Little Bits of History

Eggnog Riot

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 24, 2012
Drunken mayhem of the Eggnog Riot

Drunken mayhem of the Eggnog Riot

December 24, 1826: The Eggnog Riot (aka Grog Mutiny) breaks out at United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Earlier versions of eggnog contained more than just rum. George Washington drank the beverage with sherry, brandy, whisky, and rum added. Many dairy farms in New England were happy to supply milk, cream, and eggnog to the public which gave the beverage a wider audience. By 1826, West Point was under the command of Sylvanus Thayer with 36 men on staff. Alcohol was prohibited on campus as was drunkenness and intoxication, both of which could lead to expulsion. Tobacco use and gambling were also punished, but only with demerits. The 260 cadets there caused faculty to be concerned with the amount of drinking among the student body.

On December 22, it was arranged for a half-gallon of whisky to be brought over to the school. The security guard, Private James Dougan, allowed Cadets William Burnley, Alexander Center, and Samuel Roberts to smuggle in the booze by boat. The three cadets managed to smuggle two gallons of whisky over to West Point’s North Barracks. Cadet T. Lewis also managed to get another gallon of whisky into the North Barracks. The plan was to hold a Christmas Eve party with eggnog as the beverage of choice.

Theyer himself held a Christmas party on December 23 for the staff. Both Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were in attendance. There was wine at the faculty party. Some different cadets met at a tavern in the town and discussed daily life at the Academy, but they were gone before the Academy quartermaster arrived. Back in the North Barracks, party plans were being discussed. The cadets were sneaking food from the mess hall to include with their eggnog party.

On December 24, nine cadets in the North Barracks began their scheduled eggnog/Christmas party around ten PM. More cadets began to arrive. As more showed up, the illegal party got louder. This brought the men to the attention of those in command and they were told to be quiet and get to sleep at 2 AM on Christmas morning. By 4 AM there was enough noise that faculty administration got involved. Captain Hitchcock tried to break up the party and a small riot erupted. By the time reveille was played at 6:05 AM it was in competition with the gun fire, breaking glass, shouted profanities, and cries of pain. Things soon calmed down but by the next day, it was thought that between 50 and 90 cadets had participated in the debacle. An inquiry began in January 1827. Seventeen cadets were expelled and two more men had their rank reduced.

A man’s true character comes out when he’s drunk. – Charlie Chaplin

You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. – Dean Martin

Bacchus, n.: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk. – Ambrose Bierce

The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober. – William Butler Yeats

Also on this day:

The South Shall Rise Again – In 1865 six men began the KKK, then a simple social club.
Christmas – In 1777, James Cook discovered an uninhabited island in the Pacific.
Shhhhhh! – In 1818, Silent Night was written.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on December 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I always thought the food fight scenes of John Belushi were a little too wild for colleges kids- but the “eggnog riots” sound just right for the cadets at West Point who were training for a much exciting career of real wars. Maybe the Belushi food fight scenes came from the “eggnog riots”.

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