Title: Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82
Author: Elizabeth A. Fenn
Publisher: Hill and Wang 2002
Genre: U.S. History
Rating: 5/5 stars
Reading Challenges: Perpetual - Nonfiction Adventure; Library Love
A horrifying epidemic of smallpox was sweeping across the Americas when the American Revolution began, and yet we know almost nothing about it. Elizabeth A. Fenn is the first historian to reveal how deeply variola affected the outcome of the war in every colony and the lives of everyone in North America.
By 1776, when military action and political ferment increased the movement of people and microbes, the epidemic worsened. Fenn's remarkable research shows us how smallpox devastated the American troops at Québec and kept them at bay during the British occupation of Boston. Soon the disease affected the war in Virginia, where it ravaged slaves who had escaped to join the British forces. During the terrible winter at Valley Forge, General Washington had to decide if and when to attempt the risky inoculation of his troops. In 1779, while Creeks and Cherokees were dying in Georgia, smallpox broke out in Mexico City, whence it followed travelers going north, striking Santa Fe and outlying pueblos in January 1781. Simultaneously it moved up the Pacific coast and east across the plains as far as Hudson's Bay.
I'm a sucker for a good epidemic book. I really think epidemiology may be my missed calling. This one intrigued me as it combines epidemiology and U.S. history. This book is incredibly detailed and full of names, dates, and facts. It is not for the faint of heart. The book has very graphic depictions of smallpox but also a lot of moving parts. I learned so much about an big event in U.S. history that is glossed over in favor of the battles of the Revolutionary War. I have now added a whole new story to my memory stores.
Next up on the TBR pile: