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|Why the Acadians didn't want to settle in Concordia|
ACADIANS IN CONCORDIA: 1768-1769
(Second in a Series)
As a team of Spanish soldiers and government employees worked to build a fort a few miles south of Vidalia on property comprising what is now part of Whitehall Plantation, the Acadian families destined to settle below the fort arrived in New Orleans in late 1767.
The world had changed during the previous decade, and European boundaries separating American provinces had been redrawn following the French and Indian War, which ended in 1763. The British and Spanish now possessed most of the land, much ground was claimed by Native Americans, and France had been forced off the continent.
In New Orleans, the predominant French population didn't want to see the Spanish take ownership from the French. Acadians Honore┤ and Alexis Braud, who along with their friends and relatives were destined for the planned Concordia settlement below the fort known as San Luis de Natchez, were disappointed and shocked by this change of possession.
The brothers, according to Carl A. Brasseaux, who has written extensively about the Acadians, "led 152 friends and relatives to New Orleans in hope of reuniting the Braud clan, which had been torn apart during the British ethnic cleansing of their North American homeland." The Brauds' relatives had recently settled at Cabannoce┤ along the Mississippi in what is now St. James Parish.
Documents, letters and other information relating to this Acadian migration period are included in a book, entitled, "Quest for the Promised Land: Official Correspondence Relating to the First Acadian Migration of Louisiana, 1764-1769," edited by Carl A. Brasseaux and published by The Center of Louisiana Studies in Lafayette.
TREATED LIKE PRISONERS OF WAR
During the Great Expulsion of 1755, almost half of the 12,000-plus Acadians, all French-speaking residents of Nova Scotia, Canada, "were driven from their ancestral homeland by British military forces," writes Brasseaux. The Acadians came from France in the 1600s and when the British took possession of their land years later, which had previously been under French control, they were asked to swear allegiance to England.
The Acadians refused to agree to an unconditional allegiance to England because they had long maintained neutrality in war and refused to bear arms in a fight that might require them to shoot at their own relatives or fellow French residents. As disputes between the English, French and their respected Indian allies erupted, the Acadians were eventually exiled, their property confiscated and their homes burned.
British Gen. John Winslow received orders to remove a portion of the Acadians, a duty he found "very disagreeable." He told them:
"Iánow declare to you his Majesty's orders. Know then, that your lands, tenements, cattle and live stock of all kinds, are forfeited to the Crown, with all other effects of yours, excepting your money and household goods, which you will be allowed to carry with you: and that yourselves and families are to be removed from this province to places suiting his Majesty's pleasure; and in the meantime, to remain in custody, under the inspection and control of the troops...In a word, Iánow declare you all the King's prisoners."
Wrote historian William D. Williamson: "Shocked and petrified...some of them burst into tears, and some fled to the woods, whose houses were committed to the flames, and country laid waste, to prevent their subsistence." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1847 poem about Evangeline, the Acadian girl separated from her fiancÚ, Gabriel, during this expulsion, became a central part of Cajun culture in Louisiana although the story didn't play out here.
The Acadians were boarded on English ships destined for different ports. The Brauds ended up in Maryland. As the French and Indian War raged, the colonists viewed the Acadians with great suspicion, distrusting them because of their French background although the Acadians had taken no side in the dispute.
The Acadians actually considered themselves as a people of their own. They preferred their own company and had become distrustful of those outside their clan, but determined to keep their families together.
In the colonies, few would befriend them. They were pointed at, whispered about and generally mistreated. The economic and social distress over the years took a disastrous toll.
Even though they were good farmers, fishermen and hunters, they had a difficult time making a living in a world where they were ostracized. Few would help them. They died in great numbers after having being treated, for all practical purposes, says Brasseaux, like "prisoners of war."
At the end of the global Seven Years War, which included the French and Indian War in North America, a peace treaty was signed in Paris in 1763. Provisions in the treaty gave the Acadians 18 months to find new homes outside the colonies.
The Brauds decided to come to Louisiana which was still held by the French when they departed Maryland in the summer of 1766. Had they known before they left that Spain would soon be in control of the province, the Brauds said in a deposition about the Concordia fort, they "would not have come."
They wanted to live with other Acadians, including relatives, at settlements along the Mississippi at Cabannoce┤. Lodged in a warehouse outside New Orleans, a Spanish official visited shortly after their arrival and informed them that they were destined for the fort in Concordia. The Spanish had paid for their passage here, fed them and provided two doctors who treated "large numbers" of ill Acadians.
ULLOA'S BRILLIANT BACKGROUND
Immediately, the Acadians, led by brothers Honore┤ and Alexis Braud, said they had no intentions of going to Concordia. After that, the Brauds said the Spanish "discontinued the rations." Two days later, the Spanish official returned and asked if they had changed their mind. The Acadians said no and a short time later were forced to board the Guinea, a ship which had transported the Acadians from Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to New Orleans.
A few days later, the Brauds received an audience with Antonio de Ulloa, the first Spanish governor of Louisiana. Ulloa was 51, had joined the Spanish navy in 1733. He was a brilliant man, a great scientist, and he and a colleague had previously discovered the chemical element Platinum while doing scientific research in Ecuador.
Ulloa had been given a daunting mission as Spanish governor -- on a frugal budget and with few troops, he was to establish forts and settlements on the west side of the Mississippi opposite British forts on the east side. Numerous Indian tribes were living in the lower Mississippi Valley and the frontier was wild and dangerous.
In Ulloa's mind, the Acadians were a means to settle and populate these locations, and he didn't understand, nor did he seem to try to understand, that the Acadians viewed a continued policy of separation as unacceptable.
Ulloa said the Acadians arriving in Louisiana under his tenure would be given land, farm implements, tools, "corn, gunpowder, ammunition and a gun in their first year here" as well as "a cow with calf, or a pregnant cow, six hens and a rooster." In the second year they should be self-supporting, said Ulloa, though "they will be furnished a physician and medicine free of charges for the first two years, as well as a priest and religious service."
Since Acadian settlements had begun under the French tenure just prior to Ulloa's arrival, he learned that they "are good and industrious people; quiet, without vices and able farmers." He also noted that they "are good marksmen," and could be used to help the military defend the settlements against Indian attacks.
On this frontier, Ulloa said gunpowder and ammunition "are more valuable than silver here...there are no local saltpeter beds with which to make it, nor do the inhabitants of the colony know of any; however...I shall endeavor to find them...It would be a great boon to the colony..."
Although Ulloa seemed to have developed an understanding of the Acadian culture, he obviously didn't embrace it or support it.
The Acadians, he said, are "the type of people who live among themselves as though they were a single family. (They do) not make any alliances with the French people, nor do they give their daughters in marriage to those who are not of their kind...They settle their differences among themselves and help each other in every way, as if they were brothers. And the government must be careful to keep them as they are, because as long as they remain unchanged, the king will be able to count on good vassals, who, when the time occurs, will gladly take up arms and sacrifice themselves to his royal service, in defense of his domains."
THREE VESSELS DEPART FOR CONCORDIA
When the Braud brothers got their audience with Ulloa, they told him they wanted to live at Cabannoce┤ along the Mississippi, and had "exhausted their financial resources."
Ulloa was adamant that their destination was Concordia and sent the Acadians back aboard the vessel Guinea. Honore and Alexis Braud, however, fearing deportation and arrest, left the ship with their families -- 20 men, women and children -- and went into hiding in a hut outside the city on a farm owned by a New Orleans merchant.
Lt. Pedro Piernas, commander of the Concordia fort, was in New Orleans as this ordeal was playing out. He and another Spanish official met with the remaining Acadians when they were asked again about their intentions. The Acadians again pleaded for the opportunity to live on established Acadian settlements on the lower Mississippi, a request once again refused. The exiles filed a former protest.
On February 20, 1768 the Acadians, minus the Honore┤ and Alexis Braud families, boarded three boats for the trip to Concordia with Piernas in command. When Piernas led the military expedition to Concordia to begin construction of the fort a year earlier, his garrison of 27 men was transported on two boats manned by 16 sailors.
As the journey began for the Acadians, one of the Braud brothers, Alexis, thumbed his nose at Spanish authority and settled on a farm at Cabannoce┤. When the Acadian militia was ordered to assist the Spanish in hunting down Alexis Braud, they refused. Ulloa was furious and sent word that if orders were disobeyed in the future that "their belongings would be confiscated, and they would be expelled from the colony," their rations suspended.
It took the small flotilla one month to reach the Concordia fort. On board were more than 27 families, including many familiar Cajun names, including Babin, Landry, Guidry and Dupuis.
(Editor's Note: For a map showing Concordia fort and Acadian settlement pick up a copy of this week's Concordia Sentinel. Photos, maps, illustrations, etc., often included with Stanley Nelson's weekly column is not duplicated on website. To subscribe to Sentinel, call 318-757-3646.)
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