But most Acadians settled back into their homes and lives, unable to leave their beloved land and homes. The British began to feel that the fertile land and abundant fish was their property and should be utilized by English subjects only.
In 1755, the British governor of Acadia at that time decided that he would rid Acadia of its French inhabitants. Without approval from the crown or the House of Lords of England, he developed a scheme. He would deport the Acadians in such a manner that would insure that they never return.
In late September, all the Acadian boys, 10 years of age and older, and all men were ordered by the governor to meet in nearby churches and at the forts. Most of the French thought it concerned the worrisome Oath of Allegiance and willingly went to the meeting places. Once inside the buildings, the men and boys were held captive—many for weeks, while the governor awaited the arrival of the deportation ships. Wives and mothers were allowed to bring them food.
Twenty-seven ships arrived in October. They were fishing, lumber or cattle ships, not fit for human transport or long sea voyages. Fathers and sons were torn from one another’s arms and put on separate ships. Wives, mothers and daughters left behind thought they would be reunited with their loved ones and went to ships willingly. Many ships departed in a fierce northeastern storm. Three were never heard from again.
The Acadians, who survived the rough sea journey in the unheated, overcrowded holds of the deplorable ships, were sent to the English colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. The colonies did not want them. Some, such as New Jersey, refused to allow them off the ships. Those colonies that did allow them to disembark, took their young children from them, making them wards of the state. They reasoned that the jobless/homeless mothers could not take care of their children which was somewhat true since they could not speak English and had no one to help them. The children were doled out to use as household servants.
By now, it was mid-winter. Many Acadians in the Massachusetts colony started the overland trek back through the forests to Acadia. One can surmise what happened to these courageous people who had little more than the clothes on their backs. Sub-zero temperatures are relentless in the northeast. That was the first deportation.
The second deportation came in 1758. This time, any remaining Acadians were deported to England and France. Again, two ships were lost at sea with the loss of 700 lives.
Even in France, the Acadians had great difficulty. They had developed their own dialect and customs being separated from their motherland for 150 years. The citizens of France resented the aid the government gave the Acadians.
There were Acadians who experienced displacement and deportations six times in their lives. France sent many Acadians to Haiti to use in work gangs. Many died of dysentery and malaria. Others were sent to the Falkland Islands where the land was not arable. The Acadians were truly “scattered to the wind.”
The Acadians were welcomed by Spain to settle in the Louisiana bayou. Many migrated there from the colonies. Some survivors from Haiti learned about Louisiana and made their way back. The Louisiana Acadians became known as Cajuns.
There is so much more to this story. How families searched a life-time for their loved ones, most often in vain. How their struggles in the bayou defeated many. ` The courage and perseverance of the Acadians should never be forgotten.
What can we learn from this black spot in our history? We can see how greed, bigotry and hatred can consume a government or person and to what it can lead. We can also learn from the Acadian experiences that truth, honesty, faith and goodness do prevail.
Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
A profound statement it is to “Love mercy…” . May God grant that we are learning that.
©Ann Rains, September, 2009 (revised)
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