Transcripts from a diary kept by a young American soldier fighting for the British is giving historians a new twist on the deportation of Acadians from the Maritimes in the 18th century.
In 1755, 30-year-old Jeremiah Bancroft signed up for one year as a militiaman with the British military.
He kept an almost-daily diary of his service, which took him from Boston to Beausejour, N.B., and later to Grand Pre, where he participated in the deportation of Acadians.
A transcript of the diary was found by historical archeologist Jonathan Fowler and was publicly displayed Thursday at Saint Mary’s University by Fowler and Earle Lockerby, an expert on the deportation.
The deportation forced the French Acadian population from Nova Scotia after it refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the British.
Bancroft was a junior officer to Lt.-Col. John Winslow, whose own diary provides much of what is known about the deportation, which displaced about 7,000 Acadians in 1755 to Britain, Louisiana and France.
The diary also fills in historical gaps at Grand Pre from mid-November to the end of December, when Winslow left Grand Pre for Halifax.
Bancroft’s account of the time differs from the diary kept by Winslow. Bancroft was lower down the chain of command and had no reputation at stake, said Fowler, who teaches at Saint Mary’s. He called the British soldiers in Bancroft’s account “weekend warriors” who were not good at following orders.
In one passage, Bancroft describes the reactions by Acadian men who learn that they’re losing land and cattle, and the guilt he feels in his role as enforcer.
His writing is often ungrammatical and plagued with spelling mistakes, but the feelings he conveys are clear, such as a passage dated Sept. 5, 1755, when Bancroft writes, “Seing themselves so Decoyed the shame and confusion of face together with Anger so altered their countenense that it cant be expressd.”
Bancroft’s witness account tells of a shooting and of escapes by Acadians, including one by two men fleeing a church, which was not previously known.