The First Expulsion of The Acadians Of Southern Nova Scotia of 1756
Since the Acadians who lived in the Cape Sable region, which comprised before their Expulsion the counties of Shelburne and Yarmouth, were not sent into exile in 1755 with those of Port Royal and of Grand Pré, some people are under the impression that they were never expelled. The fact is that there were three Expulsions in the Cape Sable region, one in 1756, one in 1758, and one in 1759.
It is a fact, though, that these Acadians were not molested in 1755. A certain number of Acadians from Port Royal and the Minas region, having heard that these Acadians had been left alone, came down through the forest to take refuge in what they thought might be a safe haven. But they were wrong.
In reality, Lieutenant Governor Lawrence did not know at first that there were Acadians in this region. But on April 9, 1756, he wrote to Preble, commanding officer of a batallion [sic] from New England who had come to give a helping hand to Lawrence in his plan to expel the Acadians in Southern Nova Scotia. He was asking him to take them to Boston, after burning and destroying all their buildings and confiscating all their belongings and domestic animals.
Preble left Halifax, accompanied by several vessels. He arrived at Port La Tour in the evening of April 21. As the Acadian establishments were on the other side of the Baccaro Peninsula, all along Barrington Bay and Barrington Passage--Villagedale, Barrington, Sherose Island, Doctor's Cove, Shag Harbour--he had to cross the peninsula to get to them. April 24, on board The Vulture, he writes to Lawrence, telling him that, after a tiresome voyage, he arrived at Port La Tour on the 21st and disembarked 167 soldiers. At night, they crossed the peninsula on foot and surprised the Acadians in their bed. They set fire to 44 buildings. Then they walked the prisoners to the several vessels which were awaiting them at "Baccaro Passage." They were 72 in all.
The vessels arrived in Boston between April 28th and April 30th. Lawrence had entrusted Preble with a letter for Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts, telling him that if he did not want to accept these Acadians, to send them to North Carolina. But Shirley thought that he could not accept more French Neutrals, as they were called, than those that were already in his territory. So a vessel was hired to take these Cape Sable Acadians to North Carolina. The captain of this transport was to deliver a letter to the Governor of North Carolina telling him that, if he did not want to accept them, to tell the captain of the vessel what to do with them.
The vessel was supposed to leave on May 11. All that time, since their arrival, these Acadians had lived on the vesssel or on the wharf. After they were embarked in the vessel which was to take them to North Carolina, they heard the captain giving orders to cast off and learned only then of their destination. Right there and then, "a Great Dessension" rose among the Acadians, who forced their way on the wharf with their luggage. They said they would rather die on the wharf of Boston than go to North Carolina. At the same time, they sent a letter to the Governor of Massachusetts and his Council, telling them that to send them to North Carolina was to condemn them to death, as there, they would not be able to do what they were accustomed to do for a living, that is fishing. In Massachusetts, they would be able to work for their living.
May 14, Thomas Hancock, who had been appointed to furnish with supplies the British troops in Nova Scotia, intervened in their favor, asking the Governor and his council to allow them to stay fourteen more days at his own expense. If after that time it was to be decided that they should go, he, himself, would hire a vessel and would see to it that their demand would be fulfilled.
May 27, Thomas Hancock told the Governor and his Council that he was ready to hire a vessel to take those Acadians to North Carolina, while giving a sad picture to their state, even pleading to let them stay in Massachusetts. A committee was appointed to study this matter. They gave their answer the very next day, May 28; they proposed that they should be placed all along the coast, between Plymouth and Gloucester. This was met with the approval of the Governor and his Council.
This is one of the rare occasions when the Government showed itself sympathetic to the Acadians. I want to note, though, that it is a fact that the Acadians had little to complain with regard to the Government of Massachusetts, except for the orders that oftentimes was given to separate from one another the members of the same family. But, with regard to the people under whose supervision the were placed, too often it was another story.
Thanks to the Massachusetts Archives, which contain about two thousand documents relating to the Acadians in exile in that State, we can follow very accurately the places where each and everyone was during their stay in Massachusetts, their way of life, their demands, their frustrations, their sufferings, their sicknesses, and we know who were those who could not make it and departed for a better world.
They were to stay in Massachusetts, some till 1766, others till 1775, at the eve of the American Revolution. In a subsequent article, I will let you know how the ancestors of today's Acadians of Yarmouth County made their return.
Next week, I will tell you about the second Expulsion of the Acadians of southern Nova Scotia, which took place in 1758.