A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 15 --
"The Voyages."

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies - But in battalions." (Shaks.: Hamlet.)
As we have seen, on October 27th, 1755, a fleet of twenty-four sailing vessels sailed from the Minas Basin. It consisted of 21 transports escorted by three armed vessels.1 Aboard the transports were 4217 Acadians who were deported away from their native lands at Minas and Chignecto. I quote from William A. Calnek's history:
"We cannot follow the wretched and heart-broken exiles in their dispersion, nor recount the deaths on the way, nor speculate on the deaths from diseases, contracted in crowded holds of vessels, where no sanitary or even decent arrangements could be provided or were attempted; the deaths from hardships and privations afterwards, and the lingering and in some cases life-long agony of separated members of a family inquiring and searching for each other throughout the continent, among an alien people for the most part unsympathetic or indifferent; and the almost interminable journeys of detached groups, wholly destitute, seeking to make their way to some place of rest among people congenial in language and religion, or disposed to extend sympathy and charity to a robbed and ruined people."2
The story of these "wretched and heart-broken" people making their way to some place of rest, is a story, if it could be told, which would extend over generations. The wave of misery which was to first flood over them while assembled in their churches at Acadia as the deportation orders were read out rebounded as they were herded on underprovisioned and overcrowded transports. The misery rebounded when sea storms hit their wooden sailing vessels and rebounded as they were delivered into English communities who thought them pests. Their delivery to the English colonies was but the beginning of another phase of the extirpation of these innocent people: they were to face years of poverty and deprivation. Only their children and their children's children were to find a "place of rest among people congenial in language and religion." Only with the passing with the 18th century did these Acadians find peace once again and did so in such diverse areas of the world as Louisiana in the United States and Belle-Isle-en-Mer in France.

Sea Storm:-

From different quarters of the historical record we see that the fleet, which bore the Acadians, and which left Minas Basin on October the 27th, was struck by a "a furious gale." It would seem that this storm sweep the fleet even before they were able to clear the Bay of Fundy. A storm at sea is frightening enough for seasoned sailors; it must have been a frightening event for the 4,000 or so Acadians, a body of people which included the young, the old and the infirmed. These people were farmers and some of the adult men might have had some experience with row boats; none would have had any sea experience, at all. What is it like to be at sea in a storm, let us turn to Joseph Conrad:

"'A gale is a gale, Mr. Jukes. ... There's just so much dirty weather knocking about the world, and the proper thing is to go through it ...'
It was something formidable and swift, like the sudden smashing of a vile of wrath. It seemed to explode all round the ship with an overpowering concussion and a rush of great waters, as if an immense dam had been blown up to windward. In an instant the men lost touch of each other. This is the disintegrating power of a great wind: it isolates one from one's kind. An earthquake, a landslip, an avalanche, overtake a man incidently, as it were -- without passion. A furious gale attacks him like a personal enemy, tries to grasp his limbs, fastens upon his mind, seeks to rout his very spirit out of him. ...
The motion of the ship was extravagant. Her lurches had an appalling helplessness: she pitched as if taking a header into the void, and seemed to find a wall to hit every time. ... The gale howled and scuffed about gigantically in the darkness, as though the entire world were one black gully. ..."
And, in describing the results of the storm Conrad proceeded in his inimitable way to describe the vessel as having been
"looted by the storm with a senseless, destructive fury: trysails torn out of the extra gaskets, double lashed awnings blown away, bridge sweep clean, weather cloths burst, rails twisted, lightscreens smashed -- and two of the boats had gone already. They had gone unheard and unseen, melting, as it were, in the shock and smother of the wave."3
By November 5th, the fleet, at least in part, limped into Boston seeking shelter. We see from the records where the authorities ordered an enquiry on that date. This led to on board inspections. Certain of the vessels seem to have more of their share of "sickly" passengers, others, such as the Neptune, with 209 aboard, were found to be "healthy but about 40 lie upon the deck." More generally there is a comment: "The vessels in general are too much crowded; their allowance of provisions short ... to small a quantity ... to carry them to the ports they are bound to especially at this season of the year; and their water very bad."4 It is necessary to follow up with the findings of the unnamed inspector at Boston, viz., "The vessels in general are too much crowded; their allowance of provisions short."


Thomas Saul, who was in charge of the government stores at Halifax, needed to gather all he could in order to provision the Acadians for their sea voyage. I believe, from what I have read, that he did his best; but, he had only so much to work with.5 Saul, proceeding under Governor Lawrence's written instructions6 given at Halifax and dated, August the 11th, 1755, was to sail to each of the embarkation points in the Bay of Fundy and provision the vessels so that they could stay at sea for 20 to 30 days. The instructions read, "You are to victual every person for thirty days bound to the southward of Philadelphia and those that shall be disembarked at Philadelphia or to the northward thereof shall be victualed each person for twenty days ..." Each transport was to be supplied with food so that each person aboard for a seven day period was to have "Five pounds of French flower7, Two pounds of bread, and one pound of beef." Still, it is curious that when the sea storm tossed vessels made their way into Boston Harbour on November 6th, but ten days after they left Acadia, that our inspector should comment, "their allowance of provisions short." What was it? Did they eat too much in the first few days? Or, is it that provisions were sweep overboard during the storm?


As for the transport vessels being crowded: well, plainly they were. The officers in charge at Minas were aware that they were loading on more people then they ought to. John Winslow at Grand Pré knew of the problem: "And although I put in more than two to a ton8, and the people greatly crowded ..."9 And while Winslow pushed the limits, he was, at least, aware of them; and, indeed, he determined not to attempt to ship all of his Grand Pré Acadians. He kept back about 600 of them and they were not shipped out until that December. On the other hand, the indelicate officer at Fort Edward, Alexander Murray, wanted to get every Acadian in his district, Piziquid, off of his hands, no matter the consequences: "Even then with [four vessels at Piziquid] ... they [the Acadians] will be stowed in bulk but if I have no more vessels I will put them aboard let the consequences be what it will."10 On these Piziquid transports Murray, originally squeezed "920 people ... children included."11 These vessels were not to be loaded to a greater extent then "two to the ton"; the four vessels amounted to 246 tons; thus, there should have been loaded no more than 500 people, yet, twice the number were loaded. Winslow and Murray were to relieve this situation, somewhat by finding another vessel, which just happened to be in the area, the Seaflower, such that the 920 people were spread out over five vessels with an additional hundred from other areas, so that the five sailed on October 27th with 1062 aboard; still, seemingly, seriously overcrowded.

It should not be concluded, notwithstanding Longfellow's fanciful poem, that any great number of Acadian family members were to be separated from one another; though, I am sure some were. The loading did not go on at a leisurely pace. The transports, at least at Minas, arrived very late. As Captain Murray at Fort Edward was to write, "the weather is bad ... [further] I am afraid the governor will think us dilatory."

Brook Watson12, who as a young man was at Chignecto during 1755, wrote Dr. Brown from London in 1791:

"In September I was directed to proceed with a party of Provincials to the Baie Verte, then considerable and flourishing settlement, there to wait further orders, which I received on the following days, to collect and send to Beausejour, for embarkation, all the women and the children to be found in that district, and, on leaving the town, to fire it; this painful task performed, I was afterwards employed in victualing the transports for their reception; the season was now far advanced before the embarkation took place, which caused much hurry, and I fear some families were divided and sent to different parts of the globe, notwithstanding all possible care was taken to prevent it."13

The Disembarkation Of The Acadians:-


Of the 21 transports that sailed on October 27th, there was only the one that was to disembark her Acadians at Boston, that was the Seaflower. She carried 206 persons which had lived in the Grand Pré and Piziquid areas. The likelihood is that she was one of a number of transports that had, by November 5th, limped into Boston seeking shelter, as, you will recall, the fleet shortly after departing Acadia had been swept by a storm. The others -- Massachusetts not being their intended destination -- were sent on their way. If it was to be only 206 Acadians to be thrown on the citizens of Massachusetts, why, then, that would not have been so bad; but approximately 680 more Acadians were to step onto the docks in the month of December. These were the 323 aboard the Helena which had departed Annapolis Royal on December 8th; the 236 aboard the Swallow which had departed Minas Basin on December 13th; and the 120 aboard the Race Horse which had departed Minas Basin on December 20th. The Acadians aboard the Swallow and the Race Horse were from "villages of Antoine & Landry & some of Cannard."14

We can see that by December 18th, the authorities at Boston were scrambling to take care of the Acadians that were dumped on their doorstep. Lieutenant-governor Phips, on this date is seen writing Governor Lawrence, "we have received a number of the inhabitants of Nova Scotia sent hither by your order who arrived here when the winter season was so far advanced, that they could do but little for their support."15 Phips then proceeds to ask Lawrence who is to pay for all this expense. The people of Massachusetts, of course, were to lend the Acadians a hand. They were spread out, thus to occupy a number of villages. The money spent that winter to transport them, to feed them, to cloth them came by order of the people's assembly, and the people's assembly wanted the crown to pay.16 It seems there was to be a bit of a scrap between the two arms of government over this affair. Governor Shirley, of course, supported his fellow governor in dealing with a long standing problem which Shirley knew had existed in Nova Scotia. He wrote the Massachusetts legislature: "I believe Governor Lawrence had no apprehensions that it would occasion any considerable charge to this province, or that it would be a disagreeable thing to have those people sent here: I am sorry that it is likely to prove so burdensome. I have it not in my power to support them at the charge of the crown ..."17


It is interesting to note that of all the colonies, it was only Connecticut that had made some arrangements and preparations in advance to receive the deported Acadians. The Connecticut legislature passed a resolution in October, before, it seems, the transports had left Acadia on October 27th. The rest of the English colonies claimed that they had no notice and "complained they had not been apprized of the intention of Lawrence to quarter on them a body of the Acadians."18 However, of the 21 transports that departed Minas Basin on October 27th, not one came into Connecticut? It was to be December, with the later sailings, before Connecticut was to get her share of Acadians. In came the Dove with 114 Acadians aboard; she had left Minas Basin on December 13th. Another 558 were also suppose19 to have arrived at Connecticut; 278 on the Edward and another 280 on the Two Sisters; they had both departed Annapolis Royal on December the 8th.

New York:-

It is reported that one vessel was to deliver her Acadians to New York. It was the Experiment which had sailed from Annapolis Royal with 200 Acadians aboard. I do note that the agents for the Experiment, Apthorp & Hancock, billed the crown for the use of the vessel up until May 27th, 1756.20


Four of the transports of the October 27th fleet were to arrive at Annapolis, the last of them on November 30th. Now, it should normally have taken but a few days to sail down the coast from Minas Basin, so, given that they took better than a month to get to their destination, one might presume that these vessels were storm-stayed in some port (maybe Boston) for a period of time. The four vessels were: Ranger, Dolphin, Elizabeth and Leopard. The Ranger (263) and the Dolphin (230) had Piziquid Acadians aboard; the Elizabeth (186) and the Leopard (178) had Piziquid Acadians aboard.21

From The Maryland Gazette, December 4, 1755, we see the following:

"Sunday last (Nov. 30) arrived here the last of the vessels from Nova Scotia with French neutrals for this place, which make four within this fortnight who have brought upwards of 900 of them. As the poor people have been deprived of their settlements in Nova Scotia, and sent here for some political reason bare and destitute. Christian charity, nay common humanity, calls on every one according to their ability to lend their assistance and help to these objects of compassion."22

One of the escort vessels of the October 27th fleet was the Royal navy ship, Nightengale. It was intended that this ship should carry on down as far as Philadelphia.23 Presumably the Nightengale kept her charges together, as, on December 8th, three of the transports arrived at Philadelphia: Three Friends (156, ex Piziquid), Swan (168, ex Grand Pré) and Hannah (140, ex Grand Pré).

Arthur G. Doughty (Dominion Archivist), in his work, The Acadian Exiles was to write of the Acadians who arrived at Philadelphia:

"The vessels touched Delaware on November 20, when it was discovered that there were several cases of smallpox on board, and the masters were ordered to leave the shore. They were not permitted to land at Philadelphia until the 10th of December. Many of the exiles died during the winter, and were buried in the cemetery of the poor which now [1916] forms a part of Washington Park, Philadelphia. The survivors were lodged in a poor quarter of the town, in 'neutral huts,' as their mean dwellings were termed.
The Acadians had arrived at Philadelphia in a most deplorable condition. One of the Quakers who visited the boats while they were in quarantine reported that they were without shirts and socks and were sadly in need of bed-clothing."24

The 400 Acadians that came down to Georgia from Chignecto aboard the Jolly Phillip (120) and Prince Frederick (280), it seems, made immediate plans to make their way back to their beloved lands. In quoting Stevens' History of Georgia, Placide Gaudet writes that the 400 Acadians had arrived in two vessels that December and "were distributed in small parties about the province, and maintained at the public expense until spring, when, by leave of the Governor, they built themselves a number of rude boats, and in March most of them left for South Carolina; two hundred, in ten boats, going off at one time, indulging the hope that they might thus work their way along to their native and beloved Acadie."25


I quote from a letter dated February 21st, 1756, from Governor Dinwiddle of Virginia to Governor Morris of Pennsylvania:

"We have 1,140 Neutrals from Nova Scotia, which gives great uneasiness to our people, we have recd them & now maintain them by my order and the Councils; but whether the Assembly will be prevailed on to make some provision for them is very uncertain; & I complain of Gov. Lawrence's not giving us some previous notice of their coming that we might be prepar'd to receive them. ..."26
These "neutrals" arrived at Virginia on seven transports: Neptune (207, ex Piziquid), Sarah & Molly (154, ex Grand Pré), Endeavour (166, ex Canard & Habitant Rivers), Industry (177, ex Canard & Habitant Rivers), Mary (182, ex Canard & Habitant Rivers), Prosperous (152, ex Canard & Habitant Rivers) and Ranger (112, ex Minas Basin).27

South Carolina:-

Two of the transports were to make their way down as far as South Carolina. The Endeavour which had originated at Chignecto and carried 121 Acadians and was part of the 21 transports which had sailed from Minas Basin on October 27th; and the Hopson which sailed from Annapolis Royal on December the 8th with 342 Acadians aboard. Since the Endeavour likely was delayed by a storm, it is likely that if the two did not arrive together then they were not far from one another.

England & France:-

Virginia and South Carolina were not too much impressed with having hundreds of people thrust upon them, to be maintained, for, God knows how long!: On the 8th of July we see that the Board of Trade Lords wrote Lawrence advising him that he is mistaken if he thinks that all the Acadians were received by the colonies south of Nova Scotia for "several hundred of them... from Virginia, and several from South Carolina" have arrived in England having been directed there and that they are being maintained by "the commissioners for sick and hurt Seamen."28

The Acadians that arrived in England were treated substantially as prisoners, spread out among the ports of Liverpool, Southampton, Bristol and Penyrn. There, they stayed for the duration of the war. In 1763, they, together with additional numbers that had been deported in 1758 from Ile St. Jean and Ile Royal, were sent to St. Malo and Morlaix. In 1765, 78 families, with the assistance of Abbe LeLoutre, were given lands at Belle-en-Mer.29 Late in 1762 a report had been prepared by the authorities in advance of the arrangements made to get them over to France. From this report we may determine that the number of Acadians then in England, in 1762, spread about at the above named places, totaled 866, this was a substantial reduction in the number that had arrived in England during the war years.30

The Pembroke Mutiny:-

I cannot conclude this chapter and not make a reference to the story of the Pembroke. She was an Acadian transport, the only one, it seems, to have experienced a mutiny. Such an eventuality was one that was certainly contemplated by the English; and, they attempted to guard against it, as we see from the orders given to the transport captains: "You are to take care that no arms or offensive weapons are on board with your passengers, and to be as careful and watchful as possible during the whole course of your voyage to prevent the passengers from making an attempt to seize your vessel by allowing only a small number to be on the deck at a time and using all other necessary precautions to prevent the bad consequences of such an attempt ..."31

The Pembroke had sailed from Annapolis Royal, presumably with the other six or seven Annapolis Royal Transports. They had set sail on December 8th, 1755. I don't know whether the fleet, like that which had departed Minas Basin, earlier, on October 27th, was under armed escort, or not. Further, I am not sure of the size of the transport crews, likely not a great number. There was 232 Acadians aboard the Pembroke, and of that number, there was 33 men, 37 women, 70 sons, 92 daughters. Her crew was either overpowered by the Acadian passengers; or, maybe, she was caught in a storm and headed into the harbour of St. John; or, maybe, she was taken by a privateer.32 In any event, Boishébert, a French officer who is one of the few heros of Acadia, was there, at St. John. Boishébert took the distressed Acadians under his wing and led them into the inner parts of present day New Brunswick. Thus, it is, that countless numbers of French Acadians in New Brunswick might well be able to trace their ancestral roots to the "33 men, 37 women, 70 sons, 92 daughters" of the Pembroke.33

[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 16 - "Cape Sable Acadians and Later Deportations."]

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