The Effects of Smallpox on the Native Americans

According to Bradford's Account

According to Bradford’s account, the first Indians who seemed to have suffered from the smallpox outbreak were the ones who lived far away from the trading house. Bradford explains that during that spring also the Indians who lived about their trading houses fell sick which means that there had been initial cases of the smallpox outbreak but they were not near the trading house. According to Bradford’s account, the smallpox outbreak affected the Indians who lived away from the trading house at an earlier season and the ones who lived about the trading houses were affected by smallpox at a later time during spring.

Bradford's Comparison of the Dying Indians

Bradford compared the dying Indians to rotten sheep according to his account. The smallpox disease that attacked the Indians affected them adversely as the pox broke and smattered creating sores all over the victims’ bodies. The bodies of the Indians with the smallpox were appalling and filled with blood making their appearance similar to that of rotten sheep. Also, the Indians had no help or items to help them minimize the suffering they faced due to the smallpox disease. The Indians did not have beddings or linen to help soothe the sores on their bodies instead they had hard matts which made the sores stick onto it causing them a lot of suffering and loss of blood. Due to the unavailability of such items, the Indians underwent a lot of pain and died like rotten sheep in large numbers.

Other Effects Regarding the Small Pox

Despite the Native Americans getting sick and dying as a result of the smallpox outbreak, there were other effects as observed by Bradford. One of the effects of the smallpox disease was that the Native Americans were rendered helpless as they could not help each other as most of them were already infected with the disease. The smallpox disease makes its victims weak and requires assistance from others but because a majority of the people was already infected, they cannot help one another. The Native Americans were not even able to make their own fires to keep themselves warm or fetch water to quench their thirst.

Another effect Bradford observed regarding the smallpox outbreak is the helpful nature of the English towards the sick Native Americans. The English felt pity and compassion towards the suffering Native Americans as they could not get water or food themselves. The English took it upon themselves to fetch wood and water every day for the helpless natives to be comfortable.

Reason for the English Being Unaffected by the Outbreak

According to Bradford, the English were unaffected by the smallpox outbreak because of the marvelous goodness and providence of God that is why despite the English interacting with the sick natives they did not get affected by the disease. It was believed that God was on the side of the English and that is why He chose to save them over the Native Americans. According to Bradford, the English were superior and more valuable in God’s eye that is why no English person was in the least measure tainted by the smallpox disease. Bradford’s account posits that it was God’s plan to impose the sickness upon the natives and keep the English safe that is why only the Native Americans were affected by smallpox and not a single English individual.

English being Unaffected by the Outbreak In relation to Puritan Views

The Puritans were a religious reform movement that aimed at purifying the Church of England and the Roman Catholic teachings. The Puritans went to America so that they would have religious freedom because back in England they faced a lot of difficulty and opposition. The Puritans believed that their religion was the righteous one and everyone needed to follow it. In America, the natives had their own culture and religion and God punished the Native Americans with the smallpox outbreak for not following the Puritan religion while the English were unaffected by the disease outbreak because they believed in the Puritan religion. This evidently shows that the Puritan religion is the right religion which should be embraced by everyone all over the world.

Surprising Aspects about the Primary Source

I was surprised by the idea that the English went ahead to help to help the Native Americans who were suffering from the smallpox outbreak despite the victims being in such a bad condition health wise with sores all over their bodies. I expected the English to refrain from interacting with the sick native to avoid vetting themselves infected too. The English went ahead to perform tasking duties for the sick natives like searching for wood, bringing them food and water.

Another surprising aspect is the extent to which smallpox affected the Native Americans. Smallpox made the natives sick whereby they became immobile and could not do activities by themselves. I had no idea that the natives were helpless such that they would burn their wooden household items to make fires and they moved by crawling on all fours to get water and even die in the process.


Bradford, William. (1647). Of Plymouth Plantation. Retrieved from:

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