Why was the disease largely a non-issue for the British? How did they attempt to take advantage of this difference between their forces and those of the rebels? What impact did these actions have?

The American Revolution, indeed most wars, are usually seen almost entirely in terms of human decisions and actions – that their origins, unfolding, and outcome are entirely dependent on what we perceive to be the main actors in the drama – ourselves. But other factors can and do exert a significant, even decisive impact on wars. Perhaps the most significant of these non-human influences is disease.Wars are natural incubators for disease – a fact we tend to forget in the 21st century, with our modern medical science. As recently as the American Civil War, deaths from disease outnumbered deaths from battle by a factor of roughly 5 to 1. And wars, in a number of ways, create ideal conditions for diseases to become epidemics, and to spread catastrophically in both armies and civilian populations, sometimes to the point where disease determines the outcome of wars.
One well known example of this is the disease epidemic that wreaked havoc among the Assyrian army during its siege of Jerusalem – an impact that was so powerful that the Hebrew scriptures claimed that this epidemic was nothing less than the hand of Yahweh himself, protecting his chosen people. The success of the Spanish conquistadors and later European colonists in the New World was made possible in large part by the inadvertent unleashing of multiple epidemics so virulent to the Indian population that these diseases wiped out entire populations. And as recently as the First World War, during the early portion of 1918, even before the pandemic mutated into virulently lethal form that gave it such power, influenza hospitalized roughly 25% of all the armies (on both sides) in France. And the lethal form of this influenza pandemic, despite occurring largely after the war had ended, not only threatened the combatant armies, but modern civilization itself – see Barry, The Great Influenza.
During the Revolution, the disease with the largest impact was smallpox. The disease was endemic among the colonial population, although it only rarely flared into major outbreaks. Why did the war create the opportunity for such epidemics? What preventative measures were possible against this killer? What were the potential drawbacks of the various measures to deal with smallpox among the American army? Why was George Washington’s personal experience with the disease particularly relevant to the decisions that faced him as commander of the American army? What choices did he have, what were the drawbacks to each of them, and why was it so hard for him to make a final decision? Did smallpox have the potential to affect the outcome of campaigns or even the conflict as a whole, and if so, in what ways? What was Washington’s ultimate decision about how to handle smallpox, and how do you think this decision influenced the outcome of the war?
What about the other side of this epidemic? How did smallpox affect the American civilian population, and how what role did the disease play on the outcome of the war in terms of affecting the general populace? Why was smallpox such a threat to the entire population, not merely the army? How could civilians attempt to deal with the disease, and what were the drawbacks of the various options?
Why was the disease largely a non-issue for the British? How did they attempt to take advantage of this difference between their forces and those of the rebels? What impact did these actions have?
Why do you feel that the seriousness of the threat from smallpox is generally unremembered today? Is it a result of the modern world being much less vulnerable (in general) to such epidemics? Or is it that we don’t remember things that could have, but didn’t, happen? Or perhaps we simply dislike remembering anything that might indicate that we are less than the masters of our own fate? Are there important lessons that can be learned from studying the effect of smallpox on the Revolution?Bottom line, as drawn from the above commentary — and the primary question you should address — is: How did smallpox affect the American Revolution?You are required to post your initial response by 11:59 pm, ET, Sunday of Week Three. You are also required to respond to two other student postings by 11:59 pm, ET, Sunday of Week Four. These are graded requirements: Original posting: 70 points; response to student posts: 15 points each.

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