A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 10 --
"Preparations at Grand Pré."

Within days of his arrival, on the 19th of August, Colonel John Winslow had situated himself fairly well at Grand Pré. On the 23rd, he wrote Captain Murray at Piziquid, Fort Edward, some 12 miles away, requesting nails and a lock; also, in the letter we see where Winslow gives a picture of his situation: "there is a small house within the pickets of which I have made the captains [three of them] quartres. One thing I still lack is a guard room, and have a frame up and partly enclosed and old boards sufficient to cover it."1 Winslow's force, consisting of 313 men and officers, had been detached from the larger force of 2500 men, which, as we have seen, had assembled themselves at Chignecto earlier in the year. Three days after Winslow arrived, he gave orders2 for a work party of forty men to unload the three vessels which had brought Winslow and his men over from Chignecto. We would have seen these vessels just at the west bank of the Gaspereau River, likely propped up, and, high and dry at low tide. One half of this work party was to attend to the unloading and the other half to the stowing of the provisions in the church which had been cleared of all of its usual ecclesiastic accoutrements. In the meantime, the other work of securing the camp, such as picketing, continued.3

There is every indication that Winslow was liked by his men even though he was strict, as I suppose every good officer must be. On the 26th of August, with the men now pretty much settled in, he was to forbid the playing of cards, for fear, "that they neglect their duty and get an idle habit."4 Further, on August 28th, he orders:

"Whereas playing of quoites5 within the camp tends to brake the sword [sod?] and spoil the encampment. Those gentlemen and soldiers who have a liking to that exercise on the north side or in the rear of the pickets and as it is observed that the soldiers are not so exact as could be wished in regard to cleanliness in the camp leaving cabbage leaves, pea pods, etc., among their tents which in a little time become noisome. Therefore ordered that every person within the line take care to throw out all their cast provisions, greens, etc., not used, without the pickets in the front of the camp and not less than thirty feet from the gate on the left hand. For fatigue [work party] four men from each company to assist the well diggers and one sergeant or corporal to each command. Patrol -- Newberry."6
It is plain, that, if Colonel Winslow didn't want his men hanging about and falling into "idle habits" it would be best to employ them in the business for which they were sent; the rounding up and the placing of the inhabitants upon the transports. These transports had to come in from distant parts. In the meantime, Winslow and his fellow officer at Fort Edward, Captain Murray, did not want to take any steps that would alarm the Acadians. They would like to numb these people with surprise, and, while in such a state, carry out this "disagreeable business." They did not intend to take any precipitous steps until the transports arrived. In the meantime, the unsuspecting Acadians went about taking care of themselves and their farms, and, in particular, bringing in their field crops.7 The Acadians did not know what it was that the English had in store for them. The officers swore one another and their respective men to secrecy: there was to be no alarm until the trap was fully set and the springs ready to be sprung. The Acadians far out numbered their would be captors and no opportunity or time was to be given to the Acadians for fear they might organize themselves and prove to be a problem. The English wanted to handle the Acadians, when the right moment came, like so many sheep to be herded up and put into their floating stalls.

On August 30th, three transports came in from Boston: the Mary, the Endeavour and the Industry.8 These were the first of a sizable number of sailing vessels which Governor Lawrence had arranged to come up from Boston under government charter. These first three, that had came into Winslow's area, Minas basin, had been dispatched by Chas. Apthorp & Son (Thomas Hancock) on August the 21st. The Acadians at Grand Pré were now to see three sailing vessels in the stream at the mouth of the Gaspereau. Their leaders, to the extent they had any -- the best of them had been taken away from their people and imprisoned on George's Island at Halifax earlier that summer (see The Deportation Orders") -- must have at this point begun to put things together. All these English soldiers? These large sailing vessels? What's up?9 They were to be kept wondering for a number of days, yet.

During the first week in September two more transports came in: the Elizabeth on the 4th and the Leynord on the 6th. Winslow's work, in conjunction with Murray at Piziquid could now start in earnest. The arrival of these last two was to put a plan that had been struck by Murray and Winslow on a better footing. On the evening of August 29th, as is disclosed in Winslow's journal, Murray had made his way over from Fort Edward at Piziquid to pay a visit to his more senior officer and to coordinate plans.10 Murray stayed only as long as it took to hand over the latest dispatches from Governor Lawrence and to settle on a date on which they would both take the first step. A note of this first meeting was recorded in Winslow's journal, as follows:

"I consulted methods for removing the whole [of the] inhabitants ... and [Winslow and Murray] agreed that it would be most convenient to sight [command] all the male inhabitants ... to assemble at the church in this place [Grand Pré] on the 5th of September next to hear the King's Orders, and that at the same time Capt. Murray to collect the inhabitants of Piziquid, and villages adjacent to Fort Edward for the same purpose ..."
After Murray had left, Winslow assembled his three captains (Adams, Hobbs and Osgood) and brought them up to date; and, consistent with the plan to keep the Acadians in the dark, he swore them to secrecy. It was important to the English plan that they should not alarm the Acadians. As Winslow was to write, "after taking an oath of secrecy from them laid before them my instructions and papers and also of the proposed agreements made between Capt. Murray and myself of which they unanimously approved." Just as this meeting was being held, or shortly thereafter, on August the 30th, the first of the three transport vessels, to which I earlier made reference, having come up from Boston, hoved into view.

September of 1755 arrived. These were to be busy days. As for the Acadians: they, not knowing of the English plans, were very much involved in the harvesting of their crops. As for the English: they secretly went about making preparations for the deportation. One difficulty was that Winslow and his New Englanders were not familiar with the country. On arrival, Winslow wondered in a letter to Governor Lawrence if "the whole or part Gorham's Rangers could be spared for our assistance."11 Despite the request, no one was sent up from Halifax, presumably because all their men were needed to man their own defenses; so, Winslow turned to Captain Murray at Fort Edward.12 The two had met, as we have seen, on August the 29th, likely, at that time, Winslow made a request of Captain Murray to send a party of his regulars who had been stationed in the area for some time. Winslow, it would appear agreed to exchange some of his own New Englanders for the regulars sent over from Fort Edward. On September the 1st or the 2nd, similar detachments of soldiers headed out; one from Grand Pré, the other from Fort Edward to meet at the "foarding place."13 Murray sent one Lieutenant, one sergeant, one corporal and 30 private men.14

A date had been picked, yet, there were still details to be worked out in respect to the coordinated action against the Acadians. It was intended that another visit between Winslow and Murray should take place. When Murray heard the news at Fort Edward that the first three transports had arrived, indeed, just hours after he had left Grand Pré, he wrote a message to Winslow: "I hear some vessels are arrived at Mines which I suppose are the transports, if so, I think the sooner we strike the stroke the better, therefore, will be glad to see you here as soon as conveniently you can."15 One of the details to be worked out was the form of the order to be directed to the Acadians. Murray had a draft ready for Winslow's review.

(It should be pointed out, at this juncture, that Captain Murray had taken into his confidence, a 33 year old Swiss civilian, a Protestant who spoke French, Isaac Deschamps. Deschamps was in charge of the truck-house owned by an entrepreneur at Halifax, one, Joshua Maugher. This truck-house -- a store-house for trading with both the Acadians and the Indians -- was located at Piziquid, if not within the confines of the fort then likely very handy to it. Murray had brought Deschamps into the loop and apprised him of the plans; it was, after all, necessary to have someone translate the English orders into French.16)

On September 2nd, Winslow set out with a small contingent in the "whale boat for Fort Edward ... to consult with capt. Murray in this critical conjuncture."17 Winslow left early in the morning and was soon inside the picketed fort at Piziquid. There he and Murray were to settle on the wording of the following citation:

"To the Inhabitants of the district of Grand Pré, Mines River, Cannard, etc, as well ancient as young men & lades:
Whereas his Excellency [etc., etc] proposed lately ... and has ordered us to communicate ... his Majesty's intentions ... such as they have been given him.
I therefore order and strictly enjoin by these presents to all the inhabitants as well of the above districts as of all the other districts. Both old men and young men, as well as all the lads of ten years of age, to attend at the church in Grand Pré on Friday, the fifth instant, at three of the clock in the afternoon, that we may impart what we are ordered to communicate to them; declaring that no excuse will be admitted on any pretence whatsoever, on pain of forfeiting goods and chattels in default.
GIVEN at Grand Pré the Second of September in the 29th year of His Majesty's reign, A.D. 1755."
18
Before the morning was out, Winslow and his small party were sailing back to Grand Pré. He had in his pouch a good copy of the citation translated into the French. He arrived at his camp at two o'clock in the afternoon. Winslow was to immediately call for his officers: copies of the citation were to go out, to be posted in all conspicuous places so as to come to the attention of all the inhabitants. Captain Adams and party went off to the communities of Habitants River (the Canning area) and Canard River, in particular to the centre of the Acadian life in that area, the Church of St. Joseph at Canard. Adams reported back, "that it was a fine country full of inhabitants, a beautiful church & abundance of goods of the world. Provisions of all kinds in great plenty."19 By the next day Captain Adams' party had returned, and, another party under Captain Hobbs (with one sub officer, two sergeants, two corporals and 50 private men) paid a visit to the nearby villages, making reference in particular to "the Village Melanson on the River Gaspereau." The message was spread: Acadian men, old and young, without arms,20 were to come to the church at Grand Pré to hear of the English King's intentions.

Right along, in all of this, and in the back ground, we would have seen the Acadians, peaceful and spread out on their many farms in their river valleys. The great anguish, as we shall soon see, was to wash over them like a great sudden flood. In the meantime, they, like all farmers in the northern part of the continents when hints of cold weather are blown in with the first of the autumn breezes, had crops to get in. As for the English soldiers situated thereabouts: their tensions were rising as their nerves were being slowly stretched and strained. It was necessary, in view of the coming piece of work, for Winslow to keep his men steady. The men were required to stay in camp and not to go beyond the pickets unless on official duty.21 On September the 4th, the day before all the Acadian men were to report to the church, the soldiers were required to appear on parade, so that, "their arms and ammunition be examined into as also that an inquiry be made what number of powder horns there be."22 Captain Murray at his desk in Fort Edward writes to his fellow officer, Winslow, but twelve miles away at Grand Pré, and to be delivered that day:

"Dear Sir,
Yesterday I received a letter from Annapolis which you will get from [a runner] ... whom I have sent to look after some horses for the governor [Lawrence wanted some Acadian horses sent down to him at Halifax].
I was out yesterday at the villages [in and around Piziquid]. All the people were quiet and very busy at their harvest. If this day keeps fair all will be in ... their barns. I hope tomorrow will crown all our wishes. I am most truly with great esteem ...
Your most obedient Servant
A. Murray
On His Majesty's Service To Colo Winslow commanding his Majesty's Troops at Grand Pré.
23
At his quarters at Grand Pré, Winslow writes out further orders for the day, September 4th, "The guard to be relieved tomorrow ... one hundred men strong with one captain, two subalterns, four sergeants, four corporals & two drums." Winslow emphasizes that none, "neither regulars nor irregulars [are to] stir out of their lines tomorrow. ... The companys to be supplied with powder and ball at eight of the clock to morrow morning." These orders are reflected in Winslow's journal, the final line for that day being, "A fine day and the inhabitants very busy about their harvest ..."

We can imagine John Winslow closing his journal. It is late in the evening and we may have caught him looking out one of the few small windows of the Acadian cottage which he had turned into his residence but a couple of weeks back. Off in the yards there would have been a few camp fires. Then, likely, he found his long white pipe and filled its bowl from a leather pouch which he had retrieved from a shelf. He stoops to the fire place, and from its embers brings a burning taper to the pipe bowl. After assuring himself that it is lit he ambles over to the open door of the cottage and looks out. The sky is clear. The smoke curls away from his white, long handled pipe. After a couple of puffs he returns the pipe to its holder on a nearby table. A glance to his cot; then, another glance out the door. Nothing to be done now. A good sleep would serve him well for a busy day will soon be dawning.


[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 11 - "The Deportation at Grand Pré, Part I."]

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