Scourge of the 18th Century
George Washington understood the threat of smallpox. Washington himself had survived the disease when he was 19. He knew there were two ways to control smallpox: variolate the healthy or quarantine the sick. The problem with variolation was that recovering troops would be unfit for duty for 2-3-weeks. Moreover, soldiers who developed a serious case of smallpox could start an epidemic of the full-blown disease. The problem with quarantine was that it was not always effective. Soldiers might transmit the disease before they could be isolated.
In the summer of 1775, the Continental Army lay outside British occupied Boston. Inside the city, smallpox raged through the population. Most of the British troops had been exposed at home in England and were immune. Most of the Continental Soldiers were not.
As people in Boston died at a rate of 10-30 a day, Washington faced a serious decision. Should he run the risk of variolation and the possibility that the British might attack while his men were recovering, or should he count on quarantine methods if smallpox broke out among his men?
Washington chose quarantine. The Continental Army was spared a major outbreak, in part because Washington personally oversaw strict quarantine procedures. Other Continental Army officers were not so lucky.
Erected by U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.
Location. 40° 12.267′ N, 77° 9.496′ W. Marker is in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in Cumberland County. Marker is on Army Heritage Drive. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Carlisle PA 17013, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Smallpox (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Smallpox (here, next to this marker); A Century of Protection (within shouting distance of this marker); Stations Upon the Road (within shouting distance of this marker); Specialist Fourth Class Robert D. Law (within shouting distance of this marker); The Capture of Redoubt #10 (within shouting distance of this marker); Colonel Robert W. Black (within shouting distance of this marker); Lieutenant Colonel William Orlando Darby (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Carlisle.
Categories. • Science & Medicine • War, US Revolutionary •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 22, 2017. This page originally submitted on June 22, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 78 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 22, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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