The Eggnog Riots

The Riot Act was read to young officers at West Point Military Academy on 25 December 1826, following a boisterous party which began the night before.

Christmas in the South: egg-nog party. William Sheppard, 1870. Library of Congress.

The rules for young officers at West Point Military Academy in New York were strict. Alcohol possession could lead to expulsion and even smoking tobacco could affect one’s chances of graduating. Of course, the cadets took great delight in ignoring these rules completely.

So keen indeed were the Academy’s 260 cadets on breaking the rules that by 1826 West Point was getting a reputation for drunkenness. That year the decision was taken by Superintendent Sylvanus Thayer to make the celebratory Christmas eggnog alcohol free. A traditional Christmas drink, usually containing rum, George Washington liked his with added brandy, whisky and sherry. So an alcohol-free eggnog was unlikely to pass muster with the cadets.

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