We are in New Brunswick, almost on the border with Nova Scotia, visiting Fort Beauséjour. Its an amazing structure and standing on it, going around it and running down it’s steep slopes has been delighting the four kids and three adults in our party all afternoon. It’s a wonder of engineering, so lets look at how it was made and what happened here…
Fort Beauséjour was built in 1751 in several stages. The first Fort was a simple five sided palisade of wood with bastions at each corner. At it’s widest point the fort measured about 79m (260 feet). The insides of the bastion walls were packed with earth to support gun platforms.
In 1752 the fort was strengthened against rumored British attack and transformed into a more substantial earthwork structure. The Acadian inhabitants in Chignecto had built dykes and reclaimed marshlands for eighty years before the fort was built. They were a tightly knit community, largely self sufficient in food production, but did enjoy a certain amount of commerce with the Fortess of Louisbourg.
In 1754 the British laid plans to drive the French from North America. From 1751 to 1754 the French and British eyed each other warily from their respective sides of the Missaquash River. Minor skirmishes between British troops and Indian allies of the French occurred, but the forts also cooperated in the exchange of deserters and some trade even grew up between the rival forts. Some of the officers became friendly enough to exchange personal letters.
Everything changed in 1755.
From the beginning the Acadians actively resisted attempts to deport them. Some Acadians left the area to take refuge along the Miramichi River, in Canada or on Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island). Others stayed on to defend their lands. British foraging and raiding parties were attacked by Acadians and Indians directed by Charles Deschamps de Boishébert. In September 1755, the British reported that 300 of Boishebert’s men drove off a party of troops attempting to burn a church at Petitcodiac.
The British continued to capture and deport small groups of the remaining inhabitants.
On August 11, 1755, over 400 Acadian men from the area were called to Fort Cumberland. The orders against them were read and they were imprisoned in the fort. For the next two months Fort Cumberland and Fort Lawrence served as prisons while farms were burned, cattle driven off and inhabitants brought to the forts until transports could take them out of the country. Out of a population of about 3,000, over 2,000 were eventually deported.
Major land clashes climaxed in 1759 with the massacre of eleven members of a British wood cutting party near Point de Bute, at a place known since as Bloody Ridge. The Fall of Quebec in 1759 ended organized resistance but sporadic deportations continued until 1764 when the Lords of Trade and Plantations gave Acadians the right to resettle in Nova Scotia.
What I have seen here strikes me as a sad indictment on the human race, that in a land as vast as North America that any sharing of the space didn’t seem to be acceptable to the British… was this just an early example of ” ethnic cleansing”? Why was it really necessary to drive people who were settled, productive, self sufficient and close knit out of the area they had occupied for so long? “Politics” clearly has a lot to answer for.
It must have been heartbreaking for the Acadians to start again, but, start again is what they did. They migrated all along the eastern seaboard of the Canadian Maritimes and the United States, some even found their way to the American South, where, they became known as “Cajuns” and founded communities in Louisiana that are famous even today.