Monday, March 1, 2010

Longfellow and the Deportation

This past weekend (February 27 to be precise) was the 203rd birthday of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In Nova Scotia, and perhaps around the world, Longfellow is best known for his epic poem Evangeline. From the opening line "This is the forest primeval" the reader is taken on a heart wrenching journey with the two lovers, Evangeline and Gabriel, who are separated by political forces beyond their control. More than just a tragic love story, this poem, perhaps more than any other single object, provided a voice and a face for the Acadian deportation of 1755. When it was published in 1847, the poem also proved to be a cultural rallying point for Acadians and Cajuns. Over the years Evangeline has been featured in movies, artwork, music and on a wide variety of commercial labels. The image in this post is the famous statue of Evangeline from Grand Pre.

There is really no positive way to speak about the events of 1755 - 1764. The Acadian Deportation is without a doubt the darkest chapter in the history of Nova Scotia. The human tragedy of a population being forcibly loaded onto ships and sent to live in unfamiliar and often hostile places resounds to this day. Because of Evangeline, Grand Pre is often thought of as the site of the deportation. In reality, other communities across Nova Scotia were also witnesses to these sad events. In fact, 1664 Acadians were gathered onto ships on December 8, 1755 and shipped to various British colonies from Annapolis Royal. With events of this sort I always wonder what the participants were feeling. How did the dread and horror of this the situation manifest itself in the Acadians. What were the thoughts of the British soldiers as they undertook their distasteful orders? How did the Acadians feel when they sailed into the Bay of Fundy knowing that they may never see their homes or loved ones again?

The following list of deportees from Annapolis Royal is taken from Brenda Dunn's A History of Port Royal - Annapolis Royal 1605 -1800.

Helena bound for Massachusetts - 52 men, 52 women, 219 children

Edward bound for Connecticut - 41 men, 42 women, 195 children

Two Sisters bound for Connecticut - 42 men, 40 women, 198 children

Experiment bound for New York - 40 men, 45 women, 115 children

Pembroke bound for North Carolina - 33 men, 37 women, 162 children

Hopson bound for South Carolina - 42 men, 46 women, 245 children

A schooner bound for South Carolina - 1 man, 1 woman, 7 children

Totals 251 men, 263 women, 1150 children = 1664 people

All for now,

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