Bacteria and Bayonets

This book not only traces the path of disease in American military history but also recounts numerous episodes and anecdotes related to the history of illness. It is a compelling story, one that has been overlooked and underappreciated.

Bacteria and Bayonets

Bacteria and Bayonets

A fascinating look at how microbes have affected war outcomes from colonial times to the present. Various powerful enemies from the British to the Nazis, and legendary individuals including Tecumseh and Robert E. Lee, have all fallen before the arms of the American soldier. Yet the deadliest enemy faced by the nation, one that has killed more warriors than all its foes combined, is disease. But illness has been more than just a historical cause of casualties for the American military. In numerous wars, it has helped to decide battles, drive campaigns, and determine strategy. In fact, the Patriots owed pestilence as much for their victory in the Revolution as they did their own force of arms. Likewise, disease helped to prevent the conquest of Canada in 1812, drove strategy in the Mexican War, handicapped Lee’s 1862 advance, and helped lead to World War II. Disease also provided an edge in the wars against Native Americans, yet just as soon turned on the United States when unacclimated US troops were dispatched to the southern Pacific. This book not only traces the path of disease in American military history but also recounts numerous episodes and anecdotes related to the history of illness. It is a compelling story, one that has been overlooked and underappreciated. Yellow fever, malaria, tuberculosis, glanders, bubonic plague, smallpox, and numerous other bacteria and viruses all conspired to defeat America—and remain enemies that need to be recognized.

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