Originally posted 13 May 2012
Just typing the header of this post made me smile; we associate eggnog with Christmas, not flailing fists. The sweet milky beverage is favored by children, and it seems unlikely that it could have once have been at the center of an altercation that imperiled the careers of men who would later become famous. Nevertheless, in 1826 a battle among West Point cadets over an illicit bowl of rum-laced eggnog resulted in the court-martial of twenty candidate officers and one enlisted man. Among the riot participants who was not prosecuted was Jefferson Davis, who later became President of the Confederacy and as such commander of a fellow student who tried to maintain discipline, Robert E. Lee. It all began when the administration of the academy tried to crack down on the drinking of eggnog around Christmas, which had always been against the rules but was unofficially tolerated. In response a group of cadets decided to throw the biggest party West Point had ever seen. This picture shows the cadets enjoying a convivial mug before things got ugly.
Many broken windows and minor injuries later, some cadets had been expelled while others were reduced in rank. Some promising careers had been cut short, and the Academy enforced the rules with renewed vigor. Next time you sip some eggnog as a winter refresher, remember that the seemingly harmless drink was once a focus of contention at America’s elite military school.