Scourge of the 18th Century
In December 1775, over a thousand Continental Army Soldiers, under the command of General Benedict Arnold and General Richard Montgomery, assembled outside Quebec. The men were tired and weak from a long, cold march. Like Washington’s men outside Boston, most had no immunity to smallpox. Near exhaustion, the men were highly vulnerable to an outbreak of disease. Journals written by Soldiers reveal that by late December, the outbreak had begun.
On New Year’s Eve 1775, the Continental Army attacked during a snowstorm. The attack was a disaster. Montgomery was killed, and the British captured hundreds of men. Whether prison or free, the Continental Soldiers faced similar conditions: cramped quarters, cold, lack of food. Quarantine procedures failed to stop the disease, and hundreds died. As the survivors began their long retreat, they carried the disease with them.
Army policy forbade variolation out of fear that the enemy might attack while Soldiers were recovering, but the experience at Quebec proved the inadequacy of quarantine. Some historians believe that the spread of the disease was halted when General Gates ordered a clandestine inoculation program.
By 1777, Washington had had enough. He began an official inoculation program in January. In February, he ordered that all new recruits should
Thanks to aggressive efforts at eradication, the last known case of smallpox occurred in 1977. Except for small samples maintained for research purposes, the virus has reportedly ceased to exist.
A list of relevant PA Educational Standards is available in the Museum Store inside the Visitor and Education center.
Funding for this sign provided by the G.B. Stuart Charitable Foundation.
Erected by U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.
Location. 40° 12.267′ N, 77° 9.498′ W. Marker is in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in Cumberland County. Marker can be reached from 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); Specialist Fourth Class Robert D. Law (within shouting distance of this marker); Stations Upon the Road (within shouting distance of this marker); Colonel Robert W. Black (within shouting distance of this marker); The Capture of Redoubt #10 (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 83 times since then and 17 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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