A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 13 --
"Deportations at Pisiquid & Annapolis Royal."

The Deportation at Pisiquid:

To a large degree the events at Piziquid have already been dealt with, as was necessary, in the Acadian deportation at Grand Pré. Piziquid is but the northeastern area of the larger territory of which it forms part: Minas. The deportation of the inhabitants of River Gaspereau and Grand Pré, and of Rivers Canard and Habitant, was directly superintended by Colonel John Winslow. Piziquid -- which, then had the only English fort in the Minas area, was under the direct command of Captain Alexander Murray. Thus, it is, that many of the particulars -- to the extent we know them1 -- have already been dealt with in these pages; I but use this section to give additional background and to fill in some of that material peculiar to Piziquid and to which I have yet to refer.

In 1680, we have seen, the Minas area was first settled by a few Acadian families that came up from Port Royal (see map). Due to very close family connections, communications were kept up between Port Royal and the new communities at Minas. No doubt other young members of the Port Royal families decided to make the move to the fertile creeks which abound in the Minas area, the furthest ones of which would have been found in Piziquid. It was during the last of the concluding years of the 17th century and the beginning years of the 18th that the number of French inhabitants in the area significantly increased.2 A census of all the Acadian parishes, in 1714, show a count of 1,259 souls.3 The greatest concentration of Acadians was then to be found at Port Royal, it had 210 families. This is to be compared to River Habitants with 24 families; "River of Old Habitation", 5 families; River Canard, 10 families; River Gaspereau, one family (the Gautreaux family); Piziquid, 53 families; Cobequid, 22 families; and Beaubassin, 60 families.

We know little of the events that occurred in Minas in the 70 year period after the Acadians had first established themselves there. These, relatively speaking, for Acadia, were years of peace. [See "Annapolis Royal (1720-39)."] The only records we have available to us for this period were those that were kept at Annapolis Royal, mostly minutes of Council. The Acadians, themselves (and it is for this reason that the story of Acadia, must, of necessity, be so one sided) did not keep records, as, but only the exceptional Acadian could write.4 What we can conclude, is, that, for the first half of the 18th century these Acadian families prospered. They were seasonal farmers who raised cattle and sheep, and children, lots of children. Their success could be primarily contributed to the rich alluvial soils to be found thereabouts. They learned how to cut productive lands out of the salt marshes surrounding the lower reaches of the rivers that drained into Minas Basin; this they did by building earthen dikes. There was, during these years, as a practical matter, no one to bother them: they depended but upon themselves and their extended families: they prospered: and they multiplied.

The fortunes of the French in North America, and for those in Acadia in particular, were to take an ominous turn, when, in 1744, The War of the Austrian Succession broke out. It was to end with a "treaty." [The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), as history was to show, was more of a truce then a treaty.] Both sides soon were to realize that the last war had not solved a thing and both were building up their defences in anticipation of another. It was then that Acadia, an English possession long neglected, was to get a significant boast with The Founding of Halifax and The Fortification of Peninsular Nova Scotia. With war looming and the English fearing that the Acadian population represented a potential "fifth column," there was to be renewed pressure put on the Acadians to get them to swear absolute allegiance to the British crown, something that they steadfastly maintained they would not do. Life for the Acadian farmer, beginning in 1749, was never to be the same again; and, in 1755, their way of life, as they had long known it, came abruptly to an end.

As part of the larger English plan to fortify Nova Scotia, to which we have referred, within a couple of months of Cornwallis' arrival at Halifax, in 1749, Captain John Handfield, to whom we will shortly make greater reference, an officer who had long been at Annapolis Royal, was ordered up with a detachment of soldiers to establish themselves at Minas. By November there was in place "a picketed fort containing a blockhouse."5 Also, Captain St. Loe with a detachment was positioned on the western side of the Piziquid River (Falmouth). Fort Edward, on the western side (present day Windsor) was not built until the summer of 1750. Charles Lawrence, then being under the orders of Governor Cornwallis, was to personally oversee the construction using materials that were originally meant to be used in the construction of the intended fort at Chignecto. (As we have seen, Lawrence's first descent on Chignecto, in April of that year, was unsuccessful. It was to be in the fall of 1750, after Lawrence's successful second descent, that Fort Lawrence at the isthmus was built.)

During the first part of April, 1750, Lawrence and about three hundred military men moved themselves through Piziquid in order to get to Captain Handfield's fort (likely positioned on the high ground overlooking Grand Pré). Lawrence's objective was to get to the Isthmus of Chignecto in order to block the French military, which, it was rumoured, had built themselves a new fort, Fort Beauséjour. (See map.) These English troop movements, both in 1749 and in 1750, were to trigger discussion amongst the Acadian farmers in the area. Big trouble was brewing and they likely thought they were going to be caught in the middle of an armed conflict. So, too, Indians, sworn allies of the French were making their presence felt; led, as they were, by black robed agents of the French, the most active of them at this time being Le Loutre. These Acadians, who wanted nothing but to be left alone felt seriously threatened by all sides. Thus, we see, that in April of 1750, "deputies arrive at Halifax from River Canard, Grand Pré and Piziquid, asking for leave to evacuate the Province, and to carry off their effects." They also, as James Hannay pointed out, "announced their determination not to sow their fields." Cornwallis at this time, "replied in a most kind and conciliatory strain."6 If it was Indians these Acadians were concerned about, and it seems little doubt they were, then he would see to their protection. In March of 1751: Cornwallis strengthened the English positions at both Piziquid (Fort Edward) and, at Minas (Vieux Logis).7 It should be noted that a number of Acadians (among them your compiler's ancestors), at this time, 1749-51, did in fact depart; no matter whether they had the leave of anyone to do so, or not. They were to feel, I am sure, that they would be safer by getting themselves into French territory such as Ile St Jean (Prince Edward Island), Ile Royal (Cape Breton) and/or beyond the isthmus at Chignecto (New Brunswick). And while a number of Minas Acadians left, the greater number of them determined to continue farming their ancient lands, hoping for the best.

As the fateful year of 1755 approached, things did not get better. At Piziquid, matters were on a bad footing. The French inhabitants were grateful for the facility of the English fort, Fort Edward. It likely did have the intended effect of keeping the Indians at bay; and, too, there was now a trading post located within the fort, or possibly just outside. (In 1754, we would have found Isaac Deschamps, afterwards the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, working as a clerk in Joshua Maugher's store at Piziquid.8.) On balance though, especially with the arrival of a new English commander at Fort Edward, Captain Alexander Murray, there was to be increasing trouble. In the autumn of 1754, Murray was to report that "the local habitants had refused to bring in firewood and timber for Fort repairs. It was determined that Abbé Daubin, their priest, was behind this trouble. First summoned and then arrested Daubin and five Acadians are brought to Halifax under guard and sent back to Piziquid with orders to supply the required wood."9 In another piece of correspondence, this time to his wife who was to live in the relatively safer confines of the fortifications at Halifax, dated April 10th, 1755, we see Murray writing, "I have not been off the Hill (Fort) since you went away excepting" a small trip to buy some "skins" and another time to "dine with the Indians."10

While Murray was "dining with the Indians," the great historical pendulum had commenced its swing: in its great arc of 1755, as far as Acadia was concerned, it was to come down and slice away from the French their fort at the isthmus, Fort Beauséjour, and, this pendulum, with its great weight, to dislodge the bulk of the Acadian population, to send them off, reeling, to foreign ports, away from their beloved Acadia. The success of Monckton and his forces in the taking of Fort Beauséjour in June of 1755 gave the English the momentum to take a step they had long contemplated.

Lawrence had a concern for the English forces which he expected would arrive at Chignecto during the latter part of May. His concern was that the French forces at Fort Beauséjour would be bolstered by men and supplies from the Minas area. On May 25th, he wrote Murray at Piziquid.

"I desire you would, at this time also, acquaint the Deputies that their Happiness and future welfare depends very much on their present behaviour, & that they may be assured, if any Inhabitant either old or Young should offer to go to Beauséjour, or to take arms or induce others to commit any Act of Hostility upon the English, or to make any Declaration in favour of the French, they will be treated as Rebels, their Estates and Families undergo immediate Military Execution, and their persons if apprehended shall suffer the utmost Rigour of the Law, and every severity that I can inflict; and on the other Hand such Inhabitants as behave like English Subjects, shall enjoy English Liberty & Protection."11
In June, Captain Murray, in obedience of this order, took steps, on the representation that he is to enforce the corn embargo, and denied the Acadians the use of their boats; and, further, he required the Acadians in the area of Minas to hand in their arms.12 As it was, on June the 16th, the French were to surrender their fort at Beauséjour, and, shortly thereafter, the English under Monckton were to take command of the entire area at the Isthmus of Chignecto. As the summer wore on, Governor Lawrence was to realize the opportunity that then presented itself. With a surplus of troops at the isthmus and with the Acadians having been effectively disarmed; he could, once and for all, deal with the vexing problem of having Acadians in his backyard. On the 28th of July, the governing Council at Halifax, resolved to send the Acadians out of the province, "to be distributed amongst the several colonies on the continent, and that a sufficient number of vessels should be hired with all possible expedition for that purpose." The wheels were thus put in motion. After effecting the necessary communications (a slow process in the mid 18th century) Winslow, who had been with Monckton at the isthmus, was despatched with about three hundred men to supervise the removal of the Acadians in the Minas area. He was to do this in conjunction with the commander at Piziquid, Captain Murray. (We dealt with these events, centering as they did at Grand Pré in: "Grand Pré, Part I" and "Grand Pré, Part II.")

We have given details of the Grand Pré roundup of the Acadians and the confrontation at the church on September the 5th. The same thing was to occur at Piziquid except the Acadians came to Fort Edward. Details are missing, as Murray's journal, if he kept one, has not come down to us. We do know, however, that 183 men came into Fort Edward and were there imprisoned.13 (This is to be compared to the 418 which Winslow had captured.) Murray's object was the same as that of Winslow's at Grand Pré; and, Murray succeeded equally as well, if not better. The sequence of events was much the same as those that were to unfold at Grand Pré as has been dealt with, beginning with the surprise capture of the men on September the 5th. After a long and exasperating wait for the transports, finally on October 10th, a number of these transports came into Minas Basin from Annapolis Royal. Of these, three (the Three Friends, Dolphin and the Ranger), within a couple of days, were sent over to Piziquid, there to join the Neptune. These four transports were to be loaded; and, then, on October the 20th, they dropped down the basin to join the other vessels at Grand Pré. On October the 27th, 1755, as we have seen, a full fleet of 24 vessels sailed out of Minas Basin. While there was yet left 500 or so Acadians at Grand Pré (shipped in December), as for the rest of Minas, and in particular the Piziquid valley, the territory, as of the end of October, 1755, was emptied of its Acadian inhabitants.14

The Deportation at Annapolis Royal:

We are not able to go into the details of the deportation at Annapolis Royal as we did of those at Grand Pré. This is not because the events were not as dramatic; they undoubtedly were, if not more so; it's just that we have no journals like that of Winslow's to which we might turn.

Annapolis Royal is the seat and forever the capital of Acadia. It was known during the times when the French flag flew over it, as Port Royal. Its history is intimately wrapped up in the larger History of Nova Scotia being most prominent during the earlier parts, two of which are "The Founding of Port Royal" and "The Taking of Port Royal (1710)."

The French Acadian population at Annapolis Royal, particularly in the early part of the 18th century, did not experience the same growth rate as was experienced in other parts of Acadia. The families, there, were as prolific as ever, it's just that there was to be an outflux of young Acadians. This was as a result of a combination of two forces. The easily diked land along the Annapolis River was becoming more scarce and certain members of the large Acadian families spread their wings and relocated to the western shores of the Minas Basin. From there, secondary waves carried along up the Minas Basin towards its eastern extremity, Cobequid. Others proceeded from Port Royal by boat to what was to be the most promising lands as found at the Isthmus of Chignecto, there to establish Beaubassin. (See map.) The second force which drove the Acadians away from their ancestral seat was the near presence of a garrison of English soldiers. In 1710, the British flag was to permanently fly over the ramparts of Fort Anne. Prior to that time, as a regular occurrence, during the 17th century, New England raiders would come up and cause havoc; this in response to the French raids (initiated in Quebec) on the frontier towns of New England.

In 1755, at Annapolis, a 55 year old regular British officer, Major John Handfield was in charge. Handfield was just one of those lonely British army officers, who during the 1720s, 1730s and 1740s, during times of peace, were charged with the duty to keep safe the English king's territory of Nova Scotia. I have dealt with this era in an earlier part of my work ["Annapolis Royal (1720-39)"], sufficient to say here at this place that John Handfield (unlike Winslow at Grand Pré and Murray at Piziquid) had a long connection with Annapolis Royal and a close relationship with the French inhabitants along the Annapolis River. At some point, I'm not sure when, as did other officers of the garrison, Handfield married one of the local French girls. He married one of the Winniett girls, Élizabeth (b.1713). With the arrival of Cornwallis and the general strengthening of the British presence in Acadia in 1749, Handfield was sent up in the fall of the year from Annapolis Royal with 100 men to establish a stronghold at Minas. He did not stay there long and was soon back at his command at Annapolis Royal, which is where we find him as the momentous events of 1755 were to unfold.

Handfield, apparently, in the business of corralling the French in preparation for their deportation, was not as skillful as Winslow. It could be that the lie of the ground was different. More likely, it was that he could not be as calculating as his fellow officers were at Grand Pré and at Piziquid, simply because he was dealing, not with strangers; but, to a significant degree, with friends and family. When Handfield did make his play, the Acadians knew fully what was up and many of the men made their escape into the Acadian woods.15 We see Handfield, on August 31st, writing Winslow asking for help. It seems Handfield had sent out a party up the river and found the various villages "destitute of all the male heads of families who are entered into the woods having taken their bedding, etc., with them, therefore I am to desire you to send me a reinforcement of men so soon as you can possibly spare them that may enforce me to bring them to reason." The next day, September 1st, another letter with the same plea was sent up from Handfield to Winslow.16 It is interesting to note that not only was Handfield calling on Winslow for help, who himself thought he had too few soldiers to do the job, but Captain Murray at Piziquid within the next few days was to make a similar request of Winslow.17

Ever so conscious of his exposure -- not being within a fort but rather camped in a church yard surrounded by a picket fence -- and, the fact that he had too few soldiers to guard too many prisoners, Winslow was not anxious to send any of his men over to either Handfield or Murray: after all, did they not have the men which were assigned to them, and, a regular fort in which they might defend themselves and more easily confine their Acadian prisoners? Governor Lawrence, who continued throughout to stick to Halifax and supervise matters from there, knew of the needs of Murray and of Handfield; and, knew too, of the precarious position in which Winslow found himself. Lawrence had, as Winslow plainly suggested, more men that might be called upon at the isthmus. Sure it was, that Monckton needed a substantial number in order to garrison three forts (Fort Lawrence, and the captured French forts of Beauséjour and Gaspereau); but, after all, he had two thousand men, 700 of which were suppose to be under Winslow's orders, anyway. Monckton was most likely of the view that he needed the men he had and was likely reluctant to leave any of them go. Lawrence, it seems, intervened and did a re-balancing of the forces. I am not aware of the numbers, but it would appear that Lawrence ordered a hundred up from Halifax and another hundred down from Chignecto to strengthen Winslow. These movements were to take place during the first part of September. In a letter18 dated September 11th and received by him on the 15th, Winslow was ordered to send a detachment down through the long valley to assist Major Handfield at Annapolis Royal and on route, down the Annapolis River, to visit the Acadian communities and force the Acadian men to march with them to Annapolis Royal, advising the families to follow along with their possessions. Almost without exception, I should add, the men along the river managed to run off before the detachment come into their respective settlements: this was an experience much unlike that which occurred in the Minas area.

The situation at Annapolis Royal, was that Major Handfield had seven transport vessels that had come in and were waiting in the stream off of Annapolis Royal: the Hannah, the Dolphin, the Three Friends, the Ranger, the Swan, the Sarah & Molly, and the Prosperous. The captains of these vessels had orders to report to Handfield at Annapolis Royal; and, that they did. Now, it is recognized that Handfield had more difficulty than Winslow in getting his Acadians captured and lined up for deportation; but, in any event, he was in no position to start the embarkation process until the vessels were victualed and made ready for sea. For this he was obliged to wait, for, as we have seen, the victualing vessels under Thomas Saul were to first supply the transports at Chignecto then they were to proceed to Minas and then to Annapolis Royal, the last stop on Saul's list. Though running late, Saul arrived with his supply ships at Grand Pré on September 26th to victual the transports that he had expected would be there, and waiting. The problem was that Winslow was short of vessels, he had a few, but hardly enough. It was soon realized that unless Winslow was to get his vessels, the deportation process for both Annapolis and Minas would not proceed. So, at the suggestion of Winslow, Lawrence ordered that all the transports at Annapolis Royal should be relocated to Minas, so that, the Acadians at that place might be taken off at once. As for Handfield, Lawrence would "send him transports from hence [Halifax] in a few days to replace those we take from him."19 Winslow was to receive the governor's letter dated the 1st of October on the 4th, it having come overland, express from Halifax in the same packet as contained a letter for Major Handfield at Annapolis Royal. Within half an hour of it coming into his hands Winslow sent a party of 30 men under Lieutenant Fitch overland to Annapolis Royal. (See map.)

Handfield lost no time in getting his seven vessels sent up the Fundy. They all came into the Minas Basin and reported to Winslow on the 10th of October. Matters then progressed at Minas and within 17 days the vessels were victualed and loaded with Acadians. During this time, 10 vessels came down from Chignecto to rendezvous; and, a fleet of twenty-one transports and three escorts proceeded out of the Bay of Fundy on October the 27th to carry their worried passengers to strange lands and new destinies. (See my separate page where I have listed The Transports of Annapolis Royal.) At Annapolis Royal, Major Handfield was in the same situation which Winslow had been in, for weeks: shipless. Transports, however, as promised, were to be sent up from Halifax; and while I have not determined exactly when these additional transports were to finally arrive, we do know they did, as a fleet departed Annapolis Royal on December the 8th -- loaded with the Acadians of Annapolis. Further, Handfield was to get additional help in order to bring the Acadians together.

It is to be remembered that Handfield was to oversee the deportation of the Acadians which occupied a sizable territory, mainly along the banks of the Annapolis River which had its beginnings more then half way to Minas. (See the dividing line between nos. 1 & 2 set out on map.) The plan, pretty much from the start was that, once Winslow had seen to his Acadians at Minas, he would send a sizable detachment towards the fort at Annapolis beating all of the Acadians into the waiting arms of Handfield and his men. With Winslow's work having been substantially done by the first week in November (the Acadians deported and their buildings burnt) he sent a force of about 100 men to Annapolis: "On the third of November detached, per orders, Captains Adams and Hobbs, 3 subs and 90 non-commission officers and privates to assist Major Handfield to collect the inhabitants of Annapolis Royal."20

Captain Adams, Nathan Adams, shortly after his arrival at Annapolis, on November 10th wrote Winslow:

"Honoured, Sir,
We arrived safe here Friday last [November 7th] afternoon. The way being so extremely bad, we were obliged to lodge two nights in the woods. Our party's all well. The transports are not yet arrived. Capt. Shirley[?] in his majesty's ship sailed Saturday last. Capt. Taggert [the Halifax, Saul's provision ship] is in this port, but Adams [Captain Adams of the Warren; there is a footnote, "Nov. 11th, went for Halifax] is not heard of. Nor likewise the fleet [the 24 vessels, 21 of which were transports that had left Minas Basin on the 27th of October].
Capt. Gorham embarks this day for Chignecto in a schooner just arrived from Boston ...
Your most obedient servant to command.21

Unlike what had happened at Piziquid and at Grand Pré, Handfield did not, it would appear, round up the men on false pretenses and then pounce on them and hold them as prisoners until they could be embarked upon the transports with their families. He let each go their own way in exchange for a promise that they would report in with their families when the transports were ready to receive them. This approach did not work as well as that which was used by Winslow and Murray, as Murray was to observe to Winslow:
"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.
When I think of those at Annapolis, I applaud our thoughts of summoning them in. I am afraid there will be some lives lost before they are all gotten together, you know our soldiers hate them and if they can find a pretense to kill them, they will."

Due to lack of details of the deportation at Annapolis Royal, we can but only speculate on how matters proceeded. We know of the emotional difficulties which Winslow, the officer in charge at Grand Pré, had experienced and to which we have already referred. As to the rest of the English officers throughout Acadia: well, we can, on the whole, but only imagine what their reactions were to the carrying out their orders to round up and to transport the French Acadians, this, this "very disagreeable business." But this business could not have been any more disagreeable than it was to Major John Handfield, the English officer in charge at Annapolis Royal. What unfolded at Annapolis Royal is a story of great drama, and that great tale has yet to be told. There, there is Handfield married to a French Acadian, Elizabeth Winniett, the grand daughter of Pierre Maisonnat, "Baptiste," the famous French privateer. And there, there is Elizabeth's mother, Baptiste's daughter, Marie-Madeleine23 -- she was the sister to Alexandre Bourg24, one of the French deputies who had been appointed to see over his French brethren at Minas and beyond. Imagine! If you will, as this English officer, this commander of the forces throughout the territory, went about his duties -- went about the business of loading his wife's close relatives onto the transports. Handfield knew most all of the senior members of this Acadian community as individuals; I imagine most all, by first names. Many of these Acadians had helped the British in their establishment at Annapolis Royal for many years. Take, for example, Louis Robichaux (1704-1780): Robichaux was a merchant at Annapolis Royal and the British troops were his best customers. He, in 1730, as did a large number of Acadians, took an unconditional oath to be "completely loyal" to George the II. During May and June of 1744, when Robichaux and the British knew an attack was imminent, he and his family employed themselves repairing the fortifications at Annapolis Royal.25 Because of his affiliation he "was twice plundered of his household goods and cattle and twice taken prisoner by the French. Each time they managed to escape." The loyalty of those of the Robichaux family didn't help them much when the orders came down to deport all Acadians. The best that Handfield could do was to give the Robichaux family a choice as to where they wanted to go. They choose Boston and lived in the area until the American Revolution, when, loyal as they always were to the British crown, they moved to Quebec, where, in 1780, Louis Robichaux died of the scourge of the age, smallpox.

A total of 1664 Acadians were deported from Annapolis Royal. "We have embarked 1664 on board 2 ships, 3 snows & one Brigantine who sailed from Goat Island and the Baltimore, sloop of war was their convoy. It is generally judged about 300 of the inhabitants of the head of this river are gone into the woods and the remainder sent off to the great mortification of some of our friends." And, as a footnote, our contemporary witness, adds in his letter of December 8th, 1755, "This morning at 5, the fleet sailed out of the basin with a fair wind."26

[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 14 - "The Deportation at Chignecto And The Destruction of Cobequid."]

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