Acadians at Annapolis Royal by Samuel Scott
, 1751, earliest known image of Acadians; only pre-deportation image of Acadians
After the British 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.
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. 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. The Mi'kmaq and the Acadians were allies through their Catholicism and numerous inter-marriages. 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. 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. 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.
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. (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. 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).
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. During the expulsion, French Officer Charles Deschamps de Boishébert led the Mi'kmaq and the Acadians in a guerrilla war against the British. 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.