Yarmouth Vanguard, July 11, 1989
I told you last week of the anticipation the War of Independence of the U.S. of the Acadians who were still in the American colonies, where they had been sent into exile. They were not the only ones. Even some of the Acadians who had come back to the Maritime Provinces from exile were to take part in this war; their purpose was to make of Nova Scotia, which then comprised what is now New Brunswick, the 14th State of the Union.
Let me say first that it constituted for them a dilemma of conscience. In fact, Bishop Briand of Québec, under whose juridiction were the Maritime Provinces, fulminated against those of his diocese and who would participate in the American rebellion, ecclesiastical sanctions, declaring them rebels to the established authorities, threatening even to forbid them to receive the Sacraments if they were to do so. The Acadians had even more to fear than their cousins in Canada (Québec at the time) of the menace of the interdiction of the Bishop. They could not forget that while wending their way towards their beloved Acadia after a long and painful exile, he had sent them a pastoral letter on Aug, 16, 1766, accusing them of their former insubordination to the Crown of England, without which, he added, actually “we would have the consolation of seeing you still peaceful and happy at your habitations… You would have priests, you would have all temporal needs.”
For that reason or another, a number of Acadians refused to take part in the conflict, when they were asked to do so. Even Jackson Ricker, in “Historical Sketches of Glenwood and the Argyles,” tells us that the Acadians of Yarmouth County, who had returned to the Province after their Expulsion, were advised by some former New England Colonists of Argyle, who had a strong feeling of sympathy with the American revolution, “to throw in their lot with them and the revolting colonies. But it is a fact that the Acadians were more loyal to the Crown than they.” Beamish Murdoch, on his part, in his “A History of Nova-Scotia or Acadie,” writes that, on occaison “Benoni d’Entremont and other Acadians complained of oppressive treatment from Capt. Frost (of Argyle) of the militia.”
It was not so for other Acadians, especially those living each side of the Isthmus of Chignectou, Cumberland County and the District of Sackville, including Memramcook. It is by a singular coincidence that the strongest Acadia contingent to take part in the struggle of the Americans against England came from this region, which 20 years earlier, had been the one of all Acadia that had resisted most obstinately to the English armies.
Many Colonists who had come from New England were sympathetic to the cause of their cousins they had left over there. The Acadians, on their part, could not forget the treatment that England had inflicted upon them.
The occasion of the outburst was the intention of Francis Legge, Governor of Nova Scotia, to reinforce the militia for the defense of the Province. It is then that the people of the region who were against it sent a petition to Halifax with 195 names, 51 of whom were Acadians, thus over one-fourth. They ended by taking up arms against the government. They requested the help from the American “rebels” for the conquest of Nova Scotia, outlining their plan to seize first the fort of Cumberland, where stands now the memorial of Fort Beausejour, after which they were to advance towards Halifax.
It is then that was formed the “Company of Frenchmen raised in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia,” which comprised 22 “Frenchmen,” 20 of whom were Acadians. It had at its head Isaie Boudreau, to whom was conferred the rank of captain, after which the Company was known as that “of Isaie Boudreau.” Here are some other Acadia names of the Company: Allain, Bourque, Caissie, Gaudet, Govin, LeBlanc, Legere, Maillet, Thibodeau, just to name a few. The Acadians, who had been very friendly with the Indians since always, were able to recruit some 20 of them from the St. John River to increase their ranks.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Eddy, who had been a member of the Assembly in Halifax, was put in charge of the project. He had obtained form the Massachusetts Assembly the authorization to recruit 3,000 soldiers. Unfortunately, he succeeded in enlisting only some 200 volunteers.
With this handful of soldiers, Eddy’s troop was no match for the garrison that Governor Legge had placed at Fort Cumberland. His unqualified and stubborn determination to withdraw Nova Scotia from the British Sovereingty must have eclipsed his reasoning and generated into madness.
November 28, 1776, at dawn, as he was stationed in front of the fort with his soldiers, the gates of the fort opened suddenly and like a rushing stream the garrison burst out, surprising the “rebels”, who, not being able to rival with them in any way, fled into the woods precipitately. They were pursued a proper distance; some houses belonging to the Acadians were burned.
Finally, a proclamation was issued, offering pardon to those who would lay down their arms. In two days, upwards of one hundred did so, while the others were dispersed.
This signaled the end of the plan to conquer Nova Scotia and to make of it the 14th State of the Union.