Just received a note from Murielle Thériault (our delegate for the George & Virginie Thériault Great-Branch of Ontario), about an article that she had just received from Nita, a Louisiana cousin. It is a story of a group of Acadian ancestors who were exiled to Georgia. It is a heart-wrenching story of how desperately the Acadians simply wanted to return home to their families. Thank you Nita and Murielle for this article. JRT
It was a bitter January 1756 for the Acadians exiled to Georgia, a place where – like Virginia – the government was unprepared to receive them, didn’t want them, and cared little whether they lived or died.
The first transport to the former penal colony of Georgia anchored at Savannah in early December 1775, and the colony’s governor, John Reynolds, immediately told his underlings to turn away any Acadians that were to be landed there. He warned the colony’s chief pilot that any landing of the Acadians would be done ‘at his peril.’
(You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 1121, Washington, LA 70589.)
But there was no other place for the exiles to go, and – unlike in Virginia, which shipped the Acadians off to England – Georgia eventually allowed 400 to 600 Acadians to land there, and then all but ignored them.
By mid-January 1756, the penniless, starving Acadians were forced to beg the colonial government for emergency assistance. The government’s response was to give just one week’s worth of rice to Acadians deemed too sick to feed themselves. All of the others were left to their own meager devices.
Realizing that there was no future for them in George, about 200 of the Acadians, apparently with the governor’s blessings, were able to build 10 tiny, barely seaworthy sailboats that they hoped would get them back to Acadie.
They set sail about the beginning of March. When the little armada stopped in North Carolina, officials tried to convince them to give up their voyage. A handful may have stayed, but most of the Acadians continued to sail north in their leaky boats. Only 90 of the 200 who had begun the journey reached Massachusetts Bay in July.
Officials in Massachusetts decided they could not let the remaining Acadians to return to their homeland. The 90 were arrested.
The 200 or more Acadians who stayed in Georgia built huts outside Savannah and eked out a living by making oars, paddles and other sailing tools but were still debilitated by poverty and illness. Some sold themselves into virtual slavery as indentured servants and labored on Georgia plantations.
After the Treaty of Paris of 1763 ended the war that brought about their exile most of the Acadians left Georgia, many of them to resettle in the French colony of Haiti. Some others apparently went to South Carolina.
But troubles were not over for the Acadians in Haiti. When the Haitian revolution broke out in the 1790’s, Acadians were among the 10,000 people who fled first to Cuba and then were forced to leave there and come to Louisiana. A good number of them stayed in New Orleans but a handful finally ended their incredible journey and found solace on the banks of Bayou Teche.