One of the Acadian prisoners at Fort Lawrence was
Réné Richard. According to Placide Gaudet, he often told this story to his grandson, Joseph L. LeBlanc of Memramcook. This story, is found among Placide Gaudet's papers - he had heard it from the grandson of Joseph. (Mr. Gaudet was the first to document Acadian genealogy and history.)
The oral tradition of this one family tells us that 86 men escaped from Fort Lawrence. This happened at a time when Acadians who had not been removed or deported from Acadia by the British were being imprisoned until it was decided what to do with them, if anything. Many simply remained as prisoners in these forts from 1755-1763 or from whatever time they were either captured or surrendered because of hunger and the like.
His grandfather said that between October 1-2, 1755, some Acadians escaped from Fort Lawrence which was located near the New Brunswick border but in Nova Scotia. It seems that on what I would believe was October 3rd, 1755, guards making their rounds were totally dumbfounded and amazed when they found the cellar that housed the prisoners empty! They wondered how 86 prisoners could escape without anyone ever noticing... A bit of searching revealed a tunnel had been dug that ran under the walls of the fort. Apparently, the prisoners hid there until they could make good there escape.
How did they do this? Well on occasion, when the wives would visit their husbands, they hid knives and spoons in the bread they would bake and bring these in to them. With these small tools, if we can call them that, the dug their way out of that cellar in which they were imprisoned. It must have taken them some time given what they had to work with. In fact, they must have worked around the clock to dig that tunnel until finally they reached the outside of the walls. Do you wonder what they did with all the dirt they were digging out? Knowing that their plans would be thwarted if the excess dirt was discovered, they hid it under their beds.
From what was written by Dr. John Thomas in his diary October First: Stormy dark night eighty six French prisoners dugg under ye wall att Foart Lawrence and got clear undiscovered by ye Centry... we see that there is not doubt that they made good their escape on a very stormy night. Doing this probably helped them to be unheard and unnoticed on such a night!
Anyhow, as the story goes, it seems that the smaller men in the group went through the tunnel first. As they went through, more dirt would fall as they passed through and the passage would get bigger and bigger as larger and larger men went through until finally all 86 of them had made it out of the tunnel.
There weren't many places to hide other than the woods. In the end though, as history tells the story, they were captured again and some even surrendered to the british because so many were dying from starvation or freezing to death.
The names of the prisoners are posted on another page of this web site as are the prisoners of Fort Edward,Fort Beauséjour and Halifax.
Source: Acadian Notes of Placide Gaudet resourced from a paper written by Father Clarence d'Entremont.