The Conquest

The Acadian Tragedy

Ethnic Cleansing Prompted by Greed

Acadian militiaman, 1755-1760

Caption: Acadian militiaman, 1755-1760

The year 1755, which had more than its share of military events, was also the year of a great tragedy: the deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia. In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht, France had ceded Acadia to England, and it had become a British colony under the name of Nova Scotia. A few Acadians had afterwards taken up arms against the British, but most had remained neutral. Nonetheless, the presence of a prosperous, Catholic and French-speaking population within an English colony elicited considerable jealousy and rancour, particularly given that the approximately 9,000 Acadians occupied the best land. In the name of "security," it was finally deemed opportune to replace them with loyal subjects. In July 1755, therefore, Charles Lawrence, Governor of Nova Scotia, decreed that the people of Acadia be deported. During the operation, which today we would call "ethnic cleansing," the armed forces played a major role.

Responsibility for rounding up the Acadians was assigned to some of the British regular troops and to the Massachusetts regiments of lieutenant-colonels John Winslow and George Scott. The scenario ordered by Winslow at Grand Pré has entered the annals of history. All men were asked to go to the church for the reading of an important decree. As they listened, horrified, to the deportation order being read by Winslow and his officers, troops surrounded the church. Then soldiers went to collect the women and children at their farms, which were then burnt. The scene was repeated throughout Acadia during the entire summer. Soon thousands of civilians of both sexes and all ages were rounded up in what we would today call "concentration camps" to wait for the ships that would take them away. After several weeks, the ships finally appeared, and on October 8 embarkation began. The military tried, to a degree, not to separate families, but this was not always possible and there were heart-rending scenes with wailing women, held back by soldiers on the shore, watching their husbands and sons sail into the unknown.

Additional Images

Gathering Acadian women and children for deportation, Grand Pré, Acadia, July 1755