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Halifax, Nova Scotia; A 1755 letter acquired in 2001 by the University of Louisiana provides rare evidence that British soldiers shot people during the Acadian expulsion from Gran Pre, N.S.
The letter, by British Major General John Winslow, describes how soldiers rounded-up 1,510 inhabitants by force and put them on ships.
"Have had no uncommon disturbance", Maj.- Gen. Winslow wrote a friend described only as a doctor. "Some of the young men in the settlement, however, tried to get away", he said.
"Kil'd one & I believe one other as he has not been heard of and the rest returned. I yesterday began to burn the outposts & march this afternoon to proceed on that business, I expect to see the battalion soon united at Halifax."
The one-page handwritten report was placed on display behind glass in October 2001 at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Edith Garland Dupre Library.
"The Acadian Deportation is now seen internationally as one of the classic early episodes of ethnic cleansing," said Carl Brasseaux, a history professor at the university whose family was deported from Grand Pre ten generations ago.
While Mr. Brasseaux knew that as many as half the deportees died from disease, manutrition and exposure, he said he was never sure Acadians were shot at Grand Pre until he read the Winswlow letter. "This is one of the clearest indications that lethal force was enployed," he said.
The shootings were "very uncommon and would have been done only in the face of Acadian resistance," said Barry Moody, a history professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.
It is believed about 11,000 Acadians were deported from what is now the Maritimes between 1755 and 1758. Another 3,000 are believed to have hidden in the forest of Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
Others sailed south to Louisiana where, over the centuries they lost their language and much of their culture, metamorphosing into today's Cajuns- a word derived from "Acadians."
"There's been a cultural renaissance here over the last thirty years, and with that has come a hightened interest in the arrival of the groups," Mr. Brasseaux said. "Before that, the story was almost entorely ignored."
The Louisiana University, which has a student body made up of about 40% Acadians by ancestry, paid a book dealer less than $5,000. for the letter. It came from a private collector in New England.
"The document is historically significant to our region," said Charlie Triche, director of the Dupre Library. "So it wouln't have mattered if it would have cost $20. or $25,000. We still would have got it."
THE ACTUAL LETTER READS;
"Dear Doctor: These acquaint you that the camp in general is well. We have ship of here 1510 of the inhabitants. We had the whole collected and for want of transport have left 600 people. Have had no uncommon disturbance. The young fellows look in on their head, to desert our party. Kil'd one & I believe one other as he has not been heard of and the rest return. I yesterday began to burn the out posts & march this afternoon to proceed on that business. I expect to see the battallion [sic] soon united at Halifax. I refer you to Capt. Gorham for news. Am yours, etc. John Winslow"
The above-noted article written bu Chris Lambie of The Daily News and printed in the National Post on October 29, 2001,
was provided me by (and I am grateful to) Evelyn Mary [Legère] Haëber.
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