A curious search for blankets is currently taking place in the plains around the Great Lakes in North America. These are not ordinary blankets. They are actually bison skins that were smeared with body fluid tainted with smallpox and used, two hundred years ago, to obliterate American Indians. Post 9/11, us authorities fear that some such blankets might still exist, and a viable source of smallpox might fall into wrong hands. Many areas in the us and Canada have been cordoned off. But the operations remain shrouded in secrecy: so far there is no official statement from any Canadian or us agency about the discovery of any smallpox tainted blanket. The search may not yield anything, but it has again brought to the fore some sordid pages from American history.
Pontiac's rebellion Many historians trace the notorious blankets to a gruesome episode in American history during the spring of 1763. That year, a party of Delaware Indians, led by their Ottawa chief Pontiac, laid siege on the British-owned Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a Swiss mercenary and the fort's senior officer, saved the day for the British. The Indians agreed to temporarily abandon their siege in return of a gift of two blankets and a handkerchief. They had no inkling that the wily Ecuyer had deliberately infected the presents with smallpox contagion.
This episode is confirmed by William Trent