Expulsion of the Acadians

Expulsion of the Acadians
Part of French and Indian War
A View of the Plundering and Burning of the City of Grymross, by Thomas Davies, 1758.JPG
St. John River Campaign: "A View of the Plundering and Burning of the City of Grimross" (1758)
Watercolor by Thomas Davies
DateAugust 10, 1755 – July 11, 1764
Location
Canada's Maritimes
Result
Belligerents

 Great Britain

 France

Wabanaki Confederacy

Commanders and leaders
Units involved

The Expulsion of the Acadians, also known as the Great Upheaval, the Great Expulsion, the Great Deportation and Le Grand Dérangement, was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from the present day Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island — parts of an area also known as Acadia.[b] The Expulsion (1755–1764) occurred during the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years' War)[c] and was part of the British military campaign against New France. The British first deported Acadians to the Thirteen Colonies, and after 1758 transported additional Acadians to Britain and France. In all, of the 14,100 Acadians in the region, approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported[5][d] A census of 1764 indicates that 2,600 Acadians remained in the colony, presumably having eluded capture.[7]

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the British captured Port Royal, the capital of the colony, in a siege. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which concluded the conflict, ceded the colony to Great Britain while allowing the Acadians to keep their lands. Over the next forty-five years, however, the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During the same period, some also participated in various military operations against the British, and maintained supply lines to the French fortresses of Louisbourg and Fort Beauséjour.[8] As a result, the British sought to eliminate any future military threat posed by the Acadians and to permanently cut the supply lines they provided to Louisbourg by removing them from the area.[9]

Without making distinctions between the Acadians who had been neutral and those who had resisted the occupation of Acadia, the British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council ordered them to be expelled.[e] In the first wave of the expulsion, Acadians were deported to other British North American colonies. During the second wave, they were deported to Britain and France, and from there a significant number migrated to Spanish Louisiana. Acadians fled initially to Francophone colonies such as Canada, the uncolonized northern part of Acadia, Isle Saint-Jean (present-day Prince Edward Island) and Isle Royale (present-day Cape Breton Island). During the second wave of the expulsion, these Acadians were either imprisoned or deported.

Along with the British achieving their military goals of defeating Louisbourg and weakening the Mi'kmaq and Acadian militias, the result of the Expulsion was the devastation of both a primarily civilian population and the economy of the region. Thousands of Acadians died in the expulsions, mainly from diseases and drowning when ships were lost. On July 11, 1764, the British government passed an order-in-council to permit Acadians to legally return to British territories, provided that they take an unqualified oath of allegiance. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized the historic event in his poem about the plight of the fictional character Evangeline, which was popular and made the expulsion well known.

Historical context

Acadians at Annapolis Royal by Samuel Scott, 1751, earliest known image of Acadians; only pre-deportation image of Acadians

After the British officially gained control of Acadia in 1713, the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of loyalty to become British subjects. Instead, they negotiated a conditional oath that promised neutrality. Some Acadians remained neutral and refused the unconditional oath. The difficulty was partly religious, as the British monarch was the head of the Protestant Church of England and the Acadians were Roman Catholic. They also worried that signing the oath might commit male Acadians to fight against France during wartime, and that it would be perceived by their Mi'kmaq neighbours as an acknowledgement of the British claim to Acadia, putting Acadian villages at risk of attack from Mi'kmaq.[11]

Other Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath because they were anti-British. Various historians have observed that some Acadians were labelled "neutral" when they were not.[12] By the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians, there was already a long history of political and military resistance by Acadians and the Wabanaki Confederacy to the British occupation of Acadia.[13] The Mi'kmaq and the Acadians were allies through their Catholicism and numerous inter-marriages.[14] While the Acadians were the largest population, the Wabanaki Confederacy, particularly the Mi'kmaq, held the military strength in Acadia even after the British conquest.[15] They resisted the British occupation and were joined on numerous occasions by Acadians. These efforts were often supported and led by French priests in the region.[16] The Wabanaki Confederacy and Acadians fought against the British Empire in six wars, including the French and Indian Wars, Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War, over a period of seventy-five years.

French and Indian War

In 1753, French troops from Canada marched south and seized and fortified the Ohio Valley. Britain protested the invasion and claimed Ohio for itself. On May 28, 1754, the war began with the Battle of Jumonville Glen. French Officer Ensign de Jumonville and a third of his escort were killed by a British patrol led by George Washington. In retaliation the French and the Indians defeated the British at Fort Necessity. Washington lost a third of his force and surrendered. Major General Edward Braddock's troops were defeated in the Battle of the Monongahela, and William Johnson's troops stopped the French advance at Lake George.[citation needed]

In Acadia, the primary British objective was to defeat the French fortifications at Beauséjour and Louisbourg and to prevent future attacks from the Wabanaki Confederacy, French and Acadians on the northern New England border.[17][18] (There was a long history of these attacks from Acadia – see the Northeast Coast Campaigns 1688, 1703, 1723, 1724, 1745, 1746, 1747.) The British saw the Acadians' allegiance to the French and the Wabanaki Confederacy as a military threat. Father Le Loutre's War had created the conditions for total war; British civilians had not been spared and, as Governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council saw it, Acadian civilians had provided intelligence, sanctuary, and logistical support while others had fought against the British.[19] During Le Loutre's war, to protect the British settlers from attacks along the former border of New England and Acadia, the Kennebec River, the British built Fort Halifax (Winslow), Fort Shirley (Dresden, formerly Frankfurt) and Fort Western (Augusta).[citation needed]

After the British capture of Beauséjour, the plan to capture Louisbourg included cutting trade to the Fortress in order to weaken the Fortress and, in turn, weaken the French ability to supply the Mi'kmaq in their warfare against the British. According to historian Stephen Patterson, more than any other single factor – including the massive assault that eventually forced the surrender of Louisbourg – the supply problem brought an end to French power in the region. Lawrence realized he could reduce the military threat and weaken Fortress Louisbourg by deporting the Acadians, thus cutting off supplies to the fort.[20] During the expulsion, French Officer Charles Deschamps de Boishébert led the Mi'kmaq and the Acadians in a guerrilla war against the British.[21] According to Louisbourg account books, by late 1756 the French had regularly dispensed supplies to 700 natives. From 1756 to the fall of Louisbourg in 1758, the French made regular payments to Chief Jean-Baptiste Cope and other natives for British scalps.[22]