In the Thick of Battle

Earlier this year many parts of the world were struck by devastating tornadoes. Of all the accounts given by survivors the most frightening came from those who experienced the eye of the storm and lived to tell the tale. No words or pictures can truly convey the impact of these freaks of nature; they must be experienced to be understood.

The same holds true for the side effects of war. What’s it like to be in the thick of battle? Ask any veteran or civilian who endured the Second World War, or listen to the stories of Canadian peace keepers returned from duty in Bosnia.

It is sometimes overlooked that the Tantramar region was, more than once, in the thick of battle. The last occasion took place during the American Revolution and is referred to as the Eddy Rebellion.

But first, let’s focus on its impact on those who lived here in the 1770s. By this time the Expulsion of the Acadians was over, and the Tantramar was largely resettled by New England Planters, drawn from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Each of these colonies strongly supported the American revolutionary cause.

Following the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776 there were many unanswered questions: Should the Tantramar settlers follow the lead of their friends and relatives to the south and take up arms? Would Nova Scotia, which then included present day New Brunswick, be the fourteenth colony to rebel?

Certainly Jonathan Eddy, who served as MLA for Cumberland Township from 1770 to 1775, thought so and did his best to enlist sympathizers to the revolutionary cause. Further, there was concern among the British authorities that uprisings might occur, particularly in areas settled by New Englanders.

When a call went out for the establishment of militia units to cope with such possibilities, one recruiter reported to Governor Francis Legge: As nineteen out of twenty are natives of New England, what dependance or reliance could Your Excellency have on such troops?

In the end, although the rebellion failed, its repercussions were to be felt for generations. Psychological wounds created by families and neighbors once bitterly divided against each other take time to heal.

Can you imagine what it was like to be in the midst of the Eddy Rebellion? How did the conflict impact on daily life in the autumn of 1776? One eye witness account fills in some of the detail. Unlike many of his neighbors, the writer and his family did not support the uprising. A teenager in 1775-6, he later reminisced about this fateful year.

In the fall of 1776 some people [Eddy and his supporters] came among us; raised all the disaffected and disarmed all friends of the British government. They forbade us to stir off our farms, burned buildings and threatened many with imprisonment and death. In the night they would fire upon the garrison, [Fort Cumberland — previously Fort Beausejour] and the garrison would fire on them.

It was our usual custom to sit up the whole night at cards and dancing. When we heard the cannon roar, and the discharge of musketry, we would watch the flash of fire from the guns; and as soon as that was over, return again to waste our time in sin and vanity. We could easily see the garrison from my father’s house. Death and danger were always at our door.

Such were the memories of the Reverend William Black of his boyhood in the thick of battle on the Isthmus of Chignecto in 1776.