Part of an ongoing series of about the Continental Army in Morristown, New Jersey. For the first post, click here.
“The smallpox has made such head in every quarter that I find it impossible to keep it from spreading thro’ the whole army the natural way.” General George Washington wrote in February 1777.
By the time the Continental Army was encamped in Morrristown, Washington had become a firm believer in the inoculations for smallpox for the entire army. The inoculation process would entail the following:
A person suffering a mild case of the disease would have a small pox or pus removed. The physician would then make an incision into, usually the arm, of the healthy person and enter the pus into the bloodstream, which would cause the person to catch the disease. After a period of quarantine where recovery would happen, the person would be fit to return to the army and immune to catching smallpox again.
According to a study by the Army Heritage Center Foundation, less than 2% of the soldiers who went through the inoculation died from receiving it.
Obviously there were other worries about soldiers undergoing treatment, including the spread of the disease, the soldiers being unavailable for combat or any military operations for a number of weeks, and also where to house or quarantine the soldiers while they were undergoing the inoculation and subsequent recovery.
In Morristown, public buildings and even religious establishments were used. One of the places utilized was the First Baptist Church. Dating to June 1752, the First Baptist Church was the second religion to establish a place of worship in Morristown. In 1771, the church was constructed on the northwest corner of Morristown Green. The church in the pictures below was built to replace the original in 1892 when a site was located on the corner of Washington Street.
Although the church has changed locations and was improved, the fact still remains that the First Baptist Church witnessed American soldiers being inoculated and quarantined within its confines.
Another testament to how Morristown was where “America survived.”