A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 11 --
"Grand Pré, Part I."

On September the 15th Winslow verified a count of the local Acadians. He was to incorporate this count into a reporting letter which he sent along to Governor Lawrence at Halifax.1 This report has come down to us and shows the total number of Acadians with which Winslow was to deal, to be, 2793 people. The document set forth the names of all the males in the area, viz.. Minas (excluding Piziquid) through which run the rivers: Pereaux, Habitant, Canard, St. Antoine (Cornwallis, these days) and the Gaspereau. On it, run the names, page after page. The more common surnames to be found are: Aucoin, Boudrot, Commeau, Dupuis, Granger, Hebert, Landry, LeBlanc, Melanson, and Terriot. Listed are the names of 483 men. From it, we can see that there were in these districts: 387 married women, 527 sons, 576 daughters and 820 "old & infirmed." A count of the live-stock was also set out: 1131 bullocks, 1422 cows, 1959 young cattle, 7210 sheep, 3827 hogs and 419 horses.2

Prior to getting the Acadian count, on September 2nd, a citation had gone out to all the Acadian Habitants of the Minas area. All men, both old and young, including "lads of ten years of age" were ordered, to attend at the church in Grand Pré on Friday, September the 5th, at three of the clock in the afternoon, so that, they might hear of the English king's intentions; and that no excuse will be admitted if they should not appear as ordered, "on pain of forfeiting goods and chattels in default."3

The idea, of course, was, up to this point, to leave the unsuspecting Acadian farmers in their fields so to get as much of the harvest in as was possible; though, as the British knew, not for the benefit of the Acadians. The plan called for taking the well exercised Acadian men into custody before they had too much time to think about things. Their guns had been taken away from them earlier that summer by order of Captain Murray, the commander at nearby Fort Edward (Piziquid, the Windsor of today) Thus, it was hoped that the scheme would come off without shedding blood, nonetheless, extra powder and ball were served out to the men, and, for that day, the fifth, they were ordered to "lye upon their arms."4

They came in: in all, 418 of them. Men and boys from all of the surrounding villages. They all had the same solemn expressions; and dressed, much alike, in rough woolen clothes spun by their women. Some may have arrived the day before, to be put up for the night by their relatives in the Grand Pré area.5 Some traveled directly from their homes varying at distances of up to several miles away. They had time, as the appointed hour was not until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Likely, just after noon a crowd around the pickets of the English camp began to thickened up. They were to be let in, so as to assemble within the church which was now at the centre of the English camp. Best, I am sure the English thought, to leave the Acadians outside of the pickets until it was near the appointed hour.

Winslow had ordered a table to be set up in the middle of the Church. At the desk sat, amply backed with armed men in their red coats, the bewigged 53 year old commander with "double chin, smooth forehead, arched eyebrows, close powdered wig, and round, rubicund face; and there, now at 3 o'clock, there is a congregation of peasants, simply clad, tanned faces, anxious and intent. A motion was made for quiet. Colonel John Winslow, dressed and groomed for the occasioned, with a number of pieces of paper parchment before him and one in hand, then, spoke:

I have received from His Excellency, Governor Lawrence, royal instructions which I have in my hand. You have been ordered to come here together to hear his Majesty's final decision as to what is to become of the French inhabitants of this his Province of Nova Scotia. His majesty, for almost half a century, has extended more indulgences to the inhabitants of this province than to any of his subjects in any other part of his dominions. What use you have made of them, you yourself best know.
The duty I am now upon, though necessary, is very disagreeable to my nature and temper, as I know it must be grievous to you.
But it is not my business to make observations on his majesty's commands, but rather it is my duty to obey them; and, therefore, without hesitation, I shall read to you His Majesty's instructions and commands, to wit,
That your lands and tenements, cattle and live-stock of all kinds are forfeited to the Crown, together with all your other effects, except money and household goods, and that you yourselves are to be removed from this his province."
"That you will now shortly be removed from the province is certain and without appeal. However, through his majesty's goodness, I am directed to allow you the liberty of carrying with you your money and as much of your household goods as you can take without overloading the vessels you go in. I shall do everything in my power that all these goods be secured to you, and that you be not molested in carrying them away, and also that whole families shall go in the same vessel; so that this removal, which I am sensible must give you a great deal of trouble, may be made as easy as His Majesty's service will admit; and I hope that in whatever part of the world your lot may fall, you may be faithful subjects, and a peaceable and happy people.
I must also inform you that it is His Majesty's pleasure that you remain in security under the inspection and direction of the troops that I have the honour to command."

And thus, almost as an afterthought, the corralled Acadian men were all declared to be prisoners and as such to be detained under guard. The English soldiers stepped forward with guns cocked and flash-pans at the ready. It was as if lightning had struck the audience. Winslow promptly took his leave of the church and proceeded out and over to his quarters at the priest's house. He was, however, unable to elude pleading French elders who managed to follow him. "Our families must be told of what is happening." Winslow then consulted with his red suited officers and it was "arranged that the Acadians should choose twenty of their number each day to revisit their homes, the rest being answerable for their return." The situation, in respect to the Acadian men, as of September 5th, 1755, was that their church was their prison. Additional arrangements were also made so as to allow for family visits; a compassionate move no doubt, but one that was to relieve the English from the trouble and the expense of seeing to their prisoners. Thereafter, during daylight hours, there was to be a steady stream of Acadian women and children who were allowed to come into the church yard. They came to see to their captured husbands, fathers and brothers; they brought baskets of food; and generally to do what they could do to keep their men well.7

I shall come to describe this in greater detail under the Deportation at Chignecto; but, what should be generally known of the Chignecto deportation, was, that, the Acadians at Chignecto were to resist the English as they did in no other place. The Acadians at Chignecto, being for most of its history located well away from English soldiers, were the most independent of all Acadians. There, too, at Chignecto, could be found regular French military officers, such as Boishébert, who, despite the Fall of Fort Beauséjour, were able to keep pressure on the English and generally lead the resistance. One example of this was, where, on August 28th, an English officer, Major Frye, together with 200 New Englanders had been sent to destroy the villages of "Chipody, Memweamcook & Pitcondiack" and to bring in the inhabitants of those areas. He was surprised by a number of Acadians and in the ensuing fight Frye had 24 of his men killed.8 By September the 5th, it is likely that this news of the troubles at the isthmus would have come to Winslow's attention; and it undoubtedly unnerved him. The fact is that Windslow had under his charge near 500 Acadian men; and he had but 300 British soldiers to control them.9

As for Grand Pré, due to smart moves at first, Winslow was to lessen the risk of injury to himself and his men. Straight away, on his arrival at Grand Pré on the 19th of August, he picketed in his camp. Every move was carefully coordinated with his fellow commander at Piziquid, Captain Murray. On the 5th of September, in Machiavellian fashion10, both Murray and Winslow locked up the Acadian men and effectively disabled the communities. The best thing, of course, for the English, was to get all the Acadians aboard the transports and clear them out and away. But, a considerable time was to pass before this was to be accomplished. The delay, due to the late arrival of the transports ships, was not only long and painful to the distressed Acadians; but, so too, to the anxious English officers. It was, incidently, not just the seeming inability to get a sufficient number of transport vessels to Minas, but, also, the general need for supplies for the English soldiers and for the growing number of people being brought under their charge. Winslow's pleas to Colonel Monckton at Chignecto were completely ignored; and those made directly to Governor Lawrence were eventually to be responded to but only after an interminable delay.

Winslow was persuaded that "the government has not provided sufficient vessels."11 Further, he was of the view that what was to come was to come from Chignecto where Monckton was in charge. And further, Winslow was persuaded, that it was Monckton who was responsible for the delay, -- though, officer like, he made no direct statements to that effect.12 On August 31st, Winslow despatched Lt. Crooker in the "large whale boat" with despatches that had come up from Halifax and a letter from himself to Monckton: "I apprehend you have directions to supply us with ammunition of which we stand in present need ... let not flints & cartridges be forgotten ... [also] molasses."13 Within the week a vessel came in from Chignecto. The requested supplies were aboard, together with 50 men, presumably sent to reenforce Winslow. This was done, clearly on Governor Lawrence's orders, not because of any request made by Winslow. There was a letter delivered to Winslow by Monckton's commissary; it is telling that there was, at this time, no note from Monckton himself.

Winslow and Murray waited. They both had prisoners now under guard. What was needed were the transports in sufficient number to carry the inhabitants off. But where were they? They had five, but three times that number would be needed. Though apprehensive, due to the reported difficulties at Chignecto, Winslow experienced no trouble with his Acadians. On September the 8th Captain Murray was to write from Fort Edward: "I ... am extremely pleased that things are so clever at Grand Pré and that the poor devils are so resigned. Here [Piziquid] they are more patient than I could have expected for people in their circumstances, and, which still surprises me more, is the indifference of the women who really seem quite unconcerned."14

The differences between the characters of Murray and Winslow may well be perceived in the reading of the two short biographical sketches I have made. The correspondence between the two certainly show that Winslow, though conscious of his duty, was compassionate in the manner in which he carried it out. This conclusion is supported by all of his actions and is readily spotted in his writings, for example, in writing Murray on September 5th, "Things are now very heavy on my heart."15 Another example is to be had in his letter to Hinshelwood at Halifax, dated September 29th, 1755, "it hurts me to hear their weeping & waling and nashing of teeth, I am in hopes our affairs will soon put on another face and we get transports and I [am] rid of the worst peace of service ever I was in."16 Murray, on the other hand, treated the Acadians as a sub-species: "you know our soldiers hate them and if they can find a pretense to kill them, they will ... I long much to see the poor wretches embarked and our affair a little settled and then I will do myself the pleasure of meeting you and drinking your good voyage."17

I mentioned that Winslow experienced no trouble with his Acadians, and, generally, throughout all of this, that seemed to have been the case; though, there were a couple of times when he was obliged to tangle with his prisoners. The first time was to occur on September the 10th. Early on that day, there was a disturbance of which we have no details. This was to bring home once again to Winslow's mind the danger of keeping 500 men prisoners when all he had was but 300 men to do the job. He hardly had enough men to act as around-the-clock guards. Then, there was the business of sending out patrols to the surrounding areas to see if indeed all the Acadian men had responded to the order to come in, to verify counts and to check on the families. And, so too, at any given time there was a detachment of men out on courier service, either to Fort Edward, or Annapolis Royal, or off in the whale boat to Chignecto. As we have seen, the transport vessels that Governor Lawrence had arranged to come up from Boston had begun to arrive on August the 30th, three of them arrived: the Mary, the Endeavour and the Industry. The number was to come up to five, when, the Elizabeth came in on the 4th and the Leynord on the 6th. Now, when his concern about the trouble in camp was combined with the observation that he had five empty transports hanging on their rodes just at the mouth of the Gaspereau, a switch was thrown in Winslow's head. Why! He would, -- he would use these five vessels as floating prisons. These transports couldn't swallow up all the Acadian men that he had by then imprisoned; but, if he could get a couple of hundred of them onto the vessels, then, that would relieve his situation considerably.

Winslow called his officers together and informed them of his plans which he wished to carry out without delay on that day, the 10th. He would put fifty French men on each of the five transports. The youngest and strongest would be chosen. To bolster the crew of the vessels he would put aboard six soldiers on each. An armed vessel, the Warren (Capt. Adams) was also at the mouth of the Gaspereau River and it could act as a shepherd. The five transports and the Warren once loaded would then drop down into deeper water. The trick would be to get these men embarked.

At Grand Pré there was a sixty-five year old Acadian by the name of François Landry. He had a farm at la rivière des Habitants and had come, in response to the English order, to the church at Grand Pré with his sons, only to be captured there along with all the rest of the Acadian adult men. He was to become the spokesman for his fellows; this, mainly, I suppose, because he could speak English.18 Winslow sent for Landry on the morning of the 10th and he was soon standing before Winslow, likely with cap in hand. Winslow "told him the time was come for part of the inhabitants to embark and that the number concluded for this day was 250 and that we should begin with the young men and desired he would inform his brethren of it." Landry was, as Winslow explains, "greatly surprised." Winslow responded, "it must be done." Landry was to get the Acadian men lined up in the yard six deep with the young men to the left. Winslow then told Landry that there was not much time as the transports would be pulled up at high tide, -- they had but an hour to get themselves ready. Now, it seems clear that Winslow did not tell Landry that he was taking this step for security reasons, seemingly not wanting to give the Acadians any idea that they, the English, were at all concerned about their position; for, every one in the camp and soon the women outside the camp came to the idea that the men were to be shipped away as a separate lot.19 This belief on the part of the Acadians was to cause quite a scene.

All of Winslow's men, I would say a couple of hundred, were lined up with guns at the ready.20 The Acadians were assembled. The young Acadian men, as had been directed were to the left; they were separated out and a count was made: 141 of them. Captain Adams, with eighty men, was ordered to put them under guard and march them to the vessels. These young men were ordered to march. They were all possessed with the idea that they were to be torn from their families and sent away at once; and they all, in great excitement, refused to obey the marching order. These men did not want to be separated from their fathers who were then just opposite them and on the right. These young men continued to assert they would not move without their fathers. They responded in unison, No, no, -- they would not move. Winslow wanted most of all to avoid blood shed, and, knew that he must take the matter firmly into his hands for the sake of his own men and that of the prisoners. He dramatically stepped up and with firm resolve rudely grabbed a young French demonstrator. "I do not understand the word, "No" in the face of the king's command and shoved him with great force in the direction of the path they were to take. "There would be no parleys or delays." Winslow called out to his line of soldiers to advance with fixed bayonets. The young man picked himself up and started to move down the path, fearfully looking back over his shoulder; the rest followed, albeit slowly. They went off, as Winslow was to write in his diary, "praying, singing, and crying." The families of these men were stationed, it seems on route, one that extended for a mile and a half from the church to the bank of the river mouth. The women were inconsolable, thinking, as they did, that these dearly loved young men were to be taken away from them. They were there at stations, along the route, "in great lamentation, upon their knees, praying" with unallayed grief stamped on their faces.21

Soon, there followed the second lot under escort of 80 men and Captain Osgood. The married men followed along, and, as Winslow was to put it, "the ice being broken," they did so without incident. The second group amounted to 89 men, so with the 141 young men, the English had successfully embarked 230 Acadian men aboard the five transports.22

Maintaining the 250 men aboard the vessels might have proven to be a problem for the English, but a simple solution was struck upon; Winslow was to allow the Acadian women who were ashore to take care of their men aboard the ships. He would "permit them to have their familys and friends provide for them their victuals and dress it and send it on board." To accomplish this, the transports would move up once a day on the high tide near the shore, and -- well, Winslow explains:

"I ordered all the boats to attend on the top of every tide that should happen in the day time to receive such provisions as should be brought by the women and children for those on board their respective vessels, and that a French man come in every boat to receive and see that the provisions be delivered to each person to whom it was sent and to permit as many French people to go on board to see their friends as their several boats could carry."23
Though 230 men were imprisoned on the transports, there was still left on shore, within the pickets, close on to 200 French Acadian men to guard; Winslow was to yet have his hands full. In addition to guard duty, men were needed to send out on daily patrols. So, too, Winslow determined to assign certain of his men to go and assist the Acadian women and children, where needed, in order to get the crops in.24 These activities required all of the supervisory talent that Winslow and his three captains could muster, as, being but part time soldiers (in large part, militia from New England), there was a tendency on the part of some of the men to get out beyond the officers' sight and harass the locals.25 Like most occupying armies, there were those among Winslow's detachment who thought that the people and their goods were there for the taking. Winslow, however, we see, was to keep a pretty good command over his men. Orders of the day (September 13th): "That all officers and soldiers provide them selves with water before sun set for that no party or person will be admitted out after calling the roll on any account whatever, as many bad things have been done lately, in the night ... to the distress [of] the French inhabitants in this neighbourhood and in the day when the company wants water a sergeant or corporal to go with the party who are not to suffer the men to intermeddle with the French or their effects."26

On September 15th, a detachment under Captain Lewis was to arrive overland from Halifax. He had with him despatches for Captain Murray and for Colonel Winslow. He also had with him the deputies that had been held as prisoners at Halifax since early in the summer; they had been sent up so that they "may go off with their families." This newly arrived group under Lewis was to be strengthened by taking detachments from both Murray and Winslow, as was ordered, in order that Lewis might be in a position to be sent off to Cobequid. Further, Lawrence ordered Winslow to send a detachment down through the long valley to assist Major Handfield at Annapolis Royal.27 (See map.) Further, by Lawrence's despatches received on the 15th, Lawrence ordered Captain Murray "to send [Piziquid to Halifax] a party twice a week to acquaint the Lieut. Governor how everything goes."28

On the 17th, Winslow was to write a long report to Governor Lawrence. In this report29, Winslow was to observe that the Acadians "were greatly struck" by the steps that he had taken (loading their men aboard the five transports on the 10th) and was to express his belief that "they [the Acadians] did not believe then nor to this day do I imagine that they are actually to be removed." He advises how he lets twenty men off the vessels, ten for each district of Grand Pré and Canards, in order for them to check on their families and to assist in the running of the mills so that all might be fed. The men to go were picked by the Acadians themselves and required to return in twenty-four hours, when the next twenty could immediately go for the next twenty-four hours. This system seem to work very well. Winslow then informs the governor of his disappointment that the greater number of the transports have yet to arrive, nor has the provision ship arrived which is meant to supply the transports. He hears that "Mr. Saul and the fleet" had arrived at Chignecto on August the 20th, "What's detained them I cannot tell." He then explains how he has employed "Fifty men a day for four days past to gather in the harvest to whom I ventured to promise pay, and the French women & boys assisted with their cattle to get in to the adjacent barns." The harvest, Winslow identifies as oats and wheat. He would have proceeded to start killing the cattle, except for the fact that these Acadians yet considered the cattle to be their property; he would wait on that until the Acadians have been shipped out.30 In any event, he has no salt for pickling purposes, "don't know where to find a peck of it in the country. Should be glad of a supply."31 Winslow continues, "Bread is the most essential thing we want for although we are surrounded with wheat yet can't obtain one bushel of meal as the streams that carry the water mills are low." The windmills, which apparently the Acadians had, as Winslow observed, grind slowly, and ground no more than that could be, and which apparently was, immediately consumed by the inhabitants. As for the party to be sent to Cobequid: it was to go off the next day, the 18th and was, in addition to Captain Lewis, to consist of 4 lieutenants, 5 sergeants, 4 corporals and 100 privates. This contingent was made up of an equal number of men from the Grand Pré camp and from Fort Edward, consistent with Lawrence's orders. Winslow then advised, however, that he was obliged to send up to Captain Murray at Fort Edward, in order to fill up his depleted ranks, an officer (Ensign Gay), a sergeant, a corporal and 30 privates. So, too, he has formed a party to go to the assistance of Major Handfield at Annapolis Royal: an officer (Lieutenant Peabody), two sergeants, a corporal and 35 privates. The Annapolis deputies, 27 of them, part of a larger group that had come up with Lewis from Halifax on the 15th were to go along with the detachment headed for Annapolis Royal.32 Then, Winslow, so as to fully make his point, explains how he has thirty of his men stationed on the transports, another thirty out gathering up cattle so that they can be sent to Halifax so to provision the royal navy, and, has ten men sick. And, concludes, "so that in fact I have only in my camp 158 non commissioned officers and private men to guard nearly twice their number, besides doing other duty, which makes things extremely heavy and I am not quite so easy in my present circumstances as I wish to be."

On September the 19th, Winslow writes Monckton: "Have upwards to 500 French men which with their families amount to 2000 persons. Have parties at Cobequid, Fort Edward, Annapolis and for collecting of cattle etc. ... Should be glad Mr. Saul might be hurried with transports this way." Plainly, Winslow was of the view that his compliment of transports would come from Chignecto; but none were to come to Winslow's assistance from that quarter. Mr. Saul, a provisioner from Halifax with important connections, was indeed, by then, at Chignecto with two supply ships. Saul was victualing the Chignecto Transports that had gone directly to Chignecto, and had arrived there on August the 21st, seven of them. At the same time he writes Monckton, Winslow writes a couple of letters33 to his officers and friends at Chignecto. To Major Jedidiah Preble, he writes: "I have two frenchmen to an Englishman, which I never could have kept had it not been for my precaution of picketing in my camp. I am really distressed for want of men, when I can't [help] but think you abound. Provisions I am also obliged to conjure for. And what detains Mr. Saul and the transports with you ... we really live well for eating but no bung save honest flipe ..." (As an aside, I might note that I know what flip is -- "a mixture of beer and spirit sweetened with sugar and heated with a hot iron -- but, as for bung? Distilled liquor, I suppose.)

The days pass and Winslow's position deteriorated. The weather turned bad. Winslow was worried about the men who were imprisoned on the transports. In fine weather they can be supplied by their own families by boats; but when the weather was foul, then the transports were obliged to hang on their anchor rodes; and, the people on board went without their food. In bad weather, some of the women folk try to get food out to their men. There was one incident, where, apparently, a small boat capsized and all were tossed into the water, with the result that one woman was in danger of death.34 On the 23rd, Winslow sends off another message to Handfield at Annapolis: "Encumbered with many things, I steal a moment to let you know that we are all [but holding on] ... taking care of today and letting tomorrow take care of itself. We have not had the least intelligence from any quarter ... expected ere this to have been strengthened from Chignecto, but now despair of that or of transports from that quarter."35 On the 25th he writes Murray at Fort Edward and says that he hears that there are some French strangers in the next valley or two, away (River Habitant). He believes they have come down from the Chignecto area to encourage the Acadian in the Minas area to take a stand. He wrote, "I am extremely weak in men & some of the French say they will be prisoners but a little longer."36 Murray replied on the 26th, "I am amazed what can keep the transports & Saul. Surely our friend (Monckton) at Chignecto is willing to give us as much of our old neighbours company (reenforcements) as he can. I sincerely wish no accident has happened to them."37

[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 12 - "The Deportation at Grand Pré, Part II."]

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