Smallpox Blankets

Keep your eyes peeled for Injuns … I mean, Native Americans. They’re after us because we gave them those blankets infected with cooties. — Milhouse, “Bart’s Girlfriend”

While pretty much everything the U.S. government and its loyal foot soldiers did to the native population between 1492 and 2012 is pretty unappealing, probably the most abhorrent act we heard about in high school history class was the ol’ smallpox-in-the-blanket trick, in which blankets carrying the plague were charitably given to our heathen brethren. Like this:

But did this actually happen? Though it certainly fits in the context of everything we know about the olden days, a bit of skepticism is perhaps warranted. After all, the logistics of a hand-off don’t really make sense. Who would be willing to risk handling a deadly blanket in order to damage the home team? This guy.

Lord Jeffery Amherst, inventor of biological warfare. From the horse’s mouth:

I will try to inocculate the Indians by means of Blankets that may fall in their hands, taking care however not to get the disease myself. As it is pity to oppose good men against them, I wish we could make use of the Spaniard’s Method, and hunt them with English Dogs. Supported by Rangers, and some Light Horse, who would I think effectively extirpate or remove that Vermine.

How Ever, it would Appear that there is no proofe (such that I have hunted down) to support the Notion that such an idea was actually adopted by anyone on our side. Fortunately, we still had a lot of guns.

Oh, and as a mildly interesting footnote, both the town of Amherst, Mass., and Amherst College were named after Lord Autumnbottom up there. Which I guess isn’t quite as bad as having gone to The Pol Pot School Of The Culinary Arts. Note that the school apparently used this absurd design on their fine china until the ’70s:

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