The Colonial Williamsburg Journal has a great overview article on germ warfare during colonial times. While Europeans in the colonies had little understanding of the disease, they knew enough about its practical effects and methods of infection to use it as a crude, if effective, weapon:
During Pontiac’s uprising in 1763, the Indians besieged Fort Pitt. They burned nearby houses, forcing the inhabitants to take refuge in the well-protected fort. The British officer in charge, Captain Simeon Ecuyer, reported to Colonel Henry Bouquet in Philadelphia that he feared the crowded conditions would result in disease. Smallpox had already broken out. On June 24, 1763, William Trent, a local trader, recorded in his journal that two Indian chiefs had visited the fort, urging the British to abandon the fight, but the British refused. Instead, when the Indians were ready to leave, Trent wrote: “Out of our regard for them, we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.”
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.