The History of Chocolate

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just one of the few literary tributes to that popular sweet. No one who reads it can avoid craving chocolate, especially when reading of hungry Charlie Bucket sniffing the aroma from the factory on the way to and from school. Movies like Chocolat (Johnny Depp) and every movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have the same result.

However, chocolate as the sweetmeat, with all its various tastes and flavors, is a rather recent development. New discoveries are still being made about chocolate, who used it over history, how it was used, and how old the use of chocolate is.

How Old Is Chocolate?

The latest discoveries show chocolate was probably used as early as 1,500 B.C. While anthropologists believed the earliest forms of chocolate were drinks, they have also discovered evidence that chocolate may have been eaten as garnishing or bases for food. The reason cacao beans were ever ground and eaten, however, is not yet known.

Where Does the Word “Chocolate” Come From?

Xocoatl is the original term for what we know as ‘chocolate.’ That word was used, specifically, for the Aztec drink brewed from cacao beans. There is no sure knowledge about the meaning of the word. The Mayan term for the beans was cacau, which we now know as cacao and its corrupted form, cocoa.

Chocolate in Mayan Culture

What we know today about how to prepare cacao beans for use in chocolate came from the Mayans. In fact, their methods of growing, picking, drying, grinding, and roasting the beans is practically unchanged even today. The only difference global popularity has made was to make mass production easier.

Mayans loved chocolate; it was an integral part of their culture. It was a drink for elites, but was also used for a number of ceremonies and rituals. The marriage ceremony was one, where husband and wife would drink the cacau much the same way wine is drank in modern ceremonies. Baptism of children was also done with chocolate.

Chocolate in Aztec Culture

Chocolate in Aztec Culture was very much the same as in Mayan culture. It was also used in their rituals and ceremonies, namely in marriage and baptism. Cacao beans were ground and used in bitter drinks, and they were also used as currency. Cacao also had a divinity of its own, seen as a bridge between man and the gods. Therefore, cacao drinks were believed to give some kind of supernatural gifting to those who drank them.

How Did Chocolate Reach Europe?

Chocolate found its way into Europe through conquerors and traders. According to legend, both Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortez brought cacao beans to Europe from the Americas. They could not help but note the significance of the bean, because cacao was being used as currency.

Cacao was considered too bitter for anything but fashionable consumption, although some found a taste for the earliest forms. It took a while for cacao to become the soft, pasty consistency we know today. Sugar, and sometimes honey, was used in an attempt to lower the bitterness of the chocolate.

Eventually, a tiny company named Nestle discovered the mixture that would catapult the cacao bean into fame: cacao paste and milk. The taste produced by this recipe pioneered the modern milk chocolate which is the most common kind today. After this, the use of chocolate spread like wildfire over Europe and, later, to North America.

The History of Chocolate: A History of Potency

Today, we cannot name what made the old-time cacao mixtures so attractive to the Mayan and Aztec cultures. After all, what they developed at the time was bitter, and of one taste. However, the fact that the cacao products were well-loved is undeniable. This chocolate base has literally proved itself potent for several millennia.

Want to read about more awesome history? Check out the University of Memphis History Department for more historical awesomeness. A magical place where we help students get online masters in history.

The History of Chocolate

4 Facts About the Battle of Fort Sumter

The Battle at Fort Sumter is known as the first battle of the Civil War, and is a landmark battle because of it. However, at the time (April 1861), both the South and the North believed the war would be a simple settling of differences. Not until the Battle of First Manassas in July did both sides realize that neither secession nor unity were quite so simple. As a result, this battle was conducted very differently.

Fact #1: The Defense of Fort Sumter was Symbolic for the Federal Army

There were three federal forts in Charleston: Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Moultrie. Castle Pinckney was too lightly defended to be a threat, Fort Moultrie was well-armed but all its guns pointed out to sea. Only Fort Sumter was properly defensible, which is why it became the last federal fort standing in the secessionist South.

President Abraham Lincoln could have given up the Fort, since there was no tactical advantage in holding it. There was no way the Fort could have been re-taken, given where it was. However, the President knew that federal strength needed to be acknowledged in the Union and internationally, which is why supplies and reinforcements were still sent.

Fact #2: The Attack of Fort Sumter was Symbolic for the Confederate Army

If the Confederates were not taking secession seriously, they did not have to make a point of making Fort Sumter surrender, or attacking it at all. They could have taken the longer way of negotiation. However, to succeed as a state, they knew that international recognition was crucial. To prove their sovereignty, taking Fort Sumter as soon as possible was crucial.

Fact #3: No Lives Were Lost On Either Side

An estimated 3,000 cannon shells were loosed from both the besieged and the besieging forces. However, there were only injuries from flying wood and mortar. Few wars have started so positively for both sides. It also maintained Confederate spirits in the face of the beginning of the war.

Fact #4: The Projectile Fired Over Fort Sumter Introduced Rifled-Barrel Cannon

The projectile fired over Fort Sumter came from Fort Johnson, James Island, and it was a Blakely projectile from a rifled-barrel gun. The range, and the accuracy of the projectile at that range, warned both Federal and Confederate troops that they needed more of those. Failing to switch over to rifled-barrel cannon would put them at a defensive disadvantage. However, switching over was also one of the main reasons the death count in the Civil War reached such heights.

Fort Sumter Set the Stage for the War

At the time, no one had any idea how long the war would draw out, and how many lives would be claimed. However, on that night, both sides communicated to the other that they were willing to fight until victory.


The aforementioned was part of an article on whether or not the civil war was inevitable by HankeringforHistory.

4 Facts About the Battle of Fort Sumter

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Civil War

Speaking from a 21st century perspective, it is difficult to see how a novel could be as important as the political and economic tensions that led to the Civil War. Those are easier to note, and more quantifiable. However, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was such a novel. Most significantly, the novel roused both anti-slavery and pro-slavery public sentiment high enough that war was not heavily objected to.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Birth of a Novel

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was part and parcel of the Compromise of 1850 (the Kansas-Nebraska Act). It stated that any escaped slaves found in any state, whether or slave or free, could be caught and returned to their owners. All the catcher or owner had to do was declare, orally, that the slave was a runaway. It also placed penalties on anyone who aided a runaway slave.

Harriet Beecher Stowe acted upon her sister-in-law’s suggestion, to write a novel about the personal side of slavery. Her protagonist, Uncle Tom, is sold and re-sold to different kinds of slave-owners, both kind and sadistic. Multiple side stories describe separations of families, and the helplessness of slaves whose masters had died.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Popularity, and Public Sentiment

Abolitionists could easily be dismissed as extremists, with the easy phrase, “surely it’s not really that bad.” In other words, slavery and the realities of slavery had no hold over the public, both in the Northern and the Southern states. Stowe’s novel bypassed the prejudices against extremism, and brought slavery to the eyes, and more importantly the emotions, of the public.

In its first year, Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold 300,000 copies in 1852. By the time of the Civil War, it had already sold over 2 million copies, both in the United States and abroad. Throughout the 1850s, the book became a staple of the family library in the free states. It also provoked proslavery writings and arguments from the slave-holding South.

This heightening of public emotion and sentiment served to split the emotional divide between the North and the South more clearly. The North now had more of a reason to abolish slavery; the South now had more of a complaint of their unfair treatment by the north. Public sentiment, as Lincoln admitted, was crucial to carrying out a war that needed the sanction of an elected Congress.


In other words, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was indeed crucial to the Civil War. It gave the war legitimacy in the public’s eyes, allowing the conflict to continue as long as it did. It also gave the Union the moral high ground both nationally and internationally.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Civil War

Civil War Trivia

  • More than three million men fought in the Civil War about 900,000 for the Confederacy and 2.1 million for the Union.
  • An estimated 300 women disguised themselves as men and fought in the ranks.
  • More than 620,000 people, or two percent of the population, died in the Civil War.
  • Approximately 6,000 battles, skirmishes, and engagements were fought during the Civil War.
  • There were over 2,000 boys who were 14 years-old or younger in the Union ranks. Three hundred were 13 years or less, while there were 200,000 no older than 16 years.
  • At the Battle of Shiloh, on the banks of the Tennessee River, more Americans fell than in all previous American wars combined. There were 23,700 casualties.
  • At Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862, the Confederate trenches stretched for a distance of seven miles. The troop density was 11,000 per mile, or six men to the yard.
  • 3,530 Native Americans fought for the Union, of which, 1,018 were killed.
  • The greatest cavalry battle ever fought in the Western hemisphere was at Brandy Station, Virginia, on June 9, 1863. Nearly 20,000 cavalrymen were engaged on a relatively confined terrain for more than 12 hours.
  • An Iowa regiment had a rule that any man who uttered an oath should read a chapter in the Bible. Several of them got nearly through the Old Testament.
  • There were more Northern-born Confederate generals than Southern-born Union generals.
  • The famous Confederate blockade-runner, the C.S.S. Alabama, never entered a Confederate port during the length of her service.
  • During the Battle of Antietam, Clara Barton tended the wounded so close to the fighting that a bullet went through her sleeve and killed a man she was treating.
  • In March 1862, “new” ironclad war ships, the Monitor and the Merrimac battled off Hampton Roads, Virginia. From then on, every other wooden navy ship on earth was obsolete.
  • There were 100 men in a Company and 10 Companies in a Regiment.
  • Not fond of ceremonies or military music, Ulysses S. Grant said he could only recognize two tunes. “One was Yankee Doodle, the other one wasn’t.”
  • <style=”margin-top: 0;=”” margin-bottom:=”” 0″=””><style=”margin-top: 0;=”” margin-bottom:=”” 0″=””>President Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated.
Caring for the wounded at Antietam, 1862.


  • Missouri sent 39 regiments to fight in the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi — 17 to theConfederacy and 22 to the Union.
  • At the start of the war, the value of all manufactured goods produced in all the Confederatestates added up to less than one-fourth of those produced in New York State alone.
  • In 1862, the U.S. Congress authorized the first paper currency, called “greenbacks.”
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., future chief Justice, was wounded three times during the Civil War : in the chest at Ball’s Bluff, in the back at Antietam and in the heel at Chancellorsville
  • Surgeons never washed their hands after an operation, because all blood was assumed to be the same, nor did he wash his instruments
  • Confederate Private Henry Stanley fought for the Sixth Arkansas, and was captured at Shiloh, but survived to go to Africa to find Dr. Livingston.
  • On July 4, 1863, after 48 days of siege, Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi to Union General, Ulysses S. Grant. For the next 81 years, the city Vicksburg, Mississippi did not celebrate the Fourth of July.
  • Disease killed twice as many men during the war than did battle wounds.
  • The 12th Connecticut Regiment entered the war with a compliment of 1,000 men. Before it entered its first engagement, sickness had reduced its strength to 600 able bodied soldiers.
  • On both sides of the conflict, potential recruits were offered monetary rewards, or “bounties,” for enlisting, as much as $677 in New York. “Bounty jumping” soon became so popular, that hundreds of men signed up, and then deserted, to enlist again elsewhere.
  • For those who were drafted, the law allowed them to pay a substitute to go in their place. Another type of “bounty jumper” was born when men would hire out to more than one draftee and then make a hasty exit once they were paid. The record for bounty jumping was held by John O’Connor, who admitted to hiring himself out 32 times before being caught. He received a 4 year prison term.
  • Though African Americans constituted less than one percent of the northern population, by the war’s end made up ten percent of the Union Army. A total of 180,000 black men, more than 85% of those eligible, enlisted. By the time of the Confederate surrender in 1865, there were more African Americans in the Union army than there were soldiers in the Confederatearmy.
  • In November 1863, President Lincoln was invited to offer a “few appropriate remarks” at the opening of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg. Though Lincoln spoke just 269 words in his Gettysburg address, the main speaker, an orator from Massachusetts, spoke for nearly two hours.
  • Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest had 30 horses shot from under him and personally killed 31 men in hand-to-hand combat. “I was a horse ahead at the end,” he said.


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Civil War Trivia