Posted By Bill Payer on Oct 21, 2019 | 0 comments

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana.

Doesn’t this remind you of Syria today?”, asked Citadel History Professor Victoria Musheff at her October 15 DIHS program “Exiled French Catholic Acadians..British South Carolina in Humanitarian Crisis-1755-1765”.

The 18th century saga has all the elements of similar scenarios before and after:  a conquering army found itself outnumbered by locals who were “different” in terms of language, ethnicity and religion. 

Although the French Catholics known as Acadians pledged neutrality as war between France and Britain continued, that pledge meant little to the occupying British.  Their answer to the problem:  forced exile.

1000 Acadians were shipped to Charleston (about as far from Canada’s Maritime Provinces as you could get in British North America.)  They landed on Sullivan’s Island and were processed through the “Pest House”, the typical entry point for slaves shipped from West Africa.  That number, 1000 people, amounted to a 25% increase in the white population of the area.

But the Acadians were far from equal to other whites.  They had gone from prosperous agricultural communities in Canada to facing indentured labor. They didn’t speak the local language. They were ravaged by disease. They held no right to citizenship.  As if that wasn’t enough, the most important thing to the Acadians was Catholicism, but the locals were adamant about breaking up any effort to establish the Catholic faith.

Ms Musheff generously shared her PowerPoint slide show…. although in this format the links aren’t active, they are a signpost to more information for those interested. 

Here are some more links to further information….

One of the key actors in this saga is Col.  John Winslow.  Here’s a biography.  And here’s a link to the diary Professor Musheff talked about.  More on Winslow’s diary here.

Other resources: 

The Acadian 18th Century History by Christopher Hodson


A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland by  John Mack Faragher

These last two are more specifically about the Acadian exile experience here in the Lowcountry…

EXILE: ACADIAN FRENCH CATHOLICS & BRITISH SOUTH CAROLINA, 1755-1765 (Victoria Musheff’s thesis submission)


Chapman J. Millings’   Exile Without End

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