Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Expulsion of the Acadians

"Still stands the forest primeval ; but far away from its shadow, 
Side by side, in their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping." 
(Evangeline, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

The Acadians were a group of French settlers who lived in modern day Nova Scotia in the 1600's and 1700's.  When the province got a new lieutenant-governor, Charles Lawrence, it was the beginning of the end for the Acadians.

The British French relations grew tense as the French built Fort Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island and the English built a naval base at Halifax.  The French constructed Fort Beausejour followed by the English construction of Fort Lawrence (

In 1755, the lieutenant governor insisted that all Acadians take an oath of allegiance to the British King, but they refused.  That summer, a decree was issued for all men and boys 10 years of age and older meet at the Grand Pre Church with an important message from His Excellency.  The decree read:

"That your land and Tennements, Cattle of all Kinds and Livestocks of all sorts are forfeited to the Crown with all other your Effects Savings your money and Household Goods, and you yourselves to be removed form this Province."

When the men refused to go, their families were threatened with bayonets.  That fall, 1100 Acadians were on transports headed for South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts.  Those who were deported to other English colonies often faced a hostile reception like the legendary Evangeline of Longfellow's poem, who was forced to wander endlessly, pining for her family (  Many families were torn apart.

However, some remained in current day Canada, fleeing to New France (current day Quebec), Cape Breton and the forests of New Brunswick.  

After the fall of Louisbourg in 1758, another 3100 Acadians were expelled, of which an estimated 1649 died of starvation, drowning or disease.  In total, the Expulsion of the Acadians or Le Grand Derangement, involved about 11,000 French settlers from 1755 to 1763.  Some were deported to the Caribbean while 3,500 were sent back to France (

Although none of the Acadians was formally shipped to Louisiana, many were attracted to the area due to the familiar language.  The French "Acadien", if said quickly, sounds like Cajun, the name used to identify this group, along with their cuisine.  The city of New Orleans is filled with Acadian descendants.

Canada Post commemorates the Acadian Deportation with a stamp, featuring the Grand Pre Church, surrounded by the British with bayonets courtesy

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