Colonial warfare: Were smallpox-infected blankets given to Native Americans?

blankets

North American colonists’ warfare against Native Americans often was horrifyingly brutal. But one method they appear to have used shocks even more than all the bloody slaughter: The gifting of blankets and linens contaminated with smallpox. The virus causes a disease that can inflict disfiguring scars, blindness and death. The tactic constitutes a crude form of biological warfare—but accounts of the colonists using it are actually few.

William Trent, a trader, land speculator and militia captain, wrote in his diary that on June 23, two Delaware emissaries had visited the fort, and asked to hold talks the next day. At that meeting, after the Native American diplomats had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the British to abandon Fort Pitt, they asked for provisions and liquor for their return. The British complied, and also gave them gifts—two blankets and a handkerchief which had come from the smallpox ward.

Related article:  DNA from 14,000-year-old tooth offers oldest known link between Native Americans and southern Siberia

[Historian Paul Kelton] says the tactic, however callous and brutal, is only a small part of a larger story of brutality in the 1600s and 1700s. During this period British forces tried to drive out Native Americans by cutting down their corn and burning their homes, turning them into refugees. In Kelton’s view, that rendered them far more vulnerable to the ravages of disease than a pile of infected blankets.

Read full, original post: Did Colonists Give Infected Blankets to Native Americans as Biological Warfare?

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