Due to superior note keeping of the English officer in charge at that place, the general view is that the deportation took place at one time (1755) and only at one place, Grand Pre. It in fact took place over a period of time which stretches back to 1745 and continued on through to the end of the war in 1763. Certainly, it was in 1755 that the greatest number of Acadians were to lose their homes and native lands; but there were other times to which we will make reference. The principal deportation points were, of course, all of the then established Acadian communities: Annapolis Royal, Grand Pre, Piziquid (today, the town of Windsor) and Fort Beausejour (near the town of Amherst). During the succeeding years of the war, further deportations were to take place in other French communities located in Yarmouth County, in Cape Breton, in Prince Edward Island, along the shores of northeastern New Brunswick and up around the Gaspe coast (as all these places are known today).
The emotion of the event, as it unfolded at Grand Pre, was captured by Longfellow in his poem "Evangeline."1 Such efficiency! Imagine the scene, one of the most pitiful scenes in history, possibly to the strains of "Romeo and Juliet" as rendered by either Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev, as these resolute players went through their parts in this real life drama, more sorrowful than any passion play that can possibly be imagined; all miserably caught up in the international intrigue of the day. Poor peasant women, heart broken, see their husbands, brothers and sons herded aboard the transports. Poor peasant men, heart broken in the lost of all they have ever worked for; heart broken, not knowing if they will ever see their families again. The reluctant English soldiers going about dutifully and methodically, and, while giving as much comfort as they can to the dispossessed, proceed to carry out their military orders. And in the background in see the rich Annapolis Valley and the hardwood trees spotting, now, with autumn colour; and, all about, frightened cattle, and women and children aghast to see flames lick up all they had ever known; and transports, with sails a'bellowing, ready to carry their men off to places unknown.
Sad to think of what these Acadians had gone through due to British army orders. Those who gave them, as Professor Brebner was to write, "had no adequate conception of the transformation of pleasant farms, green meadows, comely orchards, and primitive homesteads, into a barren waste scarred by fire and destruction. ... To the authorities in England the expulsion of the Acadians was merely an incident in one small campaign in a bitter, dangerous, and expensive war, something already accomplished and therefore beyond useful discussion."2
What must be kept in mind as we go about considering this matter, the deportation of the Acadians, is, that, up to that time and ever since, to these days: many people are dispossessed in times of war. Refugees run in advance of invading armies and occupying armies root out all those who might give aid and comfort to the enemy. France and England during the years under review, for all practical purposes, were at war; and war is the "son of hell, ... the artificial plague of man, a time when the vials of the Apocalypse are poured forth and shaken over countries ... a time of slaughter, famine, beggary, infamy, slavery, despair." War, as described by Macaulay has always been this way and I fear it will always be. The object of a combatant at war is to bring it to an end by winning it. In order to win a war a country must put everything aside that will not serve the objective. Many policies which would be adopted and promoted in times of peace are of no account during a time of war. I again quote Macaulay:
"To carry the spirit of peace into war is a weak and cruel policy. When an extreme case calls for that remedy which is in its own nature most violent, and which, in such cases, is a remedy only because it is violent, it is idle to think of mitigating and diluting. Languid war can do nothing which negotiation or submission will do better: and to act on any other principle is, not to save blood and money, but to squander them."3
Purging territory, which a country claims as its own, of all except its own citizens, is a step which did not start with Acadia in 1755. Indeed, France was an old hand at it. For example, in 1666, the French captured the Island of St. Christopher's in the West Indies; they deported the English population, about 2,500 in number, and, kept all their property. The event was considered sufficiently glorious enough for France to warrant the striking of a commemorative medal. Closer to the situation which was to present itself to the British in Acadia 66 years later, was that when, in 1689, Frontenac laid plans down to capture Albany and New York. The instructions he received from his ministers were, that, after the conquest, the Catholics might be allowed to remain, on taking the oath of allegiance, but that as regards all others: "Men, women and children -- his Majesty deems it proper that they should be put out of the colony and sent to New England, Pennsylvania and other such quarters as shall be considered expedient, either by land or sea, together or in divisions all according as he shall find will best serve their dispersion and prevent them by reunion affording enemies an opportunity to get up expeditions against that colony."4
The events herein described will be entirely new to some of those who read these pages; and to others, those who have read of the events or have had some accounting of it told to them, much of the detail will be new. Any person who but reads of the deportation of the Acadians in isolation without considering the larger contemporaneous events which unfolded, and which are wrapped in the single expression, The Seven Years War, will have deprived themselves of a very rich piece of history, a history which mightily impacted in political divisions and population variations of an Europeanized America.
[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 5 - The Plan, A Long Time In The Making.]