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Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets ^ | Peter d'Errico

Posted on 12/05/2002 4:54:44 PM PST by Sabertooth

Jeffrey1 Amherst and Smallpox Blankets

Lord Jeffrey1 Amherst's letters discussing germ warfare against American Indians

"... every Tree is become an Indian...." Colonel Henry Bouquet to General Amherst, dated 29 June 1763. [63k]

Lord Jeff

Lord Jeffrey1 Amherst was commanding general of British forces in North America during the final battles of the so-called French & Indian war (1754-1763). He won victories against the French to acquire Canada for England and helped make England the world's chief colonizer at the conclusion of the Seven Years War among the colonial powers (1756-1763).

The town of Amherst, Massachusetts, was named for Lord Jeff even before he became a Lord. Amherst Collegewas later named after the town. It is said the local inhabitants who formed the town preferred another name, Norwottuck, after the Indians whose land it had been; the colonial governor substituted his choice for theirs. Frank Prentice Rand, in his book, The Village of Amherst: A Landmark of Light [Amherst, MA: Amherst Historical Society, 1958], says that at the time of the naming, Amherst was "the most glamorous military hero in the New World. ... ...the name was so obvious in 1759 as to be almost inevitable." [p. 15]

Amherst College china plate: English chasing Indians back of Amherst College china plate

Amherst College china plates depicting mounted Englishman with sword chasing Indians on foot were in use until the 1970's.

Click on the pictures to see full-size images.

The history of the naming of the town of Amherst, New York, shows a similar idolizing of the general:

On April 10, 1818, the Town of Amherst was officially created by an Act of the Senate of the State of New York. This new town was named for Sir Jeffrey Amherst, an English lord who was Commander-in-Chief of the British troops in America in 1758-1763, before the American Revolution. King George III rewarded Lord Amherst by giving him 20,000 acres in New York, but Lord Amherst never visited his new lands. [From: A Brief History of the Town of Amherst, (Amherst Museum, 1997)

Smallpox blankets

Despite his fame, Jeffrey Amherst's name became tarnished by stories of smallpox-infected blankets used as germ warfare against American Indians. These stories are reported, for example, in Carl Waldman's Atlas of the North American Indian [NY: Facts on File, 1985]. Waldman writes, in reference to a siege of Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) by Chief Pontiac's forces during the summer of 1763:

... Captain Simeon Ecuyer had bought time by sending smallpox-infected blankets and handkerchiefs to the Indians surrounding the fort -- an early example of biological warfare -- which started an epidemic among them. Amherst himself had encouraged this tactic in a letter to Ecuyer. [p. 108]

Some people have doubted these stories; other people, believing the stories, nevertheless assert that the infected blankets were not intentionally distributed to the Indians, or that Lord Jeff himself is not to blame for the germ warfare tactic.

drawing by Terry R. Peters

Drawing by Terry R. Peters, Medical Illustrator, Topeka Veterans Administration Medical Center. Used with permission. Click on image to view full size.

Lord Jeff's letters during Pontiac's Rebellion

The documents provided here are made available to set the record straight. These are images of microfilmed original letters written between General Amherst and his officers and others in his command during the summer of 1763, when the British were fighting what became known as Pontiac's Rebellion.

Pontiac, an Ottawa chief who had sided with the French, led an uprising against the British after the French surrender in Canada. Indians were angered by Amherst's refusal to continue the French practice of providing supplies in exchange for Indian friendship and assistance, and by a generally imperious British attitude toward Indians and Indian land. As Waldman puts it:

... Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the British commander-in-chief for America, believed ... that the best way to control Indians was through a system of strict regulations and punishment when necessary, not "bribery," as he called the granting of provisions. [p. 106]

The British Manuscript Project

The documents provided here are among Amherst's letters and other papers microfilmed as part of the British Manuscript Project, 1941-1945, undertaken by the United States Library of Congress during World War II. The project was designed to preserve British historical documents from possible war damage. There are almost three hundred reels of microfilm on Amherst alone.

The microfilm is difficult to read, and paper copies even harder. Nonetheless, the images obtained by scanning the copies are sufficiently clear for online viewing. The images are of key excerpts from the letters. An index is provided to show by document number the location of these images in the microfilm set. Ascii text of the excerpts is also provided.

The documents

These are the pivotal letters:

These letters also discuss the use of dogs to hunt the Indians, the so-called "Spaniard's Method," which Amherst approves in principle, but says he cannot implement because there are not enough dogs. In a letter dated 26 July 1763, Bouquet acknowledges Amherst's approval [125k] and writes, "all your Directions will be observed."

Historian Francis Parkman, in his book The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada [Boston: Little, Brown, 1886] refers to a postscript in an earlier letter from Amherst to Bouquet wondering whether smallpox could not be spread among the Indians:

Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them. [Vol. II, p. 39 (6th edition)]

I have not found this letter, but there is a letter from Bouquet to Amherst, dated 23 June 1763, [189k] three weeks before the discussion of blankets to the Indians, stating that Captain Ecuyer at Fort Pitt (to which Bouquet would be heading with reinforcements) has reported smallpox in the Fort. This indicates at least that the writers knew the plan could be carried out.

It is curious that the specific plans to spread smallpox were relegated to postscripts. I leave it to the reader to ponder the significance of this.

Several other letters from the summer of 1763 show the smallpox idea was not an anomaly. The letters are filled with comments that indicate a genocidal intent, with phrases such as:

Amherst's correspondence during this time includes many letters on routine matters, such as officers who are sick or want to be relieved of duty; accounts of provisions on hand, costs for supplies, number of people garrisoned; negotiations with provincial governors (the army is upset with the Pennsylvania assembly, for example, for refusing to draft men for service); and so on. None of these other letters show a deranged mind or an obsession with cruelty. Amherst's venom was strictly reserved for Indians.

The French and the Indians

The sharpest contrast with letters about Indians is provided by letters regarding the other enemy, the French. Amherst has been at war with the French as much as with the Indians; but he showed no obsessive desire to extirpate them from the earth. They were apparently his "worthy" enemy. It was the Indians who drove him mad. It was they against whom he was looking for "an occasion, to extirpate them root and branch." [J. C. Long, Lord Jeffrey Amherst: A Soldier of the King (NY: Macmillan, 1933), p. 187]

Long describes Amherst's "kindliness to the French" and refers to Amherst's "intensity of feeling on these issues":

Amherst's kindliness to the French civilians was more than a military gesture. He had a warm sympathy for the countryside, an interest in people and the way they lived. "The Inhabitants live comfortably," he observed in his journal, "most have stone houses.... ....

This humane attitude was reflected in his rules for the governing of Canada. As its de facto military Governor-General he established a temporary code ... a program of tolerance and regard for colonial sensibilities....


Perhaps most statesmanlike of all was Amherst's recognition of the French law, ... a recognition which permitted change of national loyalty without social upheaval. [p. 137]

In contrast to these kindly feelings, Long says that Pontiac's attacks on British forts at Detroit and Presqu'Isle "aroused Amherst to a frenzy, a frenzy almost hysterical in its impotence." Long then quotes from Amherst's letter to Sir William Johnson:

... it would be happy for the Provinces there was not an Indian settlement within a thousand Miles of them, and when they are properly punished, I care not how soon they move their Habitations, for the Inhabitants of the Woods are the fittest Companions for them, they being more nearly allied to the Brute than to the Human Creation. [p.186]

Colonel Bouquet's poetic line, "... every Tree is become an Indian," [63k] quoted above, was his description of a contagion of fear among "the terrified Inhabitants," for whom the Indians were a part of the wildness they perceived around themselves. These warriors would not stand in ordered ranks; they fell back into the forests only to emerge again in renewed attack; their leaders defied British logic and proved effective against a string of British forts; these were the enemy that nearly succeeded in driving the British out, and became the target for British genocide.2


All in all, the letters provided here remove all doubt about the validity of the stories about Lord Jeff and germ warfare. The General's own letters sustain the stories.

As to whether the plans actually were carried out, Parkman has this to say:

... in the following spring, Gershom Hicks, who had been among the Indians, reported at Fort Pitt that the small-pox had been raging for some time among them....

An additional source of information on the matter is the Journal of William Trent, commander of the local militia of the townspeople of Pittsburgh during Pontiac's seige of the fort. This Journal has been described as "... the most detailed contemporary account of the anxious days and nights in the beleaguered stronghold." [Pen Pictures of Early Western Pennsylvania, John W. Harpster, ed. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1938).]

Trent's entry for May 24, 1763, includes the following statement:

... we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.

Trent's Journal confirms that smallpox had broken out in Fort Pitt prior to the correspondence between Bouquet and Amherst, thus making their plans feasible. It also indicates that intentional infection of the Indians with smallpox had been already approved by at least Captain Ecuyer at the fort, who some commentators have suggested was in direct correspondence with General Amherst on this tactic (though I have not yet found such letters).


1. There is some dispute about the spelling of Amherst's first name. As Lion G. Miles points out, 'Amherst always signed as "Jeff:" so there has been a long-standing controversy as to the correct spelling of his first name. I am reasonably certain that it should be "Jeffery." Those officers closest to him, his aides etc., always spelled the name that way and transcribed his orders as from "Jeffery." Official letters addressed to him from England and the British Army List have it as "Sir Jeffery Amherst" (never mind that Bouquet solved the problem by addressing him as "Jeffry"). Even the biography by Long … has the title of "Lord Jeffery Amherst," not "Jeffrey."' [Lion G. Miles, member of the board, Native American Institute at Hudson, NY, in a personal email communication, 15 November 1998]

2. The depiction of Indians as wild beasts was quite common among early American leaders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. David E. Stannard writes: 'As is so often the case, it was New England's religious elite who made the point more graphically than anyone. Referring to some Indians who had given offense to the colonists, the Reverend Cotton Mather wrote: "Once you have but got the Track of those Ravenous howling Wolves, then pursue them vigourously; Turn not back till they are consumed… Beat them small as the Dust before the Wind." Lest this be regarded as mere rhetoric, empty of literal intent, consider that another of New England's most esteemed religious leaders, the Reverend Solomon Stoddard, as late as 1703 formally proposed to the Massachusetts Governor that the colonists be given the financial wherewithal to purchase and train large packs of dogs "to hunt Indians as they do bears."' [American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press (1992)), p. 241]

Additional Sources of Information

1. Medical information

A mild form of smallpox virus, Variola minor (also called alastrim), is transmitted by inhalation and is communicable for 3-7 days. The more serious smallpox virus, Variola major, is transmitted both by inhalation and by contamination; it is communicable by inhalation for 9-14 days and by contamination for several years in a dried state. For further medical information, see Donald A. Henderson, et al., "Smallpox as a Biological Weapon: Medical and Public Health Management," Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 281 No. 22 (June 9, 1999).

Ann F. Ramenofsky, Vectors of Death: The Archaeology of European Contact (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1987), also discusses the question of communicability:

Among Class I agents, Variola major holds a unique position. Although the virus is most frequently transmitted through droplet infection, it can survive for a number of years outside human hosts in a dried state (Downie 1967; Upham 1986). As a consequence, Variola major can be transmitted through contaminated articles such as clothing or blankets (Dixon 1962). In the nineteenth century, the U.S. Army sent contaminated blankets to Native Americans, especially Plains groups, to control the Indian problem (Stearn and Stearn 1945). [p. 148]

Abraham B. Bergman, et al., "A Political History of the Indian Health Service" (undated draft manuscript at (visited 4 DEC 02)), comments on the birth of the Indian Health Service:

Federal health services for Indians began under War Department auspices in the early 1800's. At that time the Federal Indian policy was primarily one of military containment. As early as 1802 Army physicians took emergency measures to curb contagious diseases among Indian tribes in the vicinity of military posts. The first large scale smallpox vaccination of Indians was authorized by Congress in 1832, probably launched more to protect US soldiers than to benefit Indians. [unpaginated; quoted with permission from the author and the Seattle Indian Health Board]

2. Social and Political Effects of Disease

E. Wagner Stearn & Allen E. Stearn, The Effect of Smallpox on the Destiny of the Amerindian (Boston: Bruce Humphries (1945)), point out the social-political effects of smallpox:

Smallpox, which was introduced into the mainland of the Americas in the early part of the sixteenth century, not only decimated the native population for four centuries, but so demoralized the tribes through the terror it spread among them that it has been considered by many authorities to have been an important factor in their comparatively easy subjugation by the whites. Before the advent of the white man tribal warfare and, at times, famine made the chief inroads on the native population, but during the period of exploration and settlement the diseases of the white man, new to the native, caused terrific havoc. It is claimed that Haiti (Espanola) alone lost two-thirds of its population in the three years of Columbus's conquest, during the years 1492-1495. The two to three hundred inhabitants had quickly fallen prey not only to ruthless conquest but to a variety of infectious diseases. [p. 13]

Harold Napoleon, Yuuyaraq: the Way of the Human Being, with commentary, edited by Eric Madsen (Fairbanks, Alaska: University of Alaska, College of Rural Alaska, Center for Cross-Cultural Studies (1991)), states that epidemics caused a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and social collapse:

Compared to the span of life of a culture, the Great Death was instantaneous. The Yup'ik world was turned upside down, literally overnight. Out of the suffering, confusion, desperation, heartbreak, and trauma was born a new generation of Yup'ik people. They were born into shock. They woke to a world in shambles, many of their people and their beliefs strewn around them, dead. In their minds they had been overcome by evil. Their medicines and their medicine men and women had proven useless. Everything they had believed in had failed. Their ancient world had collapsed.

From their innocence and from their inability to understand and dispel the disease, guilt was born into them. They had witnessed mass death—evil—in unimaginable and unacceptable terms. These were the men and women orphaned by the sudden and traumatic death of the culture that had given them birth. They would become the first generation of modern-day Yup'ik. [p. 11]


The survivors taught almost nothing about the old culture to their children. It was as if they were ashamed of it, and this shame they passed on to their children by their silence and by allowing cultural atrocities to be committed against their children. The survivors also gave up all governing power of the villages to the missionaries and school teachers, whoever was most aggressive. There was no one to contest them. In some villages the priest had displaced the angalkuq. In some villages there was theocracy under the benevolent dictatorship of a missionary. The old guardians of Yuuyaraq on the other hand, the angalkuq, if they were still alive, had fallen into disgrace. They had become a source of shame to the village, not only because their medicine and Yuuyaraq had failed, but also because the missionaries now openly accused them of being agents of the devil himself and of having led their people into disaster. [pp. 13-14]

3. Other writers on Amherst and smallpox

A. Elizabeth A. Fenn, "Biological Warfare in Eighteenth-Century North America: Beyond Jeffrey Amherst," Journal of American History vol. 86, no. 4 (March, 2000), pp. 1552-1580:

Our preoccupation with Amherst has kept us from recognizing that accusations of what we now call biological warfare—the military use of smallpox in particular—arose frequently in eighteenth-century America. Native Americans, moreover, were not the only accusers. By the second half of the century, many of the combatants in America's wars of empire had the knowledge and technology to attempt biological warfare with the smallpox virus. Many also adhered to a code of ethics that did not constrain them from doing so. Seen in this light, the Amherst affair becomes not so much an aberration as part of a larger continuum in which accusations and discussions of biological warfare were common, and actual incidents may have occurred more frequently than scholars have previously acknowledged. [p. 1553]

B. Adrienne Mayor, "The Nessus Shirt in the New World: Smallpox Blankets in History and Legend," Journal of American Folklore 108(427):54-77 (1995):

One name is repeatedly linked to the story of the smallpox blanket: Jeffrey Amherst. In 1851, Francis Parkman was the first historian to document Lord Amherst's "shameful plan" to exterminate Indians by giving them smallpox-infected blankets taken from the corpses of British soldiers at Fort Pitt in 1763 (Parkman 1991:646-651). The feasibility of the documented plan, whether or not it was successfully carried out, has given credibility and moral impact to the fears expressed in all poison-garment tales. The Amherst incident itself has taken on legendary overtones as believers and nonbelievers continue to argue over the facts and their interpretation. [p. 57]

C. Robert L. O'Connell, Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression (NY and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989):

Marking a milestone of sorts, certain colonists during the French and Indian Wars resorted to trading smallpox-contaminated blankets to local tribes with immediate and devastating results. While infected carcasses had long been catapulted into besieged cities, this seems to be the first time a known weakness in the immunity structure of an adversary population was deliberately exploited with a weapons response. [p. 171]

D. R. G. Robertson, Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indian (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2001):

With the surrender of New France to Great Britain, command of the English North American military forces fell to Lord Jeffrey Amherst. An arrogant aristocrat who despised all Indians, Amherst withheld gunpowder and lead from France's former native allies, stating that England's enemies ought to be punished, not rewarded. When informed that the tribes depended on their muskets for taking game and would starve without ammunition, he remained unswayed, callously informing his aides that they should seed the complaining bands with smallpox so as to lend starvation a speedy hand. [p. 119; with footnote to Herman J. Viola, After Columbus (Washington: Smithsonian Books, 1990), 98]


In the spring of 1763, during the Indian uprising led by Ottawa Chief Pontiac, a party of Delawares ringed British owned Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), calling for its surrender. Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a Swiss mercenary and the fort's senior officer, saved the garrison by giving the Delawares a gift—two blankets and a handkerchief. The Indians readily accepted the offering, but still demanded that Ecuyer vacate the stockade. They had no inkling that the blankets and kerchief were more deadly than a platoon of English sharpshooters. Ecuyer had ordered the presents deliberately infected with smallpox spores at the post hospital. By mid July, the Delawares were dying as though they had been raked by a grape cannonade. Fort Pitt remained firmly in English hands. [with footnote to Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn, Indian Wars (New York: American Heritage, 1977; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987)]

The same year, British General Sir Jeffrey Amherst urged Colonel Henry Bouquet to figure some way of infecting France's Indian allies with smallpox. On July 13, the colonel wrote that he would attempt seeding some blankets with Variola, then send them to the warring tribes. Recognizing the risk of such a tactic, Bouquet expressed the hope that he would not catch the sickness himself. Whether the plan was ever carried out is unknown. [p. 124; with footnote to John Duffy, "Smallpox and the Indians in the American Colonies," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 25 (1951): 324-341]

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Here's the known evidence for the legends of smallpox blankets among the Indians. It comes much later, and isn't nearly as widespread as is commonly reported.

1 posted on 12/05/2002 4:54:44 PM PST by Sabertooth
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To: *History_list
2 posted on 12/05/2002 4:58:17 PM PST by Free the USA
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To: Sabertooth
Excellent find.

3 posted on 12/05/2002 5:06:20 PM PST by Vigilantcitizen
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To: Sabertooth
Those offended by Colonel Bouquet's part in the matter can take solace in the fact that he died of disease at Pensacola shortly after his promotion to General in the year 1765. His accomplishment at Brushy Run seems to have been overshadowed by the Amherst correspondence, but I suppose that is to be expected in this age.

Ed (a lineal descendant of the very late Henry Louis Bouquet- unless proven otherwise)

4 posted on 12/05/2002 5:48:41 PM PST by niteowl77
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To: bonesmccoy; The Great Satan; LadyDoc

5 posted on 12/05/2002 5:58:38 PM PST by Sabertooth
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To: CheneyChick; vikingchick; Victoria Delsoul; WIMom; one_particular_harbour; kmiller1k; GOPJ; ...

6 posted on 12/05/2002 5:59:07 PM PST by Sabertooth
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To: PatrickHenry; Quila; Rudder; donh; VadeRetro; RadioAstronomer; Travis McGee; Physicist; ...

7 posted on 12/05/2002 5:59:46 PM PST by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth; Lent
Here's the known evidence for the legends of smallpox blankets among the Indians. It comes much later, and isn't nearly as widespread as is commonly reported.\

Blankets played a role. I guess. But the real culprit simply was European diseases that the Indians had no resistance to. Indians got it from contact with the Europeans. See the movie "Black Robe" sometime. Lothair Bluteau is the lead. He once had a great part in Miami Vice TV show

8 posted on 12/05/2002 6:09:10 PM PST by dennisw
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To: Sabertooth
Thanks for posting this. I research this stuff, and recently put out a call for documentary evidence on this very subject on an "Early American History" listserve. The Amherst incident is the only piece of evidence that anyone on there could present for the "small-pox blanket" urban legend.

For what it's worth, by the time of the Amherst incident [1763], small pox had been ravaging the Indian populations for nearly 150 years. Perhaps the greatest devastation was wrought unwittingly by the French missionaries in Canada, who brought both small pox and tuberculosis, among other diseases to the Indians. As the Indians had never been exposed to these diseases before, the death toll was catastrophic. In the Jesuit Relations, the following excerpt gives some idea of the scope of the disaster on the Algonquin tribes near Quebec, which had been stuck successively by famine, plague, and war with the implacable Iroquois:

"All these events have so greatly thinned the numbers of our Savages that, where eight years ago one could see eighty or a hundred cabins, barely five or six can now be seen; a Captain, who then had eight hundred warriors under his command, now has not more than thirty or forty; instead of fleets of three or four hundred Canoes, we see now but twenty or thirty."

The French, to their credit, did everything in their power to minister to the Indians suffering under the these plagues, contrary to the common presentation of the European as oppressor/conqueror in academic and media today.
9 posted on 12/05/2002 6:09:33 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: Sabertooth
One more thing for us to feel guilty about? I can't handle much more.
10 posted on 12/05/2002 6:10:34 PM PST by PatrickHenry
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To: dennisw
Actually, having read nearly 1/2 of the Jesuit Relations, I didn't find Black Robe all that compelling. For those who don't have the wherewithal to make it through all 73 volumes, a very compelling history of this period may be found in Francis Parkman's The Jesuits and other volumes in his series on the pioneers. It should be found in any public library worth its salt. Just be aware of Parkman's not-atypical, unhidden anti-Catholic bias.
11 posted on 12/05/2002 6:14:26 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: Sabertooth; All

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12 posted on 12/05/2002 6:14:43 PM PST by Bob J
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To: Sabertooth; All
Question: approximately when did science actually figure out how diseases and viruses, such as small-pox spread? Thanks.
13 posted on 12/05/2002 6:18:24 PM PST by vikingchick
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To: vikingchick
Question: approximately when did science actually figure out how diseases and viruses, such as small-pox spread? Thanks.

Funny you should ask. Historical overview of smallpox here...

Smallpox: The Triumph over the Most Terrible
of the Ministers of Death

14 posted on 12/05/2002 6:22:59 PM PST by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
The depiction of Indians as wild beasts was quite common among early American leaders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. David E. Stannard writes: 'As is so often the case, it was New England's religious elite who made the point more graphically than anyone. Referring to some Indians who had given offense to the colonists, the Reverend Cotton Mather wrote: "Once you have but got the Track of those Ravenous howling Wolves, then pursue them vigourously; Turn not back till they are consumed… Beat them small as the Dust before the Wind."

This seems pretty awful out of context. Here's the context. Read it if you can:

Jesuit Relation of 1643-4, R. G. Thwaites, ed. Volume 26, page 29.

We would have been deprived of all knowledge of what has happened to Father Bressany since the time of his capture, had we not heard it from a trustworthy person who was an eyewitness of all that he suffered during his captivity. After the first encounter, related above, [161] the Iroquois crossed Lake saint Pierre, and took the captives, for their sleep, to a very damp but very retired place,—where the Father and his companions, all securely bound, passed the night without any shelter but the Sky, or other bed than the earth. This was their usual lot, every night throughout the journey. On the following day, they were made to embark; and, after two days’ navigation, they met another band of Iroquois, who, overjoyed at this capture, gave the Father several blows with cudgels and threatened him with rougher treatment. When the last comers informed the others of the death of one of their most distinguished companions, which had happened at Montreal, the Father was no longer spared.

After two days’ navigation, he landed, and walked for six days barefooted through the woods, brush, and swamps,—fasting until about four o’clock in the afternoon, when a halt was made for the purpose of taking a rest. But hardly any was given to the Father, who, wet with rain, with the water of melting snows, of the torrents, and of the [162] rivers that had to be crossed, was compelled to assume all the tasks of the cooking. He was sent for the water and wood; and when he did not do well, or did not understand what was said to him, blows from cudgels were not lacking,—nor were they, whenever the party encountered Hunters and Fishermen.

When the six days had expired, he had to embark on the Lake of the Iroquois, which they crossed in 8 days; they then landed, and walked for three days more. On the fourth day, which was the fifteenth of May, about three o’clock in the afternoon, while he was still fasting, they reached a place where there were about 400 Savages, who had erected their cabins there for fishing. About two hundred paces beyond the cabins, the Father was stripped quite naked; and when the Savages had ranged themselves in two lines, facing each other, and armed with cudgels, he was ordered to march the first of all through the ranks of the band. No sooner had he lifted his foot than one of the Iroquois seized him by the left hand, and with a knife inflicted a deep gash between the third and the little fingers; and then the others discharged on him a [163] shower of blows with cudgels, and led him thus to the cabins. There they made him ascend a scaffold (raised about six feet from the ground),-quite naked, bathed in his own blood, that flowed from nearly every part of his body, and exposed to a cold wind that congealed his blood on his skin; and they ordered him to sing during the feast that they gave to those who had brought in the prisoners.

When the feast was over, the warriors withdrew and left the Father and his companions in the hands of the young men, who made them descend from the scaffold, whereon they had stood for two hours, exposed to the jeers of these Barbarians. When they had come down, they were made to dance, after their fashion. But, as the Father did not do it well, they struck him, goaded him, and tore out his hair. Five or six days were spent in this pastime. Some one out of compassion threw him some shreds of a gown, wherewith to cover himself. He made use of it during the day; but at night they took it from him, and, gathering round him, one goaded him with a very sharp stick; another burned him with a [164] firebrand; others seared him with calumets heated red-hot. The children threw on him hot embers and glowing coals. Then they made him walk around the fire where they had stuck short, pointed sticks into the ground, and had scattered hot embers and live coals; others tore out his beard and his hair.

Every night, they would begin anew this diverting sport; and, at the end, they would burn one of his nails or one of his fingers during seven or eight minutes. One night, they would burn a nail; another night, the first joint of a finger; on another, the second joint. Thus they applied fire to his fingers over eighteen times. They pierced his left foot with a stick, and, meantime, he was compelled to sing. This little amusement lasted until fully two hours after midnight; and then they left him there, lying flat on the ground in a spot where rain fell abundantly,—his only covering being a small skin that did not cover one half of his body. A whole month passed in this manner.

From this place, he was taken to the first Village of the Iroquois, and suffered more on [165] this journey than on the previous one,—being wounded, feeble, poorly clad, with but little food, and at night exposed to the air and bound to a tree; so that, instead of sleeping, he could only shiver with the cold. On arriving at the first Village, he was received with severe blows, administered with cudgels on the most sensitive parts of his body; but the blows were so heavy that he fell to the ground, half dead. They still continued to strike him on the chest and on the head, and would have killed him, had not a Captain dragged him on the scaffold that had been erected, as on the first occasion. Here they cut off his left thumb, and two fingers of his right hand, after first, slitting his hand between the second and middle fingers. In the meanwhile, there came a heavy shower accompanied by thunder and lightning, which drove the Savages away, and so they left him there quite naked. As night approached, they took him into a cabin where they burned the remainder of his nails and some of his fingers, twisted his toes, and forced him to eat [166] filth and what the dogs had left, without giving him any rest.

After he had been so tortured in that Village, he was taken to another, at a distance of two or three leagues, where again he had to suffer the same torments. He was, moreover, hung up in chains, by the feet; and, when he was taken down, his feet, his hands, and his neck were bound with the same chains. Seven days passed in this manner, and new tortures were added; for he was made to suffer in places and in ways concerning which propriety will not allow us to write. Sagamite was poured on his stomach and the dogs were called to eat the sagamite, biting him as they ate. All these sufferings reduced him to such a state that he became so offensive and noisome to the smell, that all kept away from him as from carrion and approached only to torment him.

He was covered with pus and filth, and his sores were alive with maggots. With all this, he could hardly find any one who would give him a little Indian corn boiled in water. The blows that he [167] had received caused an abscess to form on his thigh, that allowed him no rest,—which was, moreover, difficult to obtain on account of the hardness of the ground, on which he stretched his body, that was only skin and bone. He did not know how he could succeed in opening his abscess, but God guided the hand of a Savage—who wished to stab him three times with a knife—so that the Savage struck him directly on the abscess, whence flowed an abundance of pus and blood, and thus he was cured. Who would ever have thought that any man could have suffered so much without dying—abandoned in terra aliena, in loco horroris et vastae soditudinis; without language with which to make himself heard; without friends to console him; without Sacraments, and without any remedy wherewith to alleviate his suffering? He did not know why the Savages deferred his death so long,—unless, perhaps, to fatten him before eating him; but they did not take the means to do so.

Finally, on the 19th of June, the Iroquois gahered together from all the Villages, to the number of 2,000, in the Village where the Father was, who thought that that day [168] would be the last of his life. After the meeting, he begged the Captain that the torture by fire might be changed for another; as for death, he would welcome it. “Not only shalt thou not suffer by fire,” replied the Captain, “ but what is more, thou shalt not die. That has been resolved.” I know not how they came to take that resolution; but I know well that they themselves were afterward astonished at it, without knowing why, as the Dutch and the good Cousture—who was taken two years ago with Father Jogues, and who saw Father Bressany only after his deliverance—have related.

That resolution taken, they gave him, with all the ceremonies usual in the country, to a good woman whose grandfather had formerly been killed by the Hurons in an encounter. This woman received him; but her daughters could not bear him, because he inspired them with such horror. I know not whether it was this that led the mother to think of his deliverance, or whether it was through compassion that she took on him, or, rather, because she saw that he was unfit for work owing to the mutilation [169] of his fingers, and was convinced that he would be a burden upon her. In any case, she ordered her son to take him to the Dutch, and, on receiving some present from them, to deliver him into their hands. This the son faithfully carried out.

But, before leaving, the Father had the consolation of baptizing a Huron who was being taken to the torture, and who earnestly begged for Baptism before dying. This the Father granted him, knowing that he had received sufficient instruction from our Fathers. But it could not be done so secretly that the Iroquois did not perceive it, so they compelled him to go out and leave him. When he was dead, they brought his limbs into the cabin where the Father was, and, after cooking them, they ate them in his presence; then, placing the head of the dead man at his feet, they asked: “Well! of what avail was Baptism to him?” If the Father could have explained himself in their language, it would have been a good opportunity for him to instruct them. It was, nevertheless, a profound consolation [170] to have been there so opportunely for the happiness of that poor Savage. He started shortly afterward, in the company of the young Savage, the son of the good widow, who took him to the Dutch. He was received by them with great kindness, and they satisfied the Savage beyond all his expectations; they gave the Father clothes, and, after keeping him with them for some time, until his health was restored, they put him on board a ship. He reached la Rochelle, on the fifteenth of November of the year 1644, in better health than he has ever enjoyed since he has belonged to our Society.

15 posted on 12/05/2002 6:27:21 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: Antoninus
And lest anyone think that the above post regarding the torture of Fr. Bressani was an isolated incident, the Jesuit Relations contains eyewitness accounts of *scores* of other such equally grusome tortures inflicted mainly by Indians on other Indians.
16 posted on 12/05/2002 6:29:59 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: vikingchick; All
Another thread...

POX AMERICANA -- The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775 - 82
      Posted by Sabertooth
On 11/16/2001 1:25 PM PST with 15 comments ^ | October, 2001 | Elizabeth Fenn
The following is a review of Pox Americana by the Native American Village Staff… During the years when the Revolutionary War transformed thirteen former British colonies into a new nation, a horrifying epidemic of smallpox was transforming -- or ending -- the lives of tens of thousands of people across the American continent. This great pestilence easily surpassed the war in terms of deaths, yet because of our understandable preoccupation with the Revolution and its aftermath, it has remained virtually unknown to us. Elizabeth A. Fenn is the first historian to reveal how deeply Variola affected the outcome of ...

17 posted on 12/05/2002 6:32:44 PM PST by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
From the other thread:Variolation soon reached the New World, and in 1721,

So how likely is it that Amherst would have had all his troops variolated (proper usage?)against small-pox so that he would be able to infect the Indians with complete confidence that it wouldn't backlash on him and his?

18 posted on 12/05/2002 6:36:48 PM PST by vikingchick
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To: Antoninus
You are a scholar and I'm just a movie goer. I saw "Black Robe" years ago so the particulars escape me. No way can it be as accurate or deep as the sources you mention.
19 posted on 12/05/2002 6:38:32 PM PST by dennisw
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To: Antoninus
Torture was high entertainment for many Indians. So was war. Many (most) Indian wars were not over hunting grounds and scarce resources. They were for honor, for booty, to capture fertile women to increase the tribe.
20 posted on 12/05/2002 6:42:25 PM PST by dennisw
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