1500-1799 | Biological weapons | United States

13 JULY

GENERAL’S PLAN TO USE AFRICAN AMERICANS TO SPREAD SMALLPOX

Caricature of Brigadier General Alexander Leslie.
In the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

[ 13 July 1781 ]

On this day in 1781, during the closing months of the American War of Independence, Brigadier General Alexander Leslie outlined his plan to use African Americans suffering from smallpox, as biological weapons to spread the disease among the slave populations on plantations around Virginia.  In a letter to Lord Cornwallis, commanding British forces in the south, he explained that ‘above 700 negroes have come down the river in the smallpox,’ adding that ‘I shall distribute them about the rebel plantations.’1

His proposal, which was presumably carried out, came three years after another British officer, Major Robert Donkin, suggested, while stationed at New York, that the disease could be used to advantage if British soldiers ‘could dip arrows in matter of smallpox.’ He noted enthusiastically that ‘this would sooner disband these stubborn, ignorant, enthusiastic savages, than any other compulsive measures. Such is their dread and fear of that disorder !’2

MINISTER ADMITS R.A.F. BOMBED YEMENI VILLAGES FOR NON-PAYMENT OF FINES

[ 13 July 1955 ]

Today in 1955, Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary, admitted in the House of Commons that R.A.F. aircraft had bombed five Yemeni villages in the western region of Aden merely because they had not payed fines. He added that such air raids would continue in future if any such fines were not paid.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Cited in Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, Hill and Wang, New York.
  2. Ibid.

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