A Day in the Life
Soldiers from New England belonged to militia that fought against French interests at Louisbourg and Beauséjour during the 1700s. One such soldier was Captain Abijah Willard (1724-1789) of Lancaster Massachusetts. He was an officer in Colonel George Scott’s 2nd Battalion of Massachusetts, under the Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and, in turn, under the command of British Army and Colonial Administrator General Robert Monckton.
Captain Willard kept a diary from which this small entry was made in August 1755 about his orders to round up Acadian families in the Cobequid area of Nova Scotia. It refers to what, in French, is called, le Grand Dérangement, the great upheaval or the deportation. The 31 year old soldier’s entry appears as follows:
“…I ordered the whole to be Drawd up in a Bodey and bid French men march of and sott fire to their buildings and Left the women and children to Tack Care of themselves with great Lamentation which I must Confess itt seemed to be sumthing shoking…”1
European colonial powers were in competition for the American continent in the mid-1700s. The Spanish and Dutch, the English and French were jockeying for the best routes and harbors, the most lucrative raw materials and the most land for expansion. Though the contest was world-wide, America remained the prize.
Small colonies of French and English settlers struggled to survive up and down the eastern seaboard. Native peoples became third parties in the battles to hold or win the continent. There was not yet a United States or Canada. That’s why in the mid-1700s, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony sent soldiers and ships to assist those in the colony of Nova Scotia, also English, to rout and expel French settlers from key locations that were viewed by the English as threats. So in 1755, Captain Abijah Willard from Massachusetts found himself in central Nova Scotia charged with rounding up French Acadians with the intent of destroying their villages and sending away the inhabitants.