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Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada

Acadian Deportation of 1758

By 1758 the population of Île Saint-Jean had reached approximately 4,600 people. France and Great Britain were by then engulfed in the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War).

In July of 1758, the Fortress of Louisbourg fell for a second time, attacked by British forces led by General Jeffery Amherst and Admiral Edward Boscawen. As in 1745, the French governor at Louisbourg surrendered Île Saint-Jean when he gave up Louisbourg. Three weeks later, roughly 500 British troops detached from Louisbourg and led by Lord Andrew Rollo arrived at Port-la-Joye and took control of Île Saint-Jean. Lord Rollo quickly began to round up every French and Acadian person on Île Saint-Jean, in preparation for yet another mass deportation. Rollo soon realized, however, that the four ships that had been taken to Port-la-Joye would not be adequate to transport the more than 4,000 people that, unbeknownst to him, lived on Île Saint-Jean. Rollo had received the much more conservative estimate of 400 to 500 people.

In total, 13 ships were ordered to carry the deportees to France. Efforts to round up Acadians ended in October of 1758 and, in the end, these vessels carried more than 3,000 Acadians. Some Acadians escaped deportation by fleeing to what is now eastern New Brunswick and to Quebec, while a whole parish on the north shore of the island—Malpec—was not rounded up at all. It appears that Lord Rollo deemed them to be too far away and, as it was getting late in the season, it would take too long to gather them. They resolved to return the next year, but by 1759 the Acadians were hiding in the woods and difficult to locate. In all, some 1,600 Acadians were able to escape deportation.

For most of the deportees, leaving Port-la-Joye and Île Saint-Jean was simply the beginning of the Acadian Odyssey.

Leaving late in the fall of 1758 meant that the vessels were at risk of meeting storms. Three transports, the Duke William, the Violet and the Ruby, met their fate during the crossing of the Atlantic. Nearly 700 people lost their lives in the sinking of these ships.

While sinking in and of itself was a great danger to the transports, the threat of disease and illness onboard the ship was even more prominent. It is estimated that one third of the passengers—nearly 900 people—died onboard the ships due to illness. Combined with death due to drowning, it is estimated that more than 1,600 of the 3,100 people deported lost their lives during the crossing.

Although the ships were headed for France, not all deportees made it their final stop. There are records showing that some of these Acadians found themselves in such far-away places as St. Pierre and Miquelon, islands in the Caribbean, Guiana, Louisiana, and the Falkland Islands.

In 1763 the Treaty of Paris was signed, effectively ending the Seven Years' War. The Treaty officially granted New France and all French territory east of the Mississippi River to Britain, with the exception of St. Pierre and Miquelon. As most of North America was now British, the threat of a renewed French attack was severely diminished. The British authorities allowed Acadians to return to their former territories, although British settlers now inhabited much of the land that they had previously occupied. A small number returned, and combined with those who had remained on the island, they are largely the ancestors of today's Acadian population.