Book Review: The Confederate Yellow Fever Conspiracy: The Germ Warfare Plot of Luke Pryor Blackburn, 1864-1865


by H. Leon Greene

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2019. Pp. viii, 256. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 1476668906

Confederate Biological Warfare

Dr. Greene, an emeritus professor of medicine and author of a string of books and articles about history and other subjects, as well as medicine, seems uniquely qualified to investigate the surprisingly neglected subject of Confederate germ warfare.

The critical actor in the Confederate biological warfare effort was Kentuckian Dr. Luke Pryor Blackburn (1816 - 1887). A noted specialist in yellow fever, during the war he worked to combat the disease in parts of the South, and in Bermuda, and was also active in also promoting blockade running and Confederate sabotage efforts in the North. While running for governor of Kentucky in 1879, Blackburn was accused by a former Confederate “secret service” comrade of having tried to spread yellow fever in the North.

Hitherto, this charge has generally been regarded as “not proven.” In this work, Greene marshals the evidence quite well, while also touching on other Confederate efforts to carry the war North.

Greene marshal considerable evidence to make a convincing case that there was such a program, one which may have reached the highest levels of political authority in the Confederacy. He delves deeply into the nature of Yellow fever and Blackburn’s efforts to weaponize the disease. Greene concludes that while Blackburn’s efforts to distribute “infected” clothing in the North, would not have worked, given that the disease is actually spread by mosquitoes, there’s no doubt about the man’s intentions, and those of the Confederate officials who backed him.

The Confederate Yellow Fever Conspiracy is a solid contribution to the history of the Civil War, and to secret service operations during it.


Note: The Confederate Yellow Fever Conspiracy is also available in several e-editions


StrategyPage reviews are shared with The New York Military Affairs Symposium



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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