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  • Quebec City
    – A temporary shelter for Acadians
View of the capture of Quebec City
View of the capture of Quebec City, mid-September 1759 (artist Hervey Smyth, public domain)

In the summer of 1756, the Seven Years’ War between the French and the British had just been declared officially in the spring. It had in fact started in North America two years previously. It was at that time the first Acadian refugees arrived in Quebec, after receiving the official authorization of the last governor of New France, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial…

The refugee situation on Isle Saint-Jean (present-day Prince Edward Island) and Miramichi camp was indeed critical. Acadians living there were in difficult conditions of overpopulation and famine. Quebec City did provide a temporary shelter for the most vulnerable of them. By the end of 1757, between 1,500 and 1,800 Acadians had already taken refuge in Quebec City and its region. The year 1757 was equally hard in Quebec because of starvation threats due to poor harvests and inadequate supplies. The Acadian population, cared for by Canadians in an overcrowded urban centre, suffered from hunger, but moreover from the very intense cold of the winter of 1757-1758. In excess of 300 of them died during that winter, mainly of smallpox.

Under British threat

In April 1759, Governor Vaudreuil ordered the evacuation of Quebec City. The Seven Years’ War had indeed turned in favor of the British who were now gravely threatening the entire city. In June 1759, the British war fleet began the siege of Quebec. Acadians in good health, men and adolescents, were put to use to defend the capital of New France which capitulated on September 18, 1759, after the famous battle of the Plains of Abraham. Afterwards, the British concentrated their conquest on Montreal, which capitulated in turn on September 8, 1760. Until the end, almost all Acadian refugees had passed through the region administered by Quebec City, a shelter that was not to be decidedly permanent. Among these Acadian refugees, some became notoriously remarkable for bravery during their deportation. Here is the story of the Pembroke

Saint John River at Fredericton
Saint John River at Fredericton, New Brunswick (author Treeman, public domain)

The Pembroke was among the thirty or so ships used by the British in 1755 and 1756 to deport more than 6,000 Acadians to the original American colonies. It was also the only vessel that was diverted from its original voyage at sea. Leaving Annapolis Royal (Acadia) on December 8, 1755 for North Carolina, it carried 36 Acadian families, or 232 individuals. A revolt broke out on board the ship. The Acadians managed to take control of it and diverted it to the Saint John River where they arrived on February 8, 1756. They spent the winter at Point Sainte-Anne (present-day Fredericton, New Brunswick). Most Acadian families then fled to Miramichi camp, where the majority of them migrated to Quebec City in the summer of 1757. Finally, there, they found themselves in a threatened and starved city, but after having won… their freedom.