Cajun History

Acadian Reminiscences – Chapter 3

 

Acadian Reminiscences
by Felix Voorhies, 1907

 

The Acadian Reminiscences, is a word painting of the life of the Acadians in the Teche Country in the long ago.

 

The plain, simple frugal life of these people, their devotion to principle, their unbounded faith in the goodness of God, their love for each other during all their misfortunes and perilous wanderings, appeal to the heart.

 

The simple pathos of the grandmother’s story comes to us with such consummate art, that the eye unwittingly grows moist, as the reader follows the journeyings of this little band, self-exiled and noble in their poverty, from desolated homes on the bleak Acadian coast, to their final destination in the hospitable valley of the Teche.


 

 

Chapter 3 – Rumors of War Disturb the Peace and Quiet of the Acadians

“Thus far, petiots, I have briefly depicted to you the simple manners and customs of the Acadians.  I will now relate to you what befell them, and how a cruel war sowed ruin and desolation in their homes; I will tell you how they were ruthlessly treated by the English, driven away from Acadia, and despoiled of all their worldly goods and possessions, how they were scattered to the four winds as wretched exiles, and how the very name of their country was blotted out of existence.  My narrative will not be gay, petiots, but it is meet and proper that you should know these things, and that you should learn them from the lips of the witnesses themselves.

“It was a Sunday, I remember this as if it were but yesterday, we were attending mass, and when our old curate ascended his pulpit, as he was wont to do every Sunday, he announced to us that war was being waged between France and England.  “My children,” said he in sad and solemn tones, “you may expect to witness awful scenes and to undergo sore trials, but God will not forsake you if you put your trust in his infinite mercy”; and then kneeling down, he prayed aloud for France, and we all responded to his fervent voice, and said amen! from the depths of our hearts.  A painful silence prevailed in the little church until mass was over; it seemed as if every one of us was attending the funeral of a member of his family.  As we left the church, the people grouped themselves on all sides to discuss the sad news.  There was no dancing on the greensward in front of the little church that day, petiots, and we retired mournfully and quietly to our homes.

“This intelligence troubled us, and we tried, in vain, to shake off the gloom that darkened our souls.  When we conversed together, the words died on our lips, and our smiles had the sadness of a sob.

“Ah!  Petiots, war, with its train of evils and of woes, is always a terrible scourge, and it was but natural that we should ponder mournfully on its consequences and dread the future.  England had enlisted hundreds of Indians in her armies, and we knew that the bloodthirsty savages spared no one, and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on their prisoners; they dreamed of nothing but incendiarism and massacre, and these were the troops that were to be let loose upon us.  The mere thought of facing such fiends, was enough to dismay the stoutest heart and to disturb the peace and quiet of a community like ours.  We knew not what to resolve, but, come what may, we were determined to die, rather than become traitors to our King and to our God.

“Then we argued ourselves into a different mood by thinking that this news might, after all, be exaggerated, and that our apprehensions were unfounded.  Why should England wage war upon us?  Acadia, so poor, so desolate, so sparsely peopled, was surely not worth the shedding of a single drop of blood for its conquest.  The storm would pass by without even ruffling our peace and tranquility.  We argued thus to rid ourselves of the gloomy forebodings that troubled us, but despite our endeavors, our fears haunted us and made us despondent and miserable.

“The news that reached us, now and then, were far from being encouraging.  France, whelmed in defeat, seemed to have abandoned us, the English were gaining ground, and our Canadian brothers were calling for assistance.  Several of our young men resolved to join them to fight the battles of France and to die for their country, if God so willed it.

“Ah!  Patiots, that was a sad day in the colony, and we all shed bitter tears.  The brave young men that were sacrificing their lives so nobly, wept with us, but remained as firm as rocks in their resolve.  We had, at last, realized the fact that the threatening ruin was frowning upon us, and that it had struck at our very hearts.

“On the day of their departure, the noble young men received the holy communion, kneeling before the altar, and they listened to the encouraging words of the old curate, while every one wept and sobbed in the little church.  After having told them to serve the king faithfully and to love God above all else, he gave them his blessing, while big tears rolled down his checks.  Alas! how could he look upon them without emotion and grief?  He had christened them when they were mere babies; he had watched them grow to manhood; he knew them as I know you, and they were leaving their homes and those that they loved, never, perhaps to return.

“They departed from St. Gabriel, sad but resolute, and as far as they could be seen, marching off, they waved their handkerchiefs as a last farewell.  It was a cruel day to us, and from that moment, every thing grew from bad to worse in Acadia.