True or False?
There’s a myth that the colonists tried to wipe out the Native American Indians with smallpox infected blankets, but that is a myth. So if you’re wondering if it’s True or False, the answer is FALSE. Here’s the evidence to support that conclusion:
- For all the outrage the account has stirred over the years, there’s only one clearly documented instance of a colonial attempt to spread smallpox during the French and Indian War in the 1760s, and there’s no clear historical verdict on whether the biological attack even worked.
- Due to being isolated from the rest of the world until Columbus arrived, American Indians were notoriously vulnerable to contagious diseases.
- Europeans wouldn’t want to spread smallpox to Indians because they wanted to avoid it at all costs! If they spread it to the Indians, the Europeans might get exposed too and die off themselves. Everyone avoided smallpox like the plague!
- No one knew how smallpox spread until Germ Theory was discovered in 1861 by Louis Pasteur.
It’s not clear smallpox-infected blankets even worked.
It’s also not clear whether or not the attempt at biological warfare had the intended effect. According to Fenn’s article, the Native Americans around Fort Pitt were “struck hard” by smallpox in the spring and summer of 1763. “We can’t be sure,” Kelton says. Around that time, “we know that smallpox was circulating in the area, but they [Native Americans] could have come down with the disease by other means.”
“Historian Philip Ranlet of Hunter College and author of a 2000 article on the smallpox blanket incident in Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, also casts doubt. “There is no evidence that the scheme worked,” Ranlet says. “The infection on the blankets was apparently old, so no one could catch smallpox from the blankets. Besides, the Indians just had smallpox—the smallpox that reached Fort Pitt had come from Indians—and anyone susceptible to smallpox had already had it.”
Native American Indians Had No Natural Immunity Due To Isolation
American Indians were notoriously vulnerable to contagious diseases. Scientists have theorized that the Asians who migrated over the Bering land bridge millennia ago were exposed to such intense cold that the diseased among them died en route. Isolation from Eurasia and Africa insulated North and South America from such contagious killers as bubonic and pneumonic plague, smallpox and tuberculosis.