Service, & to destroy such things as cannot conveniently be carried off.” Any hope of converting these soldiers into Nova Scotia settlers was lost, and Lawrence was directed to do what he could to attract settlers from New England or elsewhere. He thought that any such effort would be futile as long as the Acadians and the Mi’kmaq remained a threat.

From today’s perspective, the expulsion of the Acadians was begun in 1755 and continued for several years thereafter. From the perspective of the day, the expulsion occurred in 1755 alone, but hundreds or thousands had avoided capture and the expulsions of the following years were measures to correct the shortcomings of the initial campaign.

Virginia and South Carolina were also unhappy with Nova Scotia for having sent them exiled Acadians and, in the summer of 1756, they shipped several hundred of them to Britain who became responsible for them. “His Majesty has given Orders to the Lords of the Admiralty, to direct the Commissioners for Sick and hurt Seamen to secure and maintain them.” Georgia also did not want the Acadians, and cooperated with them in building boats with which to cruise northward from colony to colony, on their way back to Nova Scotia. Some of these made it as far as Boston and New York.

The English had taken Fort Béausejour in 1755, and Louisbourg was defeated in 1758, but this did not stop conflicts with the French and the Acadians and the Indians. By the following year. There had been many pirate raids upon English shipping, and “we have had three men murdered on the Eastern Shore of this [Halifax] harbor, two near Fort Sackville, three in St. Johns River, some killed … at Annapolis, and in short in every part of the province the enemy have of late done us more or less mischief.”

The 1756 campaign against the Acadians on Cape Sable was unsuccessful or at least not fully successful and those who remained were in a distressed state. By the winter of 1759 they petitioned the Massachusetts Governor for relief. They offered to sign Oaths of Allegiance and to pay taxes as ordinary citizens of Massachusetts. If that was not acceptable, then they asked to be allowed to leave Cape Sable and to go to Massachusetts. The Governor’s Council refused all of these requests. The refusal was absolute, and they would not permit it even if Nova Scotia was to cover the costs. The petition to Massachusetts had therefore failed and, at the beginning of the following winter, the Acadians made similar pleas for relief to Governor Lawrence of Nova Scotia. In response, he sent a ship to Cape Sable and took 150 people onboard. They were returned to Halifax, confined on George’s Island, and subsequently shipped to England.

Quebec City fell to the British in September of 1759 and this ushered in a period during which more distressed Acadians as well as refugees from Quebec appeared, even as hostilities continued. As the authorities in Halifax put it, “since the capitulation of Canada, in which they were not included, many of them finding it impossible to subsist, came out of the woods and surrendered with their families; others have been surprised and ferreted out of their lurking places, by parties sent on purpose, and many yet remain who subsist upon hunting and fishing, in and about the Bay Chaleur, Gaspe, Merimichi and other Rivers upon the coast of the Gulph of St. Lawrence and in the River St. John.” For example, about 200 French speaking persons came down the Saint John River as soon as Quebec fell, and presented themselves at Fort Frederick with documents showing that they had signed the Oath of Allegiance. They asked to be allowed to stay on the river, but Council decided that they were probably Quebecers and not Acadians and that they had no rights to be there. They were therefore also gathered up and sent to George’s Island as Prisoners of War pending exile to England.

At about the same time, “Alexander Brusard, Simon Martin, Jean Bass, and Joseph Brusard, arrived here [Fort Cumberland] under a Flag of Truce, as Deputies for about One hundred and Ninety french men, Women, and Children, residing in the Departments of Pitcoudiack and Memramcook whose Business was to Surrender up themselves as Constituents to English Government; at the same time informed me they were in a miserable Condition for want of Provisions, having not more among them all, than could (by the most prudent use) keep more than two Thirds of their number alive till Spring; therefore begged I would have Compassion on them, and allow them some, otherwise they must all Starve.” Some of these were allowed to stay in the area and to receive relief, so as to allow the others to survive with what supplies they already had. They also agreed that they would all appear in the spring to find out what the Governor and Council had decided to do with them. Later that winter, Council decided that all of them should be sent to England as Prisoners of War.

Then, “Peter Suretz, John & Michael Burk arrived under another Flag of Truce, as Deputies for about Seven hundred Men Women and Children at Merimichi, Richiboucta & Bouctox; their Business & Circumstances with regard to Provisions, was the same as those mentioned before, So I agreed that they should send two hundred and thirty of their People to Winter here; and upon their informing me that they had Twelve Vessels in their Custody, that were Taken on the Coast of Canso the Summer past, I ordered the remainder of them to come with their Effects in those Vessels to Bay Verte, as soon in the Spring as the Navigation opened, when they should know Your Excellency’s pleasure concerning them.”

Hundreds of others kept arriving, all in a famished and desperate state, asking for relief at any cost and, in every case, transport ships were sent to carry the Acadians to Halifax as Prisoners of War. The opinion that each and every Acadian needed to be apprehended and exiled was not unanimous, however. For example, the English Governor of Quebec sent an emissary to the Restigouche, and found that there were very much fewer Acadians in the neighbourhood than had been represented to him. He objected to the idea that they be gathered up and settled in Quebec, and suggested that they be settled in Nova Scotia instead. Halifax did not agree, and the rounding up Acadians from along the Gulf of Saint Lawrence continued.

There were more and more Acadians being held at Halifax and, by mid-1762, Council decided that they be shipped to Massachusetts. “These French neutrals, as they are now collected together, are at present a heavy charge upon the inhabitants, especially the laboring people, who are obliged to mount guard every third day and night in their turns, to prevent the escape of the prisoners confined only in open Barracks, there being no place of close confinement to contain such a number.” Removal of the Acadians was also justified on the basis of the Halifax Panic, when it was rumored that the French had attacked Newfoundland and that Saint John’s had fallen. Thus, they thought that war was at hand and that the Acadians could be a domestic danger.

The government of Massachusetts had had enough, however, and they turned the transport ships around and sent them directly back to Halifax. Having made this decision, the Massachusetts Assembly promptly adjourned, so that an appeal could not be heard.

The Governor and Council at Halifax were furious with what the Massachusetts Assembly had done but, by a memorandum of 1764, it had become clear that more Acadians were not going to be sent anywhere. As for sending them to Quebec, the Governor of Quebec was the only person to have even made reference to such a plan, and the Halifax authorities had never seriously considered it. Besides, other Acadians who had been sent there “were not only treated with the utmost neglect, but also with contempt and dislike by the Canadians … [and] I don’t apprehend that it would be either safe for us or satisfactory to them, that their settlement should be in that Country.” Quebec and all of the seaboard colonies were also too near at hand to prevent exiles from making their way back, and the only suggestion that the Halifax authorities could come up with was to send them to the West Indies. Most importantly, the exile of Acadians who had taken up arms and were being held as Prisoners of War had become the exclusive responsibility of the military authorities, and they had issued no orders that they should be expelled. Thus ended this chapter in Nova Scotia history. The expulsion was over.


  1. Thomas B. Atkins, editor for the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Selections from the Public Documents of the Province of Nova Scotia, pages 295 to 346 (1756 to 1764), Halifax, 1869.
  2. The Acadian Exiles – Unwelcome in Pennsylvania, in this blog at
  3. The Acadians in Massachusetts and Other Colonies, in this blog at

Written by johnwood1946

May 13, 2020 at 8:31 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. My 3rd ggrandfather, Ephram Cook, leased his ship The Edward. It left Annapolis Royal 8 Dec 1755. They were blown off course and landed in the West Indies. They left there and arrived in Connecticut but 100 of the 278 had died of malaria. All their possessions were burned in New London, Connecticut. 22 May 1756


    May 13, 2020 at 9:33 AM

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