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Timeline / Colonizers and Resistance / 1763–64: Britain wages biological warfare with smallpox

1763–64: Britain wages biological warfare with smallpox

The British give smallpox-contaminated blankets to Shawnee and Lenape (Delaware) communities—an action sanctioned by the British officers Sir Jeffery Amherst and his replacement, General Thomas Gage.

“Out of our regard to them … we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.” —An eyewitness, quoted in Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–81, 2001


Image of a Mesoamerican infected with smallpox. Illustrated panel from the Florentine Codex, a compendium of information on Aztec people and history by Bernardino de Sahagún, a 16th-century Spanish Franciscan missionary.

Courtesy Granger Collection, New York