The story behind the song
The French colony of Acadia (French Acadie ) was founded in 1604. It comprised Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, as well as parts of present-day Quebec. It extended into what is now Maine, and Pentagoet, the Acadian capital from 1670-74 was near Castine, Maine. The French must have arrived on a gentle summer's day. Dictionaries all say Acadia is a Micmac Indian word, but I always assumed it was named from Arcadia - a place of rural bliss, as in Arcadian paintings of the Renaissance. Perhaps the Anglo-Saxon settlers were more realistic, or arrived in less clement weather, because they chose to call the central area Nova Scotia, or New Scotland. Planes from Britain to any part of the East coast of America overfly it, and my view from 37,000 feet (I'm an avid ground watcher) places the British description of the topography as accurate. But the first British settlers in the area were Scottish and until 1701, though England and Scotland shared a monarch, they were officially separate countries.
The North America of the early 18th century was divided between the English speaking colonies which became the original thirteen United States plus Newfoundland; the French-speaking colonies in New France (present-day Quebec and the area that is now Ontario, plus the whole Mississippi Valley), the French colonies of Acadia and Louisiana; and Spanish territories in Florida, Texas, the South-West and right up the West Coast. Borders were vague. The division between what became the USA and Canada would not have been predictable.
The border areas were disputed and dangerous, as the British and French tried to forge alliances with the Native Americans. This was played out in 'Last of the Mohicans' territory. It has fascinated me since I was a first year student of American Literature. Some doubtlessly wise authority believed literature should be studied chronologically, so the first year led us extremely slowly from the Puritan poets via Benjamin Franklin to James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving. It was the second year before we experienced any genuinely major writers, Hawthorne and Melville. Set amidst such a mind-numbingly dull menu of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather, Fenimore Cooper shone, and we were set to read all five Hawkeye novels. Being young and ill-aquainted with the realities of academia I was foolish enough to actually read them.
Acadia had a troubled history. As early as 1613 the British had destroyed Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal). The British claimed Nova Scotia from 1621 to 1632, and again from 1654 to 1670. They finally captured Nova Scotia in 1710, and the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht awarded it to Britain, while the French retained Cape Breton Island and Ile St Jean (Prince Edward Island) until 1763. Halifax was founded in 1749, and soon had a comparatively large English-speaking population of 4000, nearly all ex-New Englanders. Someone must have remembered Cromwell's idea of settling Scottish Protestants into Irish Catholic areas as a control mechanism, German and Swiss Protestants were invited to settle in Lunenburg, until someone had a better plan.
The deportations of Acadians started in 1755, a year before the Seven Years War broke out. The deportations were a concerted attempt to "ethnically cleanse" (one of the nastiest euphemisms ever coined) the area. As such, they reverberate more now than they did 25 years ago. There was a second wave in 1758, when a further 3500 Acadians were evicted from Prince Edward Island. New Englanders started settling in the fertile Annapolis valley in the 1750s.
When the Seven Years War ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, New France was ceded to Britain. Some Acadians were allowed to return, and today about one-eighth of the population of Nova Scotia is of Acadian descent. Offers of free land attracted immigrants from New England, who were around one half of the population by the time of the American revolution. During the revolution some 35,000 loyalists relocated there from the thirteen colonies. The town of Shelburne was established in 1783 by 10,000 fleeing loyalists, who later dissipated through the province.
Notes by Peter Viney http://theband.hiof.no/articles/acadian_driftwood_viney.html