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How Smallpox Created Canada by Destroying Washington’s Army

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 20, 2024 3:03 am

How Smallpox Created Canada by Destroying Washington’s Army

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 20, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Canada is an independent nation—and not part of the United States—most likely, because of smallpox. Here to tell the story is the president of Ameriseach, William Federer.

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Happy streaming. And we continue with our American stories. Canada is an independent nation and not a part of the United States, most likely because of smallpox. During the Revolutionary War, the most dangerous place for a Continental Army soldier was not on the battlefield, but rather within an encampment. In fact, fever and infections from smallpox killed more soldiers than any wounds suffered in battle. And because smallpox was common in England, most British soldiers had already been exposed and were immune. But the disease was less common in America and the average Continental soldier was not. Here to tell the story is William Federer. He is a nationally known speaker, best selling author and president of Amerisearch Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America's heritage.

Take it away. Smallpox is 10 times more terrible. The quote from John Adams is, disease has destroyed 10 men for us where the sword of the enemy has killed one.

This was in a letter John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, April 13th, 1777. During the Revolution, soldiers were plagued with typhoid, yellow fever and smallpox, which an estimated 30% of the soldiers became infected with. So the soldiers were living in tight quarters and so the diseases could spread easily and they didn't always have proper sanitation. So this largely began when the British evacuated Boston. The British had occupied Boston for nine months and when they finally left Boston, they left their infected soldiers behind.

So spreading across the continent, smallpox epidemic killed an estimated 145,000 settlers and Indians. Fortunately for General George Washington, he was immune to smallpox and by this time he's 19. He accompanied his older half brother, Lawrence Washington, to the island of Barbados and he gets smallpox. The year is 1751. Washington recovered and he came back to America.

His older brother died and George inherited Lawrence's estate and the rest is history. But now he's immune to smallpox and so when the army gets the disease, he can go amongst the army and not be affected. On July 4th, 1775, Washington cautioned against travel around Boston. He said, as there may be danger of introducing smallpox into the army. Now they didn't know about diseases. It wasn't until the middle 1800s that you had Louis Pasteur and the microscope and discovering viruses and so forth. So they weren't sure how this spread. Even John Adams, when he would write letters to his wife Abigail, she would insist that he smoke the letters.

What's that? Well, they would write the letter and put it in a box and light a little fire underneath of it and they thought maybe the smoke will kill the virus. On December 15th of 1775, George Washington explained to Joseph Reed, Smallpox is in every part of Boston, a surety against any attempt of ours to attack. If we escape the smallpox in this camp, it will be miraculous.

Every precaution that can be taken to guard against this evil. On December 4th of 1775, Washington informed Congress that the British were sending civilians infected with smallpox out of the city. So Washington said, by recent information, General Howe is going to send out a number of inhabitants. A sailor says that a number of these coming out have been inoculated with the design of spreading smallpox through the camp. So the British back when they did have Boston for those nine months, the word was that they were intentionally infecting people with the smallpox and intentionally sending them out to George Washington's troops. On January 1st of 1777, British ships sailing under a flag of truce released 400 American prisoners who were suffering from smallpox.

They released them at Connecticut's Milford Harbor. So you think, oh great, here's the British like one of those prison ships and they're going to let some Americans go. Well, the ones that they let go are infected with smallpox.

Within a month, 45 had died, along with one of their caregivers, Captain Stephen Stowe. The British officer, Duncan, had suggested, as cited in a book published in 1777, dip arrows in matter of smallpox and twang them at the American rebels. This would disband these stubborn, ignorant, enthusiastic savages. Now Quebec, Canada, may have been captured by Americans in December of 1775, and Canada then could have become part of the United States had it not been for smallpox. American Captain Hector McNeil told of a congressional committee investigating the failure of the Army's expedition to Canada. He said smallpox was sent out of Quebec by British Governor Guy Carleton, inoculating the poor people at government expense for the purpose of giving it to our Army. So the situation was General Benedict Arnold. He had been a hero up to this point before he flipped and became a traitor, but Benedict Arnold was leading an American army up to Canada and they could have captured Montreal, they could have captured Quebec, but he reported that nearly 1,200 American troops at Montreal, where they were camped, were suffering from smallpox. So out of his 1,200 men, he only had 500 that could fight.

So here you have a General Sullivan, he's got militia, they're supposed to go up and join this army, and they're like, oh, we don't know if we want to join it. You have all these people sick and dying of smallpox. General Gates conceded, as fine an army as has ever marched into Canada has this year been entirely ruined with smallpox. The line of retreat extended nearly 13 miles distance and a great part of them sick with smallpox. John Adams wrote from Philadelphia, June of 1776, our misfortune in Canada are enough to melt a heart of stone. The smallpox is 10 times more terrible than Britain's, Canadians' and Indians' together.

This was the cause of our precipitate retreat from Quebec. They did develop a method of inoculating where the pox would scab over, and they would scrape the scab and get powder from it, and then they would blow it up somebody's nose. The threat of smallpox did not lessen until widespread inoculations were called for by Dr. Benjamin Rush. Rush was a member of the Continental Congress where he signed the Declaration of Independence. He is considered the father of American medicine.

Dr. Rush personally inoculated Virginia Governor Patrick Henry against smallpox, as well as Pennsylvania's troops, resulting in their low rate of illness. So he was doing a little section of the troops here, another section of the troops there, and they would get sick for a little while and recover. So Dr. Benjamin Rush began to make this important contribution against this deadly enemy of smallpox. And a great job, as always, by Greg Hengler on that piece. And a special thanks to William Federer. He is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America's heritage. And so we learn why Canada isn't a part of the United States.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-20 04:39:13 / 2024-02-20 04:43:24 / 4

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