If it hadn’t been for the massacre of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Noble and his troops, the Acadian deportation never would have taken place, writes retired Kentville teacher, Gordon Hansford.
While much has been written about the expulsion of the Acadian in 1755, Mr. Hansford said in a letter to this columnist, “little mention has been made about one of the events that led to this deportation, which was the massacre of New England troops at Grand Pre in the winter of 1747.”
In my column on March 27 I suggested that the main reason for the expulsion were the farm lands the Acadians had wrested from the sea and the wilderness. Mr. Hansford disagrees. “I feel that although there are always those who seek to profit from political events, the (expulsion) was not planned as a ‘land grab’ by the English from Massachusetts,” Hansford says. Following the Noble massacre, the “commander of the Halifax garrison could not allow a hostile element to exist in his rear,” Hansford continued. “Regardless of the details of the taking of the oath of allegiance, there was a definite hostile element in existence at Grand Pre.”
The Noble massacre is usually ignored when the plight of the Acadians is discussed, and as Hansford points out, it was evidence of a “hostile element.” which if anything is putting it mildly. In his letter Hansford gave a brief account of events leading to the Noble massacre:
“Lieutenant Governor Mascarene …. appealed to Governor Shirley of Massachusetts to send 500 volunteers to Nova Scotia to help the small garrison here. Noble lead these troops to Annapolis and marched them to Grand Pre, with the intention of building a blockhouse there. Some of the troops sailed up the Bay of Fundy, landing at what is now Morden, and then marched over the mountain to Grand Pre under conditions of severe hardship since winter had descended in all its severity.
“Because of the winter conditions, the proposed blockhouse was not built and the troops were billeted out in 24 civilian houses in the Grand Pre area. An Acadian from Grand Pre made his way to Beaubassin (near Amherst) and reported the presence of the New Englanders to the commander of the French garrison there, an officer named Ramesay. He proposed to attack the English as soon as possible.
“Marching on snowshoes, the French troops arrived in the dead of night during a snowstorm. They immediately attacked the farm houses where the New England troops were billeted, killing Colonel Noble, his brother, and 100 others, according to Eaton’s History of Kings County. Fifty English were captured and 15 were wounded.”
While Eaton’s History isn’t accurate regarding details of the Noble massacre, there is little doubt that some of the Grand Pre Acadians participated in the attack. The slaughter may have been avoided, however. Acadians friendly to the New Englanders warned Noble that a French attack was coming but the Colonel ignored them. On page 131 of Calnek’s Annapolis County History we find the following: “They (the Acadians) warned Noble of a probable attack on him at Grand Pre, but he, deeming it impossible for an enemy to reach him during the deep snow, treated their apprehensions with levity.” Murdoch’s History of Nova Scotia, volume 2, page 106, confirms that Noble was warned by the Acadians of an imminent attack.