The untold truth of the Eggnog Riot of 1826

You may think you like eggnog, but are you passionate enough about it to get court-martialed for it? In 1826, a group of cadets at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York were. 

In the early 1800s, the military academy was incredibly strict, banning card games and tobacco, and even forbidding students to read novels. Alcohol was only allowed on Independence Day and on Christmas. That is, until 1825, when the students got too drunk on July 4th and carried William Worth, the school's Commandant of Cadets, to the barracks against his will (via History). From then on, all alcohol was banned, even on holidays. 

Many cadets weren't thrilled about the idea of giving up their tradition of drinking eggnog every Christmas. So, on Christmas Eve in 1826, a group of cadets snuck gallons of alcohol onto campus — whiskey, brandy, rum, and wine were smuggled in from local shops. The group included Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy.

The party becomes an Eggnog Riot

Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the school's no-nonsense superintendent, had stationed two guards, Lieutenant William A. Thornton and Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock, at the North Barracks, but when all was still quiet at midnight, they'd gone to sleep (via The Takeout). Once the guards were gone, students began mixing the spirits into their eggnog, and by four in the morning, the cadets were loud enough to wake Captain Hitchcock, who'd been sleeping floors beneath them. 

Hitchcock entered the room right before Jefferson Davis burst in to warn them that Hitchcock was coming. Too late. Hitchcock literally read the group of revelers the Riot Act, informing them that their assembly was unlawful. Not to be deterred, drunken cadets throughout the North Barracks began threatening and throwing things at the guards. The cadets didn't settle down until William Worth arrived, but the damage had been done — the barracks were trashed.

Most of the partiers got off scot-free, but some 22 of the worst offenders, Davis included, were placed under house arrest, restricted to their rooms. Then, 19 cadets were court-martialed, and 11 were expelled. Hopefully, they at least enjoyed the eggnog first.