Civil War Cookin’: Don’t You Want Some Pie?

civil-war-cookin-happy-thanksgivingWhy would a hungry soldier refuse a slice of home-made pie after miles of marching on a dusty road? That was the mystery for one lady in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania when the Rebel soldiers appeared in town on June 26, 1863.

It was a frightful day in Gettysburg. After weeks of rumors and false-alarm panics, many civilians didn’t believe the Confederates were actually coming to Gettysburg…until they were riding through the streets. With enemy soldiers in town, the Northern women plotted their next defensive move. Some hid. Others locked their doors and peeped through the curtains to keep an eye on the raiders. Others took a practical course of action: cooking. After-all, if they fed the enemy soldiers, maybe the guys would be nice and not ransack the house or harm the civilians.

Martha Scott and her family lived on Chambersburg Street. Earlier in that day, she had baked a pie. Maybe it was a cherry pie – fresh cherries were available in Southern Pennsylvania orchards at the end of June. Maybe it was a dried apple pie with raisins. Whatever the flavor, that pie with its delicious filling and flaky crust had filled the home with a delectable scent and was likely stored in the pie safe somewhere in the kitchen.

After General Jubal Early made his demand of money from the town and was mollified by receiving permission to send his soldiers on an “all-expenses paid” shopping trip, Confederate soldiers started knocking on the doors of shops and civilian homes. Sometimes they knocked politely, other times they hammered their way inside.

Confederate soldiers near Gettysburg
Confederate soldiers near Gettysburg

A couple soldiers arrived at the Scott Home and asked for something to eat. Maybe they asked nicely, maybe they barked their request; either way their Southern accents would’ve reminded Martha that these were enemy soldiers. She graciously invited them into the kitchen and brought out that homemade pie. She set plates and forks on the wooden table. Then retrieved a knife. Seeking to avoid the squabbles about uneven pieces or “his piece is bigger than mine”, Martha kindly invited the soldiers in gray to cut the pie and help themselves.[i]

Watching Mrs. Scott with suspicion, one of the Confederates divided the pie and lifted out a piece. “Here, you have a piece first,” he ordered her, glancing at his nervous comrade.

With indignant shock, Martha responded, “Do you think it is poison? The women here don’t poison people.”

The soldier looked at the pie. Maybe they sniffed it or poked at the filling with a fork. They looked at each other and shook their heads. They slunk out of the house, leaving the pie on the table.

I’m sure Martha Scott was nervous, but I hope she saw the humor in the situation. Hungry soldiers refusing to eat a homemade pie… That’s a unique historical situation for certain!


[i] Creighton, M.S. (2005). The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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