Digital History
Letter from Gen. George Washington to John Hancock, President of Congress
Digital History ID 4202

Author:   George Washington

Annotation: In this letter to Congress, Washington recounted information that he had heard from a sailor: that British Gen. William Howe was sending people out of the city of Boston who had been deliberately infected with smallpox so that they might pass on the disease to the Americans surrounding the city. After seeing an increased number of cases in people coming out of Boston, Washington raises the possibility of bioterrorism. The years of the American Revolution coincided nearly perfectly with a smallpox epidemic that spanned the North American continent claiming more than 130,000 lives from 1775 to 1782, but it is impossible to know with certainty whether the British practiced germ warfare against the Americans or not.

Document: By recent information from Boston, Genl Howe is goeing to Send out a number of the Inhabitants in order it is thought to make more room for his expected reinforcements, there is one part of the information that I Can hardly give Credit to. A Sailor Says that a number of these Comeing out have been innoculated, with design of Spreading the Smallpox thro’ this Country & Camp. I have Communicated this to the General Court & recommended their attention thereto.

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