Nathan Bacon died of the ‘Lousy Evil’


The first time I read about the “Lousy Evil” was this weekend in distant relative Sir Thomas Grantham’s personal account of how he ended Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 on behalf of Virginia Governor William Berkeley.

Grantham said in his book An historical account of some memorable actions, particularly in Virginia that Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of Bacon’s Rebellion, “died of the Lousy Evil,” known medically as Phthiriasis. But you might know the Lousy Evil by its more modern name: crabs.


According to Grantham (who worked on behalf of the Governor), he basically showed up at one of the rebel meetings and convinced them to surrender in the wake of Bacon’s death. He provides an interesting account of the entire affair.

History may prefer the narrative that Nathan Bacon’s untimely death was for the cause and by the cause, but there it is tucked away in a distant relatives notes on the first American rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon died of crabs. Now, maybe it was just an insulting jab, but now I know why people wore merkins in the 1600s.

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