December 25, 1826: The West Point Eggnog Riot

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A Brief History

On December 25, 1826, cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point cracked the annals of history with an Eggnog Riot!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find the long gray line of cadets leading their disciplined life of study in a controlled environment with distractions like alcoholic beverages prohibited.  Fighting, gambling, cursing, all the things young men pursue with gusto at other colleges were forbidden there, even back then.

Boys being boys, soldiers being soldiers, the cadets were upset to be strictly limited to non-alcoholic eggnog for their Christmas party, and of course they decided to do something about it!

At least a couple different cadets went about obtaining a few gallons of whiskey to spike the eggnog, and late at night on Christmas eve the drinking started, with the forbidden drunkenness following shortly behind.

By the time the clock passed midnight, the trouble started as well.  For the rest of Christmas Day, disorder was the order of the day, with fights, vandalism, and open defiance of U.S. Army officers trying to keep order.  By the time it was over, many windows were broken and much property was damaged.

West Point being what it is, the authorities were not going to let this insubordination go easy, and of the 70 or so participants in the riot 20 cadets were court-martialed, all of whom were found guilty.  Eighteen of the cadets were expelled, although some were reinstated, and an enlisted soldier was also court-martialed and given 6 months of hard labor.  (He was on guard duty and allowed cadets to bring the whiskey onto the academy.)

It was not a holly jolly Christmas that year!

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you enjoy eggnog?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For a book on the incident, please read…

Agnew, James B.  Eggnog riot: The Christmas mutiny at West Point.  Presidio Press, 1979.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.