I saw a video posted on Facebook where Wendell Pierce accused white men of intentionally infecting natives with smallpox by giving them infected blankets.

A cursory read of this paper published by the University of Michigan suggests it's false. Is there any evidence that this claim might actually be true?

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    The event is very well known.
    – jwodder
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 17:07
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    The link in the question relates to a different accusation: that the US Army deliberately infected the Mandans in 1837. The Ft. Pitt event was in 1763. (The Ft. Pitt event establishes that the answer to the question is "yes," though.) Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 1:06
  • @LarryOBrien, your comment could be turned into an answer that I would accept.
    – TecBrat
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 13:54
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    @jwodder - it's also widely misinterpreted (including narrative on Wiki): amherst.edu/library/archives/faq#lordjeff
    – user5341
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 16:37
  • Woe to the poor sap who got nominated to deliver said smallpox blankets. Also how did we have such knowledge and control over a disease we didn't have a vaccine for until 1796. Oh right, we have this convenient smallpox blanket receipt, that proves everything.
    – EricLeaf
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 15:58

1 Answer 1



During the 1763 Siege of Ft. Pitt Captain Simeon Ecuyer gave representatives of the besieging Delawares two blankets and a handkerchief from the smallpox ward:

Out of our regard to them we gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.


Should there be any ambiguity about "the desired effect":

In a letter to Colonel Henry Bouquet dated July 7, 1763, [Lord Jeffery] Amherst writes "Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians?" In a later letter to Bouquet Amherst repeats the idea: "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race."


The Wikipedia article about the Siege of St. Pitt says that these blankets were probably not the actual mechanism by which the Delawares were exposed and infected, but the intention is clear.

The post linked to in the question relates to a different accusation, regarding events in 1837.

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    I notice the amherst link says, "It is also highly unlikely that the tactic caused any infection."
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 18:10
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    It would be highly preferable to use an alternative reference for the Siege of Ft. Pitt, as that Wikipedia article has been the subject of repeated revisions to change statements of fact on this very subject, verging on vandalism. See the article's Talk page for more details; also, recent revisions such as this one.
    – Air
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 18:23

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