A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 16 --
"Cape Sable Acadians and Later Deportations."

"War makes the victor stupid and the vanquished vengeful." 1 (Nietzsche.)
The destruction of Acadia and the dispersal of her people did not end with the closing of the year. Certainly the territories of Annapolis Royal and Minas, as a practical matter, were cleared of French inhabitants during 1755, but thousands of Acadians yet remained in the wider territory that today we might define as lying within the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The 1755 operation was to clear away the Acadians from the heart of Acadia, the Annapolis Valley, an area which was strategically important to the new English capital of Halifax. There remained thousands more who had fled to Île St. Jean, Île Royale and up the north shore of present day New Brunswick. Further, there were the French fishermen which had long made their living along that part of present day Quebec which we describe as the Gaspé coast.

The year 1755 marked but a beginning of the English persecution of a people, which was to continue, really, for the next eight years until the full defeat of the French in North America and the peace of 1763. The largest deportation, aside from that which occurred in 1755, was that which was carried out just after the Final Fall of Louisbourg in 1758. We shall come to that in a moment; but I must now make mention of the deportation at Cape Sable which is situated in an area, which, in the early days of Acadia, was known as Pombcoup, today Yarmouth. The effort to remove the Acadians at Cape Sable in 1756 was but an extension of the 1755 deportation effort. The experience the English had with the Cape Sable Acadians was quite different than the experiences had at Annapolis Royal, Minas and Piziquid; it was more like that as had at Cobequid.

The first serious French effort to colonize Acadia, was The De Razilly Settlement of 1632. It is likely from this time or shortly thereafter that one of de Razilly's lieutenants, La Tour, was to establish his outpost at Sable Island.2 Thereafter, I imagine, the presence of French families might have always been discovered.3 In 1654, one, Philippe Mius d'Entremont (b.1601), received from his commander, LaTour, an exclusive grant of land, the signeurie of Pombcoup, at Cape Sable. Another signeurie, during 1706, was granted to Jean-Chrysotome Loppinot at Cape Forchu (Yarmouth).4 I am unable to comment on the Acadian population levels at Cape Sable through the years. I imagine that the growth, though not as great as the agricultural areas5 such as Minas and Chignecto was nonetheless steady through the years, such that, by 1756, it consisted of a thousand or two.

In May of 1755, as we have seen, better than 2,000 troops from New England had come to Nova Scotia in order to attack Fort Beauséjour at the Isthmus of Chignecto. With the fall of that French fort, a certain part of that force from New England was detached under John Winslow in order to see to the deportation of the Acadians at Minas. The deportation of the Acadians was to take place at all the major Acadian population centres throughout Nova Scotia: Annapolis Royal, Minas and Chignecto. In the process other Acadian centres were visited by English troops including those located along the northern shores of Nova Scotia where lies, as we call it today, the Northumberland Strait. Because of limited resources, however, not all Acadian settlements were to suffer the effect of Lawrence's orders of 1755. The significant Acadian settlement at Cape Sable was one. Governor Lawrence was of the view that the French at Cape Sable might be dealt with -- their possessions destroyed and their persons deported -- in the spring of 1756.

The government of Nova Scotia was under an obligation to return the New England troops back to their homes; they being only militiamen, and hired but for a year's term. A large part of them had retired into winter quarters at Halifax, a significant number of them across the harbour from Halifax at Dartmouth. One of the senior officers of this New England force was one, Major Prebble. It was arranged that he and a large contingent of the New England soldiers were to be transported back to New England directly with the spring breakup. It was determined, that, on route, this force was to call by at Cape Sable and the adjacent harbours. "Seize as many of the said inhabitants as possible ... You are at all events to burn & destroy the houses ... & carry their utensils & cattle of all kinds, and make a distribution of them to the troops under your command as a reward for the performance of this service, & to destroy such things as cannot conveniently be carried off."6 Major Prebble paid a call on these communities, and while he and his men, in regards to Acadian property, undoubtedly burned what they couldn't carry off; they likely were not very successful at deporting too many of the Acadians to Boston, in fact, in that regard, I do not know what if any success they had. Prebble and his men, I am sure, were anxious to get back home and likely were not to remain long at Cape Sable.

The Acadians at Cape Sable, who Major Prebble tried to round up, resisted and fought a guerilla war for two years; but, eventually, had to give it up. In September of 1758 a petition signed by Joseph Landry was presented to Governor Lawrence. They, 40 Acadian families consisting of 150 souls, were in very poor circumstances and yet another winter was coming on. Accordingly, Lawrence despatched "armed vessels to Cape Sable, where they took on board one hundred and fifty-two persons, men, women and children, and when they arrived here [Halifax], I ordered them to be landed at George's Island, as being the place of the most security." There, as far as I can tell, these poor people were to remain, prisoners. Lawrence, in 1759, was successful in getting Admiral Saunders, who then had returned with certain of his vessels from their success at Quebec, to free up one of his transports, upon which, 151 Acadians embarked for a trip to England under convoy of the HMS Sutherland.7


I have already made reference to the deportation which was to take place in 1758. Jeffrey Amherst and his forces took Louisbourg in 1758, and, with that, the plan to rid the countryside of Acadians was prosecuted with renewed vigor as the British descended down upon port after port: in Ile Royal (Cape Breton Island), Ile St Jean (Prince Edward Island) and up along the French shore of present day New Brunswick. During the months of August and September of 1758, British forces, borne by naval ships, under the command of James Wolfe, was to spread terror in all of the French villages right up to the Gaspé coast.8 It had been determined that it was too late in the year to launch an assault on Quebec itself, and that, the forces then assembled at Louisbourg would be best employed to level all these French establishments so as to secure an entry into the St. Lawrence planned for the following year.9

It was during these incursions of 1758 that 3,540 French inhabitants were to be taken off of Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) and deported. Thus, those Acadians which had avoided the deportation of 1755 by trekking to Ile St Jean and Ile Royal10 mostly through the years 1749-1752 were to suffer pretty much the same fate as their cousins, three years later. According to Placide Gaudet, a pre-eminent Acadian authority, these harried people "were transported to France in 1758, where some remained and others came to Louisiana about the year 1784."11 It would not appear that the destination for these poor people was to be New England: not after the complaints received on account of the 1755 influx. No, the Ile St Jean Acadians were, by and large, destined for a trans-Atlantic voyage. While there are hardly any accounts of this 1758 deportation, Arthur G. Doughty (Dominion Archivist) did make this reference to it:

"Now, on the fall of Louisbourg in 1758, some of the British transports which had brought out troops from Cork to Halifax were ordered to Ile St. Jean to carry the Acadians and French to France. The largest of these transports was the Duke William; another was named the Violet. Some of the Acadians made good their escape, but many were dragged on board the vessels. On the Duke William was a missionary priest, and before the vessels sailed he was called upon to perform numerous marriages, for the single men had learned that if they landed unmarried in France they would be forced to perform military service, for which they had no inclination. Nine transports sailed in consort, but were soon caught in a violent tempest and scattered. On December 10 the Duke William came upon the Violet in a sinking condition; and notwithstanding all efforts at rescue, the Violet went down with nearly four hundred souls. Meanwhile the Duke William herself had sprung a leak. For a time she was kept afloat by empty casks in the hold, but presently it became evident that the ship was doomed. The long-boat was put out and filled to capacity. And scarcely had the boat cleared when an explosion occurred and the Duke William went down, taking three hundred persons to a watery grave. The long-boat finally reached Penzance with twenty-seven of the castaways. The other vessels probably found some French port."12
Brook Watson (to whom I referred in fn 12 of the previous chapter, and who as a young man was at Chignecto during 1755) wrote Dr. Brown from London in 1791:
"... many of the transports having on board were ordered to France, about thirteen hundred perished by ship wreck on the voyage, those who arrived, France would not receive; they were landed at Southampton and other ports where, taking the smallpox, they were carried off in great numbers. Of those who went to the French West India Isles the greater part died for want of food, a famine at that time prevailed in the island, the people could not support them, the Governor-General said that they were not French subjects."13

[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 17 - "The Wonderings of the Acadians."]

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