Abigail Adams and the Inoculation Decision

Presidential History Blog

abigail and john Young Abigail and John Adams. A composite picture.

Smallpox was an extremely contagious disease. The mortality rate was at least 30%.

George Washington’s Decision

Shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord in mid-1775, George Washington, a former Colonel of the Virginia Militia and the highest ranking professional soldier in the American colonies, was appointed General of the Continental Army.   He was sent to Boston to consolidate the militia troops, bring order, train them to their purpose, and prepare for all contingencies. It was a daunting task.

George Washington taking command of the Colonial Army. (From the Mt. Vernon collection)

When he arrived in Boston, he found himself in the middle of a smallpox epidemic. British soldiers were affected; militia recruits from all over New England were affected; runaway slaves who had fled north to enlist were affected; the general populace was affected. Smallpox was highly contagious. The sickness and…

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