A number one worldwide product of today would not have been possible without the genius of a Confederate Soldier. Without the Civil War, you could say the world may have missed out on something really BIG. It’s a fact that the beginnings of the world’s most famous soft drink can be traced back to a Confederate officer who fought in the Civil War.
John Stith Pemberton, a Georgia native, was a gifted chemist and pharmacist by trade before the Civil War began. He joined the Confederate Army and served with distinction as a lieutenant colonel in the Third Georgia Cavalry Battalion.
On April 16, 1865 during the Battle of Columbus, Pemberton was wounded in the chest by a saber. If the telegraph system been working, his battalion would have gotten the word that General Lee ended the war at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia a week earlier on April 9th, and the battle would not have happened.
Pemberton survived his wounds, but was in severe pain. To relieve his dependence on painkillers, he started to work on developing a medicine using his knowledge as chemist and pharmacist. Eventually he came up with a formula of a drink, similar to a French wine, but infused with coca (cocaine), kola nut (caffeine).
At first he named the new concoction “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca,” and began selling it in several drugstores in Atlanta, Georgia. Temperance legislation enacted in 1886 forced him to formulate a new, non-alcoholic version of his drink.
With the help of a druggist friend Willis Venable, he created a modified recipe to blend his base syrup with carbonated water. On May 8, 1886, the first new “Coca-Cola” drink was sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta. One thing led to another, and before long the new drink gained in popularity and was distributed worldwide.
You could say no Civil War, no Coke! If the message of the end of the war had reached General Wilson of the Union Army to prevent the Battle of Columbus, John S. Pemberton would not have been injured. Without the injury he would not have been in pain. Without the pain, he would not have searched for a painkiller replacement. If he had not been searching for a new medicine, he would not have concocted a new drink, and we would never have gotten the world’s favorite soft drink – Coke!
On the day of Pemberton’s funeral in 1888, Atlanta druggists closed their stores and attended the services as a special tribute of respect. On that hot August day, not one drop of Coca-Cola was dispensed in the whole city. The Atlanta newspapers called him “the oldest druggist of Atlanta and one of her best known citizens.”
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