“Disease has destroyed ten men for us, where the sword of the enemy has killed one” – wrote John Adams to his wife Abigail, April 13, 1777.
At the beginning of the Revolution, an estimated 30 percent of soldiers became infected with smallpox. This largely began when the British evacuated Boston, which they had occupied for nine months, and left their infected soldiers behind. Spreading across the continent, the smallpox epidemic killed an estimated 145,000 settlers and Indians.
Fortunately for General Washington, he was immune to smallpox as he had contracted it at the age of 19 when he traveled to Barbados with his older half-brother Lawrence.
On July 4, 1775, Washington cautioned against travel around Boston: “… as there may be danger of introducing smallpox into the army.”
On July 20, 1775, Washington wrote to Congress, that he had: “… been particularly attentive to theThis post was originally published on this site