In 1993 Stannard wrote a book called American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World. In it, Stannard mentions (page 124) the Indian marches where they deliberately took them through diseased areas and fed them rotting food:

Like other government-sponsored Indian death marches, this one intentionally took native men, women, and children through areas where it was known that cholera and other epidemic diseases were raging; the government sponsors of this march, again as with the others, fed the Indians spoiled flour and rancid meat, and they drove the native people on through freezing rain and cold

Unfortunately there are no sources for this claim, so does anyone know if there exist any first hand accounts that they deliberately took the natives through diseased areas and were fed rotten food?

There is evidence to suggest that the Europeans knew these actions would help spread disease amongst the natives because the medical theory at the time, Miasma theory, suggested "epidemics were caused by miasma, emanating from rotting organic matter".

On top of that the Amherst letters provide evidence that the Europeans knew that an increased proximity to a disease like smallpox increased your chances of getting it. As mentioned in the 94th Illinois General Assembly (line 23) they also knew not to march through villages and were given blankets from a hospital where small pox had broken out.

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    Do you have a page ref? Commented May 9, 2022 at 12:01
  • The question isn't so clear to me... You're looking for further evidence to support the first quote beyond what you've already provided? Is there a reason for your apparent doubt? Are you looking for a list of specific examples?
    – Brian Z
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 17:26
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    Yeah I was looking for evidence to back up the authors claims as I could only find evidence that they would do such a thing but no evidence that they actually did do what the author claimed. I ended up answering my own question below. Commented May 9, 2022 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


Condemned Pork

On June 10th 1832 Lieutenant Rains wrote that the Indians refused to take 100 barrels of pork delivered from Fort Gibson “alleging it was spoiled and, had been condemned at Cantonment Gibson“. He confirmed the meat was at least 4 or 5 years old and that “it is spoiled in no other way“.

This wasn't food donated during a time of humanitarian need but provisions provided during a time where “the country which has promised for a while to support them“.

A year later things got worse and Rains was able to issue the condemned pork again now that the Indians were suffering from starvation.

April 5th 1833 Lieutenant Rains wrote:

The old immigrants of 1831 whose time of drawing provisions has expired (most of them having not raised crops last year) are now begging for provisions to keep them from starving I can recommend nothing to relieve them for I believe they were supported another year the same again would happen though the situation of widows and orphans is to be lamented.

P.S I have been informed that some Choctaws this, day have been collecting carrion, thrown on the common, for their subsistence — a cow which had died of disease, and was putrefying! There are some barrels of the condemned pork which I have... Now, though these people have refused it in their rations once, they would doubtless be glad to get it; for this is not putrid nor spoiled, except by age and salt, and gladly would they receive' provision of any kind to relieve their present necessities.

Spoiled Flour

At the end of 1832, the Creek Agency was reduced to a subagency and during this downscaling food was left behind. Yet they only offered the food that the Government would not feed its own.

February 10th 1833 Enoch Parsons wrote:

several hundred barrels of flour were left here by the army, and I am informed thirty or forty barrels of it are partially spoiled, so as to be of no value to the Government; and if Col. S. C. Benton had the authority to give this spoiled flour to the most needy, it would, I have no doubt, save the lives of many, and ameliorate the sufferings of others.

Taken Through Diseased Areas

Evidence of this claims most likely came from the book written by Foreman called Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians which is a collection of over 200 letters

Page 252 says the following:

"This is the third season that the cholera has scattered desolation & dismay over the Western water and during its malignant influence no bodied of people have able to move in any considerable number for any length of time in contact, upon the rivers with impunity," wrote Lieutenant Harris. But the government did not relax its efforts to drive the Indians through that disease infected area.

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    If gBooks preview does not suffice, on such old books always a good idea, try archive.org/details/indianremovalemi0000fore Commented May 9, 2022 at 15:12
  • I don't quite see the "first-hand accounts" that you were insistent upon when commenting on my answer ... Commented May 9, 2022 at 15:53
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    I don't understand, all the citations in my question come from letters written by people who were there. The whole book is a collection of more than 200 letters. Any narrative added by the author that you see in those citations are then backed up by further first hand accounts. Commented May 9, 2022 at 17:13
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    This looks rather like it could have been people donating technically expired food that would otherwise get thrown away in what appears to be a humanitarian emergency, as is often done with grocery stores and recently expired merchandise. I guess I should look deeper into the source, but I'd really like to see sources in the answer attesting to the malicious motives being implied.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 18:57
  • I might be wrong, but these quotes show more negligence or carelessness than an intentional plan to harm people. The first quote actually offers the old pork instead of the rotten food that the Natives had, as a better solution.
    – Greg
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 14:44

Your linked reference to Wikipedia on the Amherst letter states:

A month later in July, General Bouquet discussed Pontiac's War in detail with General Amherst via letters, and in the post-scripts of three letters in more freeform style, Amherst briefly broached the subject of using smallpox as a weapon.

Did you not notice this?

In an article on JSTOR, they report:

The Fort Pitt case is infamous. In June 1763, the fort was besieged during Pontiac's Rebellion. Soldiers and civilians in the fort had smallpox - as did some of the Native Americans outside. Two Delaware dignataries, in the fort to parlay, were given "two blankets and a handkerchief out of the Smallpox hospital" when they left, wrote the trader and land speculator, William Trent in his diary. He concluded, "I hope it will have the desired effect."

... Within weeks, Amherst is on record aporoving of weaponising smallpox as one of the methods "that can serve to Extirpate thos Excreable Race."

So, yes, there is evidence ... and probably why Stannard didn't mention it, is like the above writer verified - it's infamous.

And just as likely, the principals knew that these were underhand means and took pains to hide what evidence there was. After all, in the Jewish holocaust in Europe, it seemed like nobody in Germany knew what was going on. And oh, it's on record that the American government used the same phrasing for the genocide of the Native Americans - The Final Solution. It's easy to imagine, given how the Nazi's admired the racist policies of the then USA, that the Nazi's borrowed that particular phrase from the USA.

  • My argument is that the Europeans knew about miasma theory and so gave the natives rotting food since they thought it would help spread disease amongst them. I have updated my question to make this clearer. Commented May 9, 2022 at 12:02
  • Do you habe a page ref? Commented May 9, 2022 at 12:03
  • I have updated my question to include the page reference for Stannard book which is page 124 Commented May 9, 2022 at 12:06
  • I think you have misunderstood the question. It's not that Native Americans knew about miasma theory (they didn't); it's the white colonists who deliberately tried to have them infected with deathly diseases in order to exterminate them (or at least reduce their number) without having to resort to physical violence - they were trying to accomplish, on purpose, what the Spanish conquistadors and other first-wave colonists did by accident: wiping out large populations without fighting.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 12:28
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    This may be a good example of disease being used in warfare, but Pontiac's War I believe predates what we usually consider the Indian Removals (AKA, "Trail of Tears"). Perhaps the OQ could clarify?
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 18:35

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