Napoleon Series Discussion Forum

Re: Lord Amherst & Those Damned Blankets

John Lee rightly comments on the subject of 'Amherst's blankets', being outwith the study period of this group. However, a disease that, during the 20th century, had been estimated to have been responsible for 300500 million deaths, would soon provide a significant challenge to any early 19th century armed service. Lady Wortley-Montagu's brave attempts to variolate people (ie inoculate the skin with blister fluid from mild cases of smallpox - ie variola minor), a practice she had observed in Turkey, had led to decreased mortality in the British Army in mid and late 18th century conflicts. Thus soldiers so 'protected' (but still with a ? 1+% chance of fatality), runs nicely into Jenner's ground breaking work on vaccination (1798) that led to vaccination being introduced into the British Army in 1800. Although trialled on the Coldstream Guards in London and the 85th Foot in Colchester in 1800, progress to recommend this prophylaxis in the British Army at home, was slow. The first General Order regarding vaccination was not issued until 1803. Abroad, however, Abercromby's army, did successfully receive vaccination from two civilian doctors sent out to Egypt in 1801. Bonaparte's army was likewise soon to benefit from Jenner's work. It campaigned free of one of the world's greatest killers. Jenner was a recipient of a Napoleon Medal, became a correspondent of Bonaparte, and helped free some political prisoners. All over Europe, Jenner was regarded as a hero. In France alone, the number of deaths from smallpox went down from 150,000 annually to only 8,500.

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back to Berthier
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