The Acadian Expulsion

Grand-Pre, Nova Scotia at the time of the Great Upheaval.

Grand-Pre, Nova Scotia at the time of the Great Upheaval.

Vaughn C. Hardacker here: In my last blog I wrote about one of my more infamous ancestors, Lizzie Andrew Borden (1860 – 1927). The familial link to Lizzie was only one of the surprises I got while doing a detailed genealogy of the Hardacker clan. My great-grandparents, Charles Hardacker and his wife (Esther Amanda Borden) and seven of their eight children (the eldest, Ella Mae, remained in Nova Scotia with her husband) came to northern Maine from Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, Canada shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. All I knew about Grand-Pré was that it was the heart of the Annapolis Valley, the area from which the Acadians were forced to leave. Further research into the family of my paternal grandmother revealed that my great-great-grandmother was Natalie Sarah Thibodeau. I then traced the Thibodeau line back to…yup…Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia.

The fact that two separate families should have one common place in their history peaked my curiosity. This year the Fifth World Acadian Congress is meeting in what was a portion of New France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, namely throughout eastern Quebec, Canada, northwest New Brunswick, Canada and the U. S.-Saint John Valley towns located along the border with Canada. Many of the Acadian families are having reunions in conjunction with the Congress (Officially Congrès Mondial Acadien 2014, CMA 2014), which is being held from August 8 to 24, 2014. The Thibodeau family reunion will be on August 16th and 17th 2014 at Rivière-Verte, New Brunswick.

To cut to the matter, I found myself interested in the Acadian expulsion (also known as the Great Upheaval. Here’s a summation of what I learned. The first thing I needed to know was: Where was this area known as Acadia? Acadia (French: Acadie) was a colony of New France in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day Maine to the Kennebec River. During much of the 17th and early 18th centuries, Norridgewock on the Kennebec River and Castine at the end of the Penobscot River were the southern-most settlements of Acadia. The actual specification by the French government for the territory refers to lands bordering the Atlantic coast, roughly between the 40th and 46th parallels.

Later, the territory was divided into the British colonies which became Canadian provinces and American states. The population of Acadia included members of the Wabanaki Confederacy (translated roughly as ‘People of the First Light’ or ‘People of the Dawnland’. A First Nations and Native American confederation of five principal Nations: the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki and Penobscot.) and descendants of emigrants from France (i.e., Acadians). The two communities inter-married, which resulted in a significant portion of the population of Acadia being Métis (people resulting from the intermarriage of Europeans and native aboriginal peoples).

The Expulsion (1755–1764) occurred during the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War) and was part of the British military campaign against New France. The British first deported Acadians to the Thirteen Colonies, and, after 1758, transported additional Acadians to France. In all, approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported. After the British conquest of Acadia in 1710, the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht allowed the Acadians to keep their lands. Over the next forty-five years, however, the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During the same period, they also participated in various military operations against the British, and maintained supply lines to the French fortresses of Louisbourg (located on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada) and Fort Beauséjour (present-day Aulac, New Brunswick, Canada). As a result, the British sought to eliminate any future military threat posed by the Acadians and to permanently cut the supply lines they provided to Louisbourg by removing them from the area.

Without making distinctions between the Acadians who had been neutral and those who had resisted the occupation of Acadia, the British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council ordered them to be expelled. In the first wave of the expulsion, Acadians were deported to other British colonies. During the second wave, they were deported to Britain and France, from where they migrated to Louisiana. Acadians fled initially to Francophone colonies such as Canada, the uncolonized northern part of Acadia, Isle Saint-Jean and Isle Royale. During the second wave of the expulsion, these Acadians were either imprisoned or deported. Throughout the expulsion, Acadians and the Wabanaki Confederacy continued a guerrilla war against the British in response to British aggression which was continuous since 1744 (see King Georges War and Father Le Loutre’s War).

Along with the British achieving their military goals of defeating Louisbourg and weakening the Mi’kmaq and Acadian militias, the result of the Expulsion was the devastation of both a primarily civilian population and the economy of the region. Thousands of Acadians died in the expulsions, mainly from diseases and drowning when ships were lost. On July 11, 1764, the British government passed an order-in-council to permit Acadians to legally return to British territories, provided that they take an unqualified oath of allegiance. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized the historic event in his poem about the plight of the fictional character Evangeline, which was popular and made the expulsion well known. According to Acadian historian Maurice Basque, the story of Evangeline continues to influence historic accounts of the deportation, emphasizing neutral Acadians and de-emphasizing those who resisted the British Empire.

Who says nothing ever happens in Maine!

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2 Responses to The Acadian Expulsion

  1. Gram says:

    We had to memorize Evangeline in the 8th grade.

  2. Kait Carson says:

    As an Acadian of the heart – I have land in Wallagrass and am currently living in South Florida – I say thank you for this wonderful and concise history of the Acadians. What many people from ‘away; may not realize is that the French spirit is alive and well in the St. John Valley. Acadians have hearts of gold. I am sad to miss the Congress this year. I keep hearing wonderful reports from my friends. Enjoy it for me…and take good notes.

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