In 1775, smallpox and the British army both threatened the Continental Army. In danger from the British, civilians fled Boston in the middle of a smallpox epidemic and intermingled with Continental troops, putting them at risk. The soldiers, in turn, used a 70-year-old remedy, inoculation, to get immunity through a milder form of the disease. The Continental Army’s commander, George Washington, had opposed this practice. Washington had barely survived smallpox he contracted in Barbados when he was a young man, and he feared the disease would render the army ineffective.

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