Amherst College: Named after the town, not the General
Amherst College history professor Kevin Sweeney gave a one hour presentation -- "Smallpox, Natives, and Jeffery Amherst" -- to a packed crowd at the Jones Library on Saturday afternoon to shed light on the history of small pox, which he concluded "seems to attract dubious stories".
So did General Amherst start on purpose a pandemic with a couple of infected blankets that spread small pox like wildfire among the Native American population?
Professor Kevin Sweeney at the Jones Library
Standing room only crowd in the Goodwin Room
According to Professor Sweeney small pox had been ravaging the native North American population for a hundred years before Lord Jeffery Amherst was even commissioned.
The commander of Fort Pitt, Henry Bouquet, had first suggested to Amherst that he be allowed to use small pox as a weapon. In a letter dated July 16, 1763 -- but only as a post script -- Amherst approves the concept.
William Trent, a local militia commander inside Fort Pitt, wrote in his journal on June 24, 1763 "we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."
Thus the deed was done three weeks before General Amherst gave his permission.
Trent's journal also mentions the return of the two recipients of the infected garments, Turtle's Heart and Mamaltee, a month later and both of them were in good health. Small pox has an incubation period of two weeks.
Two settlers who had been captured by the warring tribes but managed to escape reported the small pox outbreak was devastating the Shawnee and Delaware in the spring of 1763, well before General Amherst and Colonel Bouquet had their small pox discussion by snail mail.
Thus if Lord Jeffery Amherst were ever brought before a Nuremberg type trial for war crimes, aka biological warfare, he would most likely be declared innocent.
Although that still probably would not make him worthy of being an "unofficial mascot" for the Amherst College sports teams.
Lord Jeffery Inn: Soon to be renamed (but not the College)