The Mutter Museum Shares a Taste of the Civil War

by fifer1863 on October 27, 2015

The Mütter Museum Shares a Taste of the Civil War

By Emily Yates, Special Assistant to the Museum Director Mütter Museum 

The Mütter Museum will host a Civil War food event on Sunday November 8, 2015 from 10 am – 4 pm. Come to the Refreshment Saloon to taste authentic recipes like Tryphena Fox’s Louisiana Pumpkin Preserves from William C. Davis’ A Taste for War (recipe below).  All recipes will be accompanied by historical interpretation by Becky Diamond (author of The Thousand Dollar Dinner) to bring insight into how these foods affected the health and morale of soldiers and civilians.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 3.45.39 PMThe Refreshment Saloon is in conjunction with exhibition Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia, which will be open until 2019. The event is supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Mütter Museum is located at 19 S. 22nd Street Philadelphia, PA. For more information about the Refreshment Saloon event visit:

Tryphena Fox’s Louisiana Pumpkin Preserves

Clean and cut up a medium-size pumpkin and boil in water for 3 hours or until soft. Make a thin syrup of 2 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Place the cooked pumpkin in it, and continue to boil occasionally skimming the top until scum no longer rises and the pumpkin is very tender. Remove and skin the pumpkin, cutting it into 1 inch cubes. Meanwhile, boil the syrup until it is reduced and thick. Place the pumpkin cubes in a crock or canning jar, add a little vanilla or lemon extract to the syrup, and pour the hot syrup over the pumpkin, sealing the container. Serve hot or cold.

-A Taste for War by William C. DavisMutter Museum


In the mid-nineteenth century, the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables was dictated by the changing seasons. The obstacles created by the Civil War made it doubly difficult for soldiers to obtain garden-quality produce. Sweet preserves were a tasty and portable way to give soldiers some variety in their diet. When sugar became scarce in the Confederacy, sorghum became the primary replacement for sugar. Introduced into the South during the 1850s, sorghum stalks were crushed to extract a sweet juice that was boiled down to a molasses-like consistency and used to make jelly or preserves and baked into cakes and pies.

Pumpkin was grown successfully in both the northern and southern states. Southern “matrons” used both melon and pumpkin to make preserves. During the war, many fruits that were typically dried for use as winter provisions for the troops were instead converted into brandy, making dried fruit harder to come by. Pumpkin became an excellent substitute, and was helpful in treating and preventing diarrhea and scurvy.

In the North, pumpkin preserves were often called pumpkin marmalade. Preserves were also made out of pumpkin chips, a uniquely American sweet. Uncooked pumpkin was cut into strips or slices and simmered in sugar syrup flavored with lemon until translucent, then dried. It could be eaten like candy or used to make preserves, as evidenced by one Civil War soldier’s diary which states, “We were forever supplied with preserve made of pumpkin chips.” Another useful resource from the colorful squash was its seeds. The oil from pumpkin seeds was used to make a “cooling and nutritive milk” and was also considered a diuretic.

-Becky Diamond, author of The Thousand Dollar Dinner



Mysterious Civil War “Alternate Reality” Game

by fifer1863 on April 28, 2011

Jewel_of_the_Valleys.jpgA great opportunity for students is being offered, free, by the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. An “alternate reality” game entitled “The Jewel of the Valleys” will begin on May 15th, for students, classes, teachers, and the general public.

The game will revolve around a mysterious document discovered in the Museum’s vaults, and will prompt students to analyze primary documents, as well as introduce them to Civil War-era communications technology.The game involves the invasion in 1863, but also many of the larger issues and experiences of the war, so it fits well in many curricula, both PA and nationwide.

The game will also coincide with, and intertwine with, Museum Curator Brett Kelley’s incredible march from Fredericksburg, VA to Harrisburg from May 16-30th as a Confederate soldier, following the track of General Ewell’s men as they invaded Pennsylvania in 1863. Kelley’s march will be followed by Hershey High School students in their blog at, offering constant updates, videos, and images of Brett’s handwritten journals during the march.
The march and the game are both part of a creative and exciting fundraiser for the Education Department of the National Civil War Museum.

How can you help, get involved, or just have fun?

  • Email this to anyone who may be interested (it is really difficult for the Museum to find the email addresses of Social Studies department teachers in school districts), especially teachers who teach the Civil War.
  • Organize a team of students to participate through the “Jewel of the Valleys” wiki at, you can join the wiki, ask for a page just for your team, decorate it, follow the game, brag about achievements, collaborate, etc.
  • Offer to students as an after school activity, “club” activity, bellringer, extra credit, or classroom competition.
  • Play yourself!

The mysterious document will be revealed on May 15th. On the conclusion of Brett’s march on May 30th, prizes and certificates will be announced for the following:snip.png

  • Best Middle School Individual Historian
  • Best Middle School Team
  • Best High School Individual Historian
  • Best High School Team

Despite the prizes, it will honestly be quite fun and educational, as updates and clues will be revealed along the way through various forms of media (including social media), leading the public toward the elusive “Jewel of the Valleys.” See attachments for a promo poster (a few clues in it!), and a snippet from the mysterious document.