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Head Quarters Morris Town 12th March 1777 


You are hereby required immediately to send me an exact return of your regiment, and to send all your recruits, who have had the small pox to join the Army. Those, who have not, are to be sent to Philadelphia, and put under the direction of the commanding officer there, who will have them inoculated.   You are to leave a sufficient  number of proper officers to carry on the recruiting service, who are to bring up their men as soon as they are ready.  No pleas, of delay, on account of the dispersion of the officers can be admitted, as every commanding officer ought to know where his inferior officers are, and they what recruits they have, and where they are to be found.

You are to remain at Philadelphia, to procure arms clothing &c., and send on, your Major to Camp, to  receive your detachments.  Your Lieut. Colonel is also to come on, as soon as circumstances will permit.

I am Sir

Your most humble servant

Go: Washington

When looking at the letter, consider these questions:

  • Smallpox inoculations were mandated for Continental soldiers in winter of 1777. Why do you think Washington chose to inoculate his soldiers then?
  • What were the dangers of smallpox? Why would Washington be concerned about his troops getting the disease? How might the troops become infected with it?
  • Why do you think Washington sent soldiers to Philadelphia to be inoculated?
  • What might be the risks of these mass inoculations?
  • Do you think medicine in the 18th century was successful? Why or why not?

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George Washington wrote this letter to Lt. Colonel David Grier on March 12, 1777. In it, Washington instructs Grier to send new soldiers to Philadelphia so they could be inoculated for smallpox. Washington wanted to make sure that his troops were not affected by disease, and he believed that inoculation would help with that. So, just before this letter was written, Washington created a mandated system of inoculating his soldiers.