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April 16-27, 1995
Dear H-West Subscribers:
What follows is a query, then several responses regarding the continuing fascination and argument about the incidence (if any) of intentional passage of smallpox from Europeans to Native Americans. All are crossposted from the discussion list on early American history, IEAHCNET <IEAHCNET@uicvm.uic.edu>.
Any contributions from our ranks?
Elliott West, Co-Moderator
>Date: April 16, 1995
>From: Betty Nuxoll <EMNQC@CUNYVM>
I have been reviewing the documents in the latest volume of The Papers of Henry Bouquet which has many interesting texts on relations with various Native American tribes, and on frontier warfare. A number of the texts deal with the decision to use small pox as a deliberate form of germ warfare against the Indians in the 1760s. I recall much coverage of the decimation of the Indians by disease during the Columbus anniversaries, but I am not familiar with the historiography on the deliberate use of smallpox or other diseases as a weapon--or indeed the historiography on the origins of germ warfare in general. Would any of you be able to inform me of sources on this subject? Thanks in advance. Elizabeth M. Nuxoll. The Papers of Robert Morris Queens College, CUNY
>Date: April 17, 1995
>From: Bruce Mitzit <email@example.com
I hope this discussion on smallpox stays on the list--i.e. discussions are to the list and not private posts to Betty. The subject is a touchy one to me as common wisdom, with which I disagree, has it Europeans actively used disease as germ warfare in the 18th and 19th cent. The common wisdom further assumes such practice enjoyed efficacious success. The statement is made that smallpox-contaminated blankets were commonly used throughout Americans' westward advance to remove the Indian from objection. The notion is accepted as a truism. I have never been able to find explicit record of such use but for the actions of Lord Amherst during the F-I wars, who bragged about it. I've had intense discussions with scholars knowledgable in the field of Indian/White relations who accept without reflection the common use of this technique but, at my prodding, can find only the Amherst example in all our history. The practical effect of Amherst's action is debatable but is, I understand, generally accepted to have had inconclusive effect on the target tribe.
There are practical arguments against the view of such use: how to keep the disease confined to the the target group without spreading to tribes of one's allies or to frontier settlements, for example? How does one wage germ-warfare when he doesn't know what a germ is?
I would somewhere like to see work done on the US govt's efforts to inoculate Indians against smallpox far into the unsettled territories. Such efforts were begun just beginning the 19th century, only a few years after an effective protection miraculously emerged from the noise of other conflicting theological and superstitious theories of prevention and cure. Despite bureaucratic bungling with tragic consequence (the destruction by smallpox of the Mandan tribes of the upper Missouri in the late 1830s), this policy of innoculation was practiced at least until the 1840s.
Despite my passion on the subject, it remains a side-bar to my major interests, so I haven't a bibliographical collection on smallpox satisfying either in breadth or depth, but some sources you could look into, together with the sometimes inadequate biblio. information I presently have at hand:
_Princes and Peasants: Smallpox in history_, Donald R. Hopkins, Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1983
an excellent history of the disease, should be read first to understand the dynamics of epidemic and the bug itself. A good history as well of how civilization tried to deal with the disease from its first appearance.
_A Destroying Angel: The conquest of smallpox in colonial Boston_, Ola Elizabeth Winslow, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974
for one example of the sense of Congress, you might want to look at the Act of 5 May 1832, Statutes, 4:514-15.
_The Effect of Smallpox on the Destiny of the Amerindian_, E Wagner.Stearn and Allen E. Stearn, , 1945
Thesis: _A Study of the Comparative Effects of Smallpox on Four Indian Groups_ (being the Mandan, Hidatsa, Blackfeet, Shoshoni), Carol A. Novotne, Missoula:U of Montana (at Mansfield Library there), 1976
_Across the Wide Missouri_, Bernard DeVoto, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1947 and 1975, has an excellent (it's DeVoto, after all) account of the smallpox epidemic ascending the upper Missouri in 1837, devotes Chap. 11 to the event.
_Among the Sleeping Giants: occasional pieces on Lewis & Clark_, Donald Jackson, Urbana: U of Illinois Press, 1987 briefly discusses the bureacratic bungle I mentioned above on pages 41-42.
and for an eye-witness account in its horrific detail:
_Chardon's Journal at Ft. Clark, 1834-1839..._, Francis Chardon, Annie Abel ed., Pierre SD, 1932
lest we assume white settlements were enjoying good health while the Mandan and Hidatsa were being destroyed, you could look at the section beginning page 320 in
_James Pattie's West: the Dream and the Reality_ (aka in hardcover _American Ecclesiastes: the stories of James Pattie_), Richard Batman, Norman: U of Oklahoma, 1986
discussing the new and terrifying plague of cholera sweeping the settled east about the same time.
In the spirit of inclusion, I should mention the entry "diseases" in _The Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West_, Howard R. Lamar, ed., New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974, which thoroughly disagrees with me but takes airy assumptions and makes sweeping conclusions (as does much of this very useful but often flawed resource) with little reference of substance.
You might also want to post this query in h-west, where I'm sure you'll get response. A post to any of the numerous Native lists should give satisfactory response.
>Date: Sun, 16 Apr 1995 13:23:27 EDT >From: "Jeffrey W. Reed" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On the plan to use smallpox as a weapon against the Indians; Parkman, in _The Conspiracy of Pontiac_ (Vol 2, pgs 39-40, in the new Bison edition) discussed this proposal. The idea, apparently, came from Lord Amherst, in a letter of orders to Col Bouquet, saying "Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occassion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them". Bocquet replied that he would try and use infected blankets as a means of introducing the disease among the Indians, but was wary of the effects that it would have on his own men. Bouquet then proposes using- in "the Spanish method"- a combination of hunting dogs, rangers and light horsemen, in an effort to "effectually extirpate or remove that vermin" at little risk to his own men. Amherst readily agreed, hoping that the use of smallpox infested blankets, as well as any other method be used that "can serve to extirpate this execrable race", although he did not think that the hunting dog idea was practical. Parkman states that there is no evidence that Bouquet ever used the smallpox plan, although an epedemic raged among the Ohio Indians "a few months after" the July 1763 correspondence.
Jeffrey W. Reed
>Date: Sun, 16 Apr 1995 13:25:24 EDT >From: David T Rayson <email@example.com>
In this context of deliberately using disease as a weapon against Native Americans, the English trader James Adair asserts that in 1738 "the Cherake received a most depopulating shock by the small pox, which reduced them almost one-half, in about a year's time: it was conveyed into Charles-town by the Guinea-men, and soon after among them, by the infected goods." The Guinea-men could either refer to slaves from the Guinea coast or, and I think more probably, to the slavers themselves. In any event, the transmission of such goods was deliberate and it also came at a time of rising tension between Carolina and the Cherokee. Trade with the Cherokee was halted for about 18 months and when it resumed the remaining half of the Cherokee suffered another major epidemic -- this time of suicide as the survivors viewed their scarred faces for the first time in the mirrors sent as trade goods.
>Date: Sun, 16 Apr 1995 13:25:58 EDT >From: Patrick Riordan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Many popular books on the Indian wars of late C19 cite the use of smallpox transmission via infected blankets. It's part of the beliefs and oral traditions of many western native peoples, and there are numerous reliable citations. Here's one example:
In a section on Tribes of the Columbia River region of the Pacific Northwest, James Mooney (anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution) wrote:
"In 1847 the small pox, before unknown among them, carried off a large part of the tribe. The Cayuse, believing that the missionaries were the cause of it, attacked the mission on November 29, 1847, killed Dr. Whitman [a Presbyterian missionary] and thirteen others, and destroyed the mission. As a matter of fact, there seems little question that the infection was brought into the country in supplies intended for the use of the mission or of emigrants temporarily stopping there."
This was originally published in 1896 by the Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., as an accompanying paper to the _Fourteenth Annual Report (Part 2) of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, 1892-93, By J.W. Powell, Director_.
You can find it in the old BAE reports, or in its reprinted format as James Mooney, _The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee_ (reprint; 1896, Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1973), 743-44.
Patrick Riordan Ph.D. Candidate, Teaching Assistant 1717 Old Fort Dr. Bureaucratic State University Tallahassee FL 32301 Voice and fax 904-656-6552
>Date: April 18, 1995
>From: Brad D. Hume <BDHUME@ucs.indiana.edu>
A couple of points on the history of science aspect of the discussion regarding Indians and Small Pox:
What makes the whole thing more complicated is that laypersons often feared the spread of diseases (i.e., had a lay theory of contagions) even before physicians accepted the evidence (they had other complicated theories). So then we have to ask whether the individuals who wanted to infect the Indians with smallpox or not were following the advice of physicians (pre-1720) or not.
Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion. My real area is history of anthropology (1780-1860) so this has been particularly interesting to me.
Brad D. Hume
History and Philosophy of Science
>Date: Tue, 18 Apr 1995 08:13:18 EDT
>From: J. Douglas Deal <deal@Oswego.OSWEGO.EDU>
To follow up on the postings of Mary Beth Norton and Brad Hume, each of whom asks important questions: I'm no medical authority (alas), but like Norton have read that the smallpox virus can only be transmitted through human-to-human contact (ordinarily touch or respiration). This information is provided, for instance, in Laurie Garrett's new book, THE COMING PLAGUE, which in many ways seems a quite sophisticated study of infectious diseases in the world today. But, to compound the mystery, Garrett adds in a footnote that "Smallpox may have been the most useful weapon of biological warfare in world history," and she proceeds to describe the 1763 Amherst & blankets case, without a hint that it might not have worked. She then links the epidemic among the Pontiacs with others on the Plains and in the northwest and cites as her authority the official World Health Organization book, SMALLPOX AND ITS ERADICATION, edited by F. Fenner (a virologist) et al. and published in 1988. Garrett is a well-informed journalist, and her source is, one would think, a solid scientific study. Would specialists repeat a story about the transmission of the disease if it COULD NOT have occurred? Maybe, but probably not. Is there an epidemiologist on the list?!
>Date: Tue, 18 Apr 1995 08:13:53 EDT
>From: Geoffrey Plank <email@example.com.EDU>
After disease swept through the Micmac communities of Nova Scotia around 1747, French accounts of the epidemic blamed the British, claiming that British officers and traders intentionally spread disease by distributing infected clothing. See "Motifs des sauvages mickmaques," in Baston du Bosq de Beaumont, LES DERNIERS JOURS DE L'ACADIE (Geneva, 1975), 46.
This is hardly the right-from-the-horse's-mouth evidence that we have for Amherst's program, but if it is true, it might explain where Amherst got his idea. Amherst arrived in Nova Scotia in 1758 in anticipation of his attack on Cape Breton Island. During his short stay in Nova Scotia, he certainly learned the rhetoric of hating the Micmac, as his speeches to his troops in 1758 make clear. Amherst almost certainly had very little personal interaction with the Micmac themselves. He learned his hatred from others who had been in Nova Scotia longer. Is it possible that he learned more than their attitudes, but maybe also their methods of operation?
(I suspect that this might be true, but I don't think I could prove it.)
Indians and Smallpox (3 posts+ 1 from H-West) (xIEAHCNET)
[The first two posts are crossposted from the discussion list on early American history, IEAHCNET <IEAHCNET@uicvmluic.edu>]
>Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995
>From: Elizabeth M. Nuxoll <EMNQC@CUNYVM.BITNET>
I was delighted to see my query brought on such an interesting discussion. While was initially only trying to get a handle on the significance and availability of the portion of the Amherst-Bouquet texts that were just published in volume 6 of the Bouquet Papers, both for a book review better informed on the current state of knowledge. I've now read the Knollenberg piece and reponses as well as the documents in the Bouquet papers and agree that the recent summaries pretty well cover the evidence available--that is,nothing specific showing Bouquet took action, but solid evidence that Ecuyer did--prior to the Amherst correspondence and that there is evidence of smallpox the following year but nothing to prove the blankets did it.
Regarding the questions raised by Mary Beth Norton and others--the Trent Diary does indicate the blankets were re moved from the small pox ward and given directly to Indians, so if the virus holds its force at all this could do it. On the other hand the existence of such a ward means the disease was already in the area and therefore could have been spread by personal contact whether deliberately or not. Knollenberg's last footnote, by the way, says "This discussion leaves out of considerationof course the medical question of to what extent smallpox can be communicated by infected objects (fomites). Because medical authorities are not in agreement on the question, a conclusive answer is not possible." Based on our discussion so far that seems to be true still, although there may be some conclusive study out there in medical literature that we just don't know about yet. Should any of you come upon it, I'm sure the whole list would be delighted to know. Thanks to all of you for a wealth of information.
>Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995
>From: DAVID R. WILLIAMS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Riordon wrote:
> If the government believed it was possible to transmit disease through > infected blankets and attempted to do so, are they off the ethical hook > because we now have a contradictory theory of disease?
And here is what bothers me so much about modern "scholarship." At what point did history become ethics? Why should we subvert the elusive search for facts to moralist concerns? So what if they are on or off the hook? If you want to be a preacher, go preach. If you want to save theworld, go into politics. If you want to invent a world free of evil, take prozac. It was said in Ecclesiasties and it still is true today, people suck. They did then, all ofthem. THey do now, all of us. History is the history of self-interested, competing, aggressive, selfish, murderous humans. At what point did it become a morality play? -Dave WIlliams, George mason Univ.
>Date: Wed, 26 Apr 1995
With some reluctance about revealing my current institutional affiliation in the ongoing discussion about smallpox and Indians, let me add an additional bibliographic citation to the list: J. Poupard, L. Miller, L. Granshaw, "A New Look at the Smallpox Story," ASM News (March, 1989). Writing in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, two microbiologists and a medical historian review the literature about Amherst and Bouquet. The article was reprinted in the Winter 1989 edition of the Amherst Alumni Quarterly.
>Date: April 27, 1995
>From: Henrietta Stockel <email@example.com>
For those who are interested, below are the citations on the government's efforts to vaccinate the Native Americans against smallpox.
Office of Indian Affairs. Physician employed to vaccinate Indians. Annual Report, Comm of Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1831.
Office of Indian Affairs. Act of Congress concerning vaccination of Indians. Annual Report, Comm of Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1832.
Office of Indian Affairs. Small-pox among Chippewas in 1750 and 1770. Annual Report, Comm of Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1832.
Office of Indian Affairs. Small-pox in 1802-1803 at Sault Ste. Marie. Annual Report, Comm of Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1832.
Office of Indian Affairs. Statement of fund for extending benefits of vaccination to Indian tribes. Annual Report, Comm Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1832.
Office of Indian Affairs. Statement showing amount of requisitions from January 1st to September 30th, 1833 for vaccination. Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1833.
Office of Indian Affairs. Disbursements, January 1st to September 30th, 1834 for vaccinating Indians. Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1834.
Office of Indian Affairs. Requisitions during fiscal year for vaccination among Indians. Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1835.
Office of Indian Affairs. Small-pox at Saginaw. Annual Report, Comm Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1837-38.
Office of Indian Affairs. Small-pox among Sacs and Foxes.] Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1851.
Schoolcraft, HR. The smallpox, a scourge to the aborigines. In: Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History and Conditions...Phila:Lippincott , Grambo & Co., 1851;1:257-58.
Office of Indian Affairs. Small-pox among Osages. Valuable effect of vaccination. Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior 1852.
Office of Indian Affairs. Small-pox deals severely with the Sacs and Foxes. Annual Report, Comm Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior 1852.
Office of Indian Affairs. The Cherokee Indians suffer from small-pox. Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1852.
Office of Indian Affairs. Crow Indians diminished by small-pox. Annual Report, Comm Indian Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1853.
Office of Indian Affairs. Indians at Fort Pierre, Upper Missouri, ravaged by small-pox and cholera. Annual Report, Comm Ind Affairs to Sec of Interior, 1853.
Also - reports as above about Indians of the Central Superintendency and Quebec dated 1855, about the Assiniboines, Crows, Indians of Washington Territory, Kickapoos, Mendocinos, and Indians of the Upper Missouri dated 1857.
Kneeland, T. On some causes tending to promote the extinction of the aborigines of America. Transactions, American Medical Association, 1865;15:253.
Phew! Good luck.
H. Henrietta Stockel
Special Projects Bibliographer
University of New Mexico
Health Sciences Center Library
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