Re: pax mangi fratris

Brian D Williams (
Fri, 26 Dec 1997 08:37:21 -0800 (PST)

From: Anton Sherwood <> writes:

>>In at least one incident the U.S. Army deliberately sent a group
>>of Indians blankets from an area undergoing an epidemic
>>(cholera?), with predictable results.

>I've recently read, if memory serves, that this happened at least
>once in colonial days - fallout from one of those endless
>British-French quarrels - but there's no hard evidence that US
>forces ever did it. For whatever that's worth.

I distinctly remember an incident about the U.S. Army, but I
haven't been able to relocate the referrence. I do however also
remember the incident you mention, and did locate that reference.
Maybe one learned from the other?

W.M. Denevan, "The Native Population of the Americas in 1492"
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1992).

Smallpox may have been the most useful weapon of biological warfare
in world history. European colonists repeatedly took advantage of
the special susceptibility of the Amerindian population,
deliberately spreading the deadly virus among Indians who were
sucessfully defending their rights to the land and resources of the
Americas. For example, in 1763 Sir Jeffery Amherst, commander in
chief of all British forces in North America, was having great
difficulty controlling the Pontiac Indians in the western
territories. At Amherst's insistence, blankets innoculated with
live smallpox viruses were distributed to the Pontiac, obliterating
the tribe. The deliberately induced epidemic quickly spread to the
northwest, claiming large numbers of Sioux and Plains Indians,
crossed the Rockies and inflicted huge death tolls among Native
Americans from southern California all the up to the Artic circle
tribes of Alaska. This devastation was cited in the official WHO
history of smallpox: Fenner,Henderson, Arita,et al,(1988) op.cit.

I also found this in Laurie Garrett's "The Coming Plague":

"According to historian Williams McNeill, Cortez's capture of
Mexico City with just a small army of exhausted Spanish irregulars
under his command was possible only because the Europeans had
unknowingly spread smallpox throughout the land. When Cortez
launched his final assault on the capitol, few Aztec soldiers were
alive and well. Smallpox, together with measles, tuberculosis, and
influenza, claimed an estimated 56 million Amerindian lives during
the initial years of the Spanish conquest."