The 1826 West Point Eggnog Riot (A Christmas Poem)

Google Images / Missed In History /
Google Images / Missed In History /

Every year we post a nonsense Christmas carol done in the style of Clement Clarke Moore’s T’was the Night Before Christmas. This time around we’ve mashed it together with our love of Weird History. Please enjoy this poem about a very real and not made-up whatsoever riot that occurred at West Point military academy before the Civil War.

Beloved is Christmas, good cheer and yule log.

But how far would you go, to defend the eggnog?

I will tell you now of a handful of men,

Who answered this question again and again.

Twas 1826, New York at West Point,

An academy elite, and the driest of joints.

For liquor was forbidden by headmaster Thayer,

A military man, who was thoroughly square.

But despite this ban of liquors and drafts,

The cadets came together for a Christmas repast.

While they supped and they feasted on many a course,

Their allies conspired to find a rum source.

First was Benny’s Haven, a tavern nearby,

Who bartered blankets for booze to cadets on the sly.

North’s Tavern was close, just outside the wall,

So near it would be annexed as the school’s hospital.

How, you may ask, could an academy stay dry,

Flanked as it was, by pubs on all sides?

With thirsty cadets, longing for warmth,

That eggnog could bring, on December 24th?

(It couldn’t…)

In the wee hours before sunrise, that Christmas day,

Captain Ethan Hitchcock, noticed something astray.

During his nightly patrol there was singing quite odd,

He heard carols, from students, heads heavy with ‘nog.

In the North Barracks he found the small party of drunks,

Singing and laughing in pairs on their bunks.

The cadets bristled and grumbled when he told them to stop,

And continued, as he retreated, with their swearing and schnapps.

He turned, our Captain Ethan, then to find,

Another party of inebriates, quite out of their mind.

“Hush up.” He told them. “Pipe down, go to bed.”

But try as he might, they ignored all he said.

He knew then what to do, the rules he’d enforce,

He’d go get some backup, and strike at the source.

At the gallons of whiskey and rye they’d purloined,

At the fountain of eggnog, for the peace it had ruined.

But brave these men were, as I’ve already mentioned,

They did not take kindly to their eggnog being threatened.

“Before this night is over, Captain Ethan will hang.”

So the cadets of West Point madly proclaimed.

They rallied more students from the neighboring dorms,

Knowing the officers would be back, demanding reform.

Ninety in total joined in the fun,

Believing, in earnest, that violence would come.

How would you, dear listener, in that morning fog,

Defend what’s most dear—that source of eggnog?

Would you, as our heroes, our military minds,

Nail shut the doors and barricade the blinds?

Grab pistols and dirks, and dull bayonets,

Scream warnings of violence and blood-curdling threats?

Tear bannisters from stairwells and cabinets from walls,

And apply boot to butt for the benefit of all?

Heroes, I’d say, walk hard and stand tall,

Especially when they answer the call.

And as that night passed, furious bout after bout,

While repelling the authorities their eggnog ran out.

The sun rose that morning as it does every day,

But Christmas is special, in a magical way.

Dawn’s glimmer revealed the destruction they’d wrought,

And the mess they had made, in their drunken onslaught.

Several officers nursed wounds, sad, but not fatal,

While dizzy cadets crawled out under tables.

Some woke with a start, still wielding their guns,

And looked down at the wreckage of what they had done.

Students unloaded pistols, and leaned on each other,

And when asked “Why?” by the headmaster, could only stutter.

Cadets tried, still dizzy, to line up for parade,

With memories from last night starting to fade.

Nineteen were expelled—the worst of the worst,

Including General Ben Humphreys, who put confederacy first.

Jefferson Davis was there too, found innocent without debate,
But would later head south, as President of the Confederate States.

John Campbell, the future court justice supreme,

Dodged expulsion from West Point, and got away clean.

General Hugh Mercer was expelled then quickly remitted,

And would later enlist south, once Virginia committed.

Robert E. Lee was there too, to testify for his men,

With his pristine reputation, by word and by pen.

So it was that America first heard the South’s rebel yell,

And it was a riot over liquor, and some drunks raising hell.

Beloved is Christmas, good cheer and yule log.

But really, no joke, this was all for eggnog.

-- Wiki
— Wiki

Worth it…?


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