THE ACADIAN TRAGEDY.
On the 14th of August Winslow set out from his camp at Fort Beausejour, or Cumberland; on his memorable errand. He had with him but two hundred and ninety-seven men. His mood of mind was not serene. He was chafed because the regulars had charged his men with stealing sheep, and he was doubly vexed by an untoward incident that happened on the morning of his departure.
Thus ruffled in spirit, he embarked with his men, and sailed down Chignecto Channel to the Bay of Fundy. Here, while they waited the turn of the tide to enter the Basin of Mines, the shores of Cumberland Bay before them, dim in the hot and hazy air, and the promontory of Cape Split, like some misshapen monster of primeval chaos, stretched its portentous length along the glimmering sea, with head of yawning rock and ridgy back, bristled with forests. Borne on the rushing flood, they soon drifted through the inlet, glided under the rival promontory of Cape Blomedon, passed the red sandstone cliffs of Lyon's Cove, and descried the mouths of the rivers Canard and Des Habitants, where fertile marshes, diked against the tide, sustained a numerous and thriving population. Before them spread the boundless meadows of Grand Pre, waving with harvests or alive with grazing cattle. The green slopes behind were dotted with the simple dwellings of the Acadian farmers, and the spire of the village church rose against a background of woody hills. It was a peaceful, rural scene, soon to become one of the moat wretched spots on earth. Winslow did not land for the present, but held his course to the estuary of the river Pisiquid since called the Avon. Here, where the town of Windsor now stands, there was a stockade called Fort Edward, where a garrison of regulars under Captain Alexander Murray kept watch over the surrounding settlements. The New England men pitched their tents on shore, while the sloops that had brought them slept on the soft bed of tawny mud left by the fallen tide.
Winslow found a warm reception, for Murray and his officers had been reduced too long to their society not to welcome the comming of strangers. The two commanders conferred together. Both had been ordered by Lawrence to "clear the whole country of such bad subjects," and the methods of doing so had been outlined for their guidance. Having come to some understanding with his brother officer concerning the duties imposed upon both, and begun an acquaintance which soon grew cordial on both aides, Winslow embarked again, and retraced his course to Grand Pre, the station which the Governor had assigned him. "Am pleased," he wrote to Lawrence, "with the place proposed by your Excellency for our reception [the village church]. I have sent for the elders to remove all sacred things to prevent their being defiled by heretics." The church was used as a store-house and the place of arms; the men pitched their tents between it and the grave-yard, while Winslow took up his quarters in the house of the priest. They agreed that Winslow should summon all the male inhabitants about Grand Pre to meet him at the church and hear the King's orders, and that Murray should do the same for those around Fort Edward. Winslow then called in the three Captains, Adams, Hobbs, and Osgood, made them swear secrecy, and laid before them his instructions and plans, which latter -hey approved. Murray then returned to his post, and on the next day sent Winslow a note containing ho following: "I think the sooner we strike the stroke the better; therefore will be glad to see you lore as soon as conveniently you can. I shall have the orders for assembling ready wrote for your approbation, only the day blank, and am hopeful everything will succeed according to our wishes. The gentlemen join me in our best compliments to you and the doctor."
On the next day, Sunday, Winslow and the doctor whose name was Whitworth, made the tour of the neighborhood, with an escort of fifty men, and found a great quantity of wheat still on the fields. On Tuesday, Winslow "set out in a whale-boat with Dr. Whitworth and Adjutant Kennedy to consult with Captain Murray In this critical conjuncture." They agreed that three in the afternoon of Friday should be the time of assembling; then, between them, they drew up a summons to the inhabitants, and got one Beauchamp a merchant, to "put it into French." It ran as follows:
"By John Winslow, Esq., Lieutenant Colonel and Commander of his Majesty’s troops at Grand Pre, Mines, River Canard and places adjacent.
"To the inhabitants of the districts above named, as well ancients as young men and lads:
"Whereas his Excellency the Governor has instructed us of his last resolution respecting the matters proposed lately to the inhabitants, and has ordered us to communicate the same to the inhabitants in general in person, his Excellency being desirous that each of them should be satisfied of his Majesty’s intentions, which he has also ordered us to communicate to you, such as they had been given him;
"We therefore order and strictly enjoin by there presents to all the inhabitants as well to the above-named districts as of all other districts, both old men and young men, as well as all the lads of ten years of age, to attend the church in Grand Pre on Friday, the 5th instant, at three of the clock in the afternoon, that we may impart what we are ordered to communicate to them. Declaring that no excuse will be admitted on any pretense whatsoever, or pain of forfeiting goods and chattels in default.
"Given at Grand Pre the 2d of September, in the twenty-ninth of his Majesty’s aeign, A. D. 1755.»
A similar summons was drawn up in the name of Murray for the inhabitants of the district of Fort Edward.
Captain Adams made a reconnaissance of the rivers Canard and DES Habitants, and reported "a fine country, and full of inhabitants, a beautiful church, and abundance of the goods of the world." Another reconnaissance by Captain Hobbs and Osgood among the settlements behind Grand Pre brought reports equally favorable. On the 4th another letter came from Murray: "All the people quiet, and very busy at their harvest; if this day keeps fair, all will be in here in their barns. I hope to-morrow will crown all our wishes." ‘The Acadians, like the bees, were to gather a harvest for others to enjoy. The summons was sent out that afternoon. Powder and ball were served to the men and all were ordered to keep within the lines.
On the next day the inhabitants appeared at the hour appointed, to the number of four hundred and eighteen men, Winslow ordered a table to be set in the middle of the church, aid placed on it his instructions and the address be had prepared. Here he took his stand, in his laced uniform, with one or two subalterns from the regulars at Fort Edward, and each of the Massachusetts officers as were not on guard duty—strong, sinewy figures, bearing, no doubt, more or less distinctly, the peculiar stamp with which toil, trade, and Puritanism had imprinted the features of New England. Their commander was not of the prevailing type. He was fifty-three years of age, with double chin, smooth forehead, arched eyebrows, close powdered wig, and round rubicand face from which the weight of an odious duty had probably banished the smirk of self-satisfaction that dwelt there at other times. Nevertheless, he had manly and estimable qualities. The congregation of peasants, clad in rough homespun, turned their sunburned faces upon him, anxious and intent, and Winslow "delivered them by interpreters the King's orders in the following words," which, retouched in orthography and syntax, ran thus:
"Gentlemen, I have received from his Excellency Governor Lawrence the King's instructions, which I have in my hand. By his orders you are called together to hear his Majesty's final resolution concerning the French inhabitants of this his province of Nova Scotia, who for almost half a century have had more indulgences granted them than any of his subjects in any part of his do-minions. What use you have made of it you yourselves best know.
"The duty I am now upon, though necessary, is very disagreeable to my natural make and temper, as I know it meet be grievous to you, who are of the same species. But it is not my business to animadvert on the orders I have received, but to obey them; and therefore, without hesitation, I shall deliver to you his Majesty's instructions and commands, which are that your lands and tenements and cattle and live stock of all kinds are forfeited to the crown, with all your other effects, except money and household goods, and that you yourselves are to be removed from this his province.
"The peremptory orders of his Majesty are that all the French inhabitants of these districts be removed, and through his Majesty's goodness I am directed to allow you the liberty of carrying with you your money and as many of your household goods as you can take without overloading the vessels you go in. I shall do everything in my power that all these goods be secured to you, and that you be not molested in carrying them away, and also that whole families shall go in the same vessel, so that this removal, which I am sensible must give you a great deal of trouble, may be made as easy as his Majesty's service will admit, and hope that in whatever part of the world your lot may fall you may be faithful subjects and a peaceful and happy people.
"I must also inform you that it is his Majesty's pleasure that you remain in security under the inspection and direction of the troops that I have the honor to command."
He then declared them prisoners for the King. "They were greatly struck," he says, "at the determination, though I believe they did not imagine that they were actually to be removed." After delivering the address he returned to his quarters at the priest’s house, whither he was followed by some of the older prisoners, who begged leave to tell their families what hid happened, "since they were fearful that the surprise of their detention would quite overcome them. Winslow consulted with his officers, and it was arranged that the Acadians should choose twenty of their number each day to revisit their homes, the rest being held answerable for their return.
A letter, dated some days before, now came from Major Handfield at Annapolis, saying that he had tried to secure the men of that neighborhood, but many of them had escaped to the woods. Murray’s report from Fort Edward come soon after, and was more favorable: "I have succeeded finally, and have got a hundred and eighty three in my possession." To which Winslow replies, "I have the favor of yours of this day, and rejoice at your success, and also for the smiles that have attended the party here." But he adds, mournfully, "Things are now very heavy on my heart and hands." The prisoners were lodged in the church, and notice Waa sent to their families to bring them food. "Thus,” says the diary of the commander, "ended the memorable 5th of September—a day of great fatigue and trouble."
There was one quarter where fortune did not always smile. Major Jedediah Preble, of Winslow’s battalion, wrote to him that Major Frye had just returned from Chipody whither be had gone with a party of men to destroy the settlements, and bring off the women and children. After burning two hundred and fifty-three buildings he had embarked, leaving fifty men on shore at a place called Petitcodiac to give a finishing stroke to the work by burning the "mass-house," or church. While thus engaged they were set upon by three hundred Indiana and Acadians led by the partisan officer Boishebert. More than half their number were killed, wounded, or taken. The rest ensconced themselves behind the neighboring dikes, and Frye, hastily landing with the rest of his men, engaged the assailants for three hours, but was forced at last to embark. Captain Speakman, who took part in the affair, also sent Winslow an account of it, and added, "The people here are much concerned for fear your party should meet with the same fate (being in the heart of a numerous devilish crew,) which I pray God avert."
TO BE CONTINUED