The Acadian’s deportation from the eastern Maritime Provinces of present-day Canada by the British during the 1750s is one of the most darkest periods in American history. Viewed as an obstacle to the expansionist policies of colonists, the entire Acadian population was forced to leave their land. Even slightest resistance meant execution by firing squad. Mistrust of the Acadians as being alleged French sympathizers and consideration of these people as a hindrance to the acreage grabbing by colonial settlers caused the British to enforce the Acadian expulsion at bayonet point.
The word Acadians refer to the descendants of early French and Metis people who settled in Acadia, which included the present-day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, eastern Quebec, southern Maine, and Prince Edward Island. French explorer, Pierre Du Gua de Monts arrived at Port Royal in 1605 and built the historic Habitation there. He was forced to return to Europe two years later after his trading monopoly was waived off. However, some French settlers brought by him stayed back and established families with local Metis. This union led to the birth of the French-Acadian lineage.
More French settlers landed in Nova Scotia in the 1630s and the Acadian population turned to be predominantly French in the next two decades. Despite being part of the French colonial empire, geographical and administrative separation led to the Acadians living as a distinct cultural entity.
The British Occupation and Background of Acadian Expulsion
In 1710, Acadians living in Nova Scotia, Maine, and New Brunswick came under the British control after Francis Nicholson overran the French garrison at Port Royal and trounced the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Treaty of Utrecht signed to end the war of Spanish succession granted Acadia to the British with individual land rights for local Acadians.
Hostilities between the British colonies in America and Acadians continued to grow as the latter refused to sign an oath expressing their loyalty to the Crown. The colonists were deeply disturbed by the support extended to the French and the Wabanaki Confederacy by native Mi’kmaq people living in Acadia during the French and Indian Wars.
Nova Scotia Governor Charles Lawrence even accused the Acadians of providing logistics and intelligence to the French and participating in guerilla wars against the British, plus he had his eyes set on the prime real estate in the region. He advocated extermination of the Acadians as the most efficient way to weaken the French military threat and strengthen the British control over the present-day east Canada. The provincial council ordered for the Acadian expulsion after the British occupation of Fort Beausejour of New Brunswick in June 1755.
Military Campaigns and Acadian Expulsions
The Acadian deportation began in August 1755 with the Bay of Fundy Campaign, but they did not leave without a fight. For the next eight years, there were many bloody battles fought between the Acadian freedom fighters and the British. But the Acadian cause was doomed. The British overwhelmed the Acadians, rounded their population, burned their houses, robbed their properties, and forcibly transported them to other British colonies, including over 4,000 to Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia.
The decisive French defeat at Louisbourg in 1758 led to the capture and deportation of thousands of Acadians to Europe. Many of the Acadians living in the area fled to the French colonies located in the North.
Over 15,000 Acadians were deported, leading to humanitarian and economic crises in the area. Thousands lost their families and died from diseases and boat tragedies during their deportation. Aided by the Wabanaki Confederacy, Acadians desperately kept fighting against the British to stop their expulsion and won some battles killing British soldiers. However, in the end their resistance was completely overrun by the British in 1762.
(Image credits: The Expulsion of the Acadians from lle St. Jean in 1758 A.D. by Lewis Parker)