This classic is from 2014. In 1826, liquor was forbidden at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Cadets smuggled alcohol into the barracks anyway, and a defiant Christmas party turned into a riot when two officers attempted to break up the festivities.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Happy Saturday, everybody, since this is the last Saturday episode before Christmas of twenty twenty. We were looking for a classic Christmas episode and a lot of them are incredibly sad. Nobody
that this year, so we have instead picked one, that's a little more absurd. This is our duty.
We're twenty. Fourth, twenty fourteen episode on the acknowledged riot Liketh name suggests this was a riot over egg doc.
ethically about wanting to have alcohol in the egg, not which took place at West Point in eighteen, twenty six.
Stuff. You missed in history class, a production of I radio
allow me to welcome into my hands time how we run and tracing be Wilson, so happy holidays
Every you celebrates its nose
The holiday celebrations often involve drinking about a bit of spite, ignore I'm drinking some Edna Wright
but it is not by because I'm at work. However, I did go, gets
just have to remove I'm jealous, but there's no
Also, no big surprise in mentioning that when people drink they sometimes you really foolish things:
and when they drink a lot, the foolishness can reach epic proportions that, I am sure many of our listeners have some moments with a man. I acted like a jerk when I had too much to drink many
must have been there so West point. It will seem like I'm jumping, but I'm not West point
for me listeners, you may not know what it is. Is the United States Military Academy in it is located in West Point New York, which is why it is called West Point and its roots go right,
to the founding of the United States, as West Point was believed by George Washington to be the key strategic spot
North american continent, in the war for independence and so West Point began as a military post
and then the military Academy was established there in one thousand. Eight hundred and two by President Thomas Jefferson is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States, which I did not know prior to researching this getting into West Point physics.
We difficult and the academy has a long history of prestige and honour when you know someone or you hear about someone like a friend of the family who says. Oh my gosh, I got into West Point or my son got in the West point. Everybody tends to go wow, so it's
big deal, but we today are talking about Christmas at West Point in eighteen, twenty six. In an event that was exactly that was not exactly
he would call honourable, and it would not make you go wow being impressed
wow. I can't believe it happened, and that is the
now a riot. I had never heard of this until someone asked us to talk about it recently and I passed it your way whose bunkers mazeppa zone was already spoken for yeah and I'm so glad you did- and I had heard the phrase, but I never
knew what it was about, so I got some good learning in and it's a entertaining story. So first we're going to start with just a little background about ignored its, not one hundred percent clear, exactly when Ignite was invented. It's likely predecessor was this hot milky. Ale called posit. That was popular and medieval. Britain. Monks had started adding eggs and figs to their pass it by the thirteenth century.
But it wasn't until the seventeen hundred's that ignore really surged in popularity and became tied to holiday celebrations, so it was being consumed by people. You know for many centuries at that point, but
the reason that it was not this hugely popular drink that every
had the holidays was because ingredients like milk
eggs and sherry had been luxury items up to that point, but in the
can colonies. Many people had access to carols and chickens. Thanks
the many farms in the colonies, and there was
valuable run that was cheaper and so
the average person could suddenly enjoy egg and the colonies loved it. Just like I do. I get excited about acknowledge. Every year
If I get excited about ignored, flavoured things, the way that I get excited about, pumpkin fully writhings. I am one of those pumpkin jerks, but I also really really love Edna, yet Patrick hates it, which means it is all for me,
Washington even made his own recipe for economic, which included multiple alcoholic ingredients, including brandy, rye, whisky, Jamaica, rum and sherry. In short, this is a total booze bomb
you can actually find that recipe online. But there is a trick to it, which is it there were way. He wrote it. He didn't include how
eggs. You were supposed to use so even at the time
people that were using his recipes were kind of guessing, but basically you would be drunk as a skunk
If you trinket, no matter how many eggs you included his is a lot of alcohol in him
and so as a beverage enjoyed and endorsed by the founding fathers acknowledge, really became a vital part of any
holiday celebration in the United States. At that point. So, let's see through back over to West point the superintendent of West Point in eighteen, twenty six was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer actually served as superintendent from one thousand eight hundred and seventeen
in thirty three, these often called the father of the Military Academy was under his leadership that the academic standards for the school were significantly upgraded and codified. He also set rigorous criteria for military discipline and
conduct. Yes, so, prior to his tenure as leader of the school, it was not quite as a sort of you know
standardized it. I read.
Historical account. That said like that, you know it was really sort of laughable to consider it an actual learning institution or military academy. Its. It was kind of her rough and rowdy collection of sort of like were gathering people together and were teaching them as well as we can, but under Sayer. It really just became like a swiss clock of you know.
Good standards schedule weighing he handled everything like everyone that work they are. He hired them every student that what is admitted he chose them, and he really really had these very, very high standards and one of the major contributions that he made to the school. In addition to pretty much setting it up as an actual institution, and he really the whole country kind of owes him again.
for this contribution was that he set up this curriculum with engineering at its core. So for much of the nineteenth century, the vast majority
of engineers that were building the infrastructure of the. U S. Transportation system came from West Point, so if you are on a road, if you crossed a bridge, if you
travel by train, probably the people that designed and built those things were west point graduates and
is all thanks to figures, recognition that a fledgling country really needed engineers if it was going to actually sustain itself and develop long term.
any biography or description of bare notes that he had an intense focus on standards and excellence. He made the school into a meritocracy that was based on performance and threw out any benefit to being from privileged family when his nephew
submitted to the school he made. The boy signed a letter of resignation. The Bayer kept this bizarre possession faintly invent of a single in France
in the younger man, would immediately be removed from the school year he wanted.
they are to be no no
that anybody could point to him or his nephew and say that, like there had been unfair partial treatment, he really was all about sort of everybody comes in as an equal, everybody behaves as an equal. I don't care if you're, rich or poor. I care about how smarten dedicated you are
she really kind of a very new way of thinking at the time. We should probably point out that everyone here, like the school would not integrated or anything, so everyone was kind of
I just don't want to make it sound as though we are unaware of that aspect that everyone still had limits. Oh yes of
This is mostly like in terms of class level in a rich kids, we're not gonna get
did any better or have any better chances than children than boys had come from families that were less privileged byword justice, Martin willing to work it's hard. So that was his thing,
and up to this point in U S amaze brief history, it had really become a true
should, over the holidays for cadets to unwind a bit. Life is astute
The academy was rigorous, it was even gruelling at times and so is a much needed break from all of that discipline
home made acknowledge, which was, of course, spiked had become the drink of choice among the cadets. To celebrate Christmas, Colonel Bear was not okay. With this, the superintendent is sometimes described as leading with an almost monk like existence, because he was so dedicated to a life of honour and living up to the stand,
He sat for himself as well as the cadets sir. The idea of holiday drunkenness did not mesh with his vision of how discipline cadets should behave, so he instituted a rule that no cadet could purchase still
or consume alcohol of any kind
that didn't go oversight.
Imagine how well a ruling that would be received plenty of
young men at West Point flower
the rule on the download, the gorgeously, that's fine. He can say that only once we're stuck in a drink at Christmas, but a few could
They were really started bristling at the idea that he would go so far as to make a regulation that would bar spirits from a holiday celebration made it
personal mission to throw the biggest holiday party the school had ever seen and when we say biggest, what we really mean is the most alcohol filled and before we get to sort of how that played out, do you want to have a word from a sponsor? Let's do
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several nights before the Christmas Eve Party, three different students together across the Hudson River to visit Martens Tavern, which is located on the EAST Bank,
and there were other taverns closer to the school, but they were
gonna be able to provide the amount of liquor that the cadets were planning to a mass for their revelry at a price that the students could also afford, and so after having a few drinks at Martens, tavern, the cadets took several gallons of whisky that they had procured and they headed back to the academy when they reach
the dark at the academy. After crossing back over the river, they ran into a little obstacle, which was a guard in the guard, was ended,
the man who was standing on a dark. This was kind of a minor obstacle, because the guard was willing to look the other way for a thirty five cent bribe and once the
That's reached the barracks: they stowed their illicit alcohol in their bunks with their more mundane personal effects. They can have carefully disguised it as just
no among with everything else.
they are knew that the cadets were likely to try to smuggle in alcohol into the barracks because it had happened before and he was not a fool, so he assigned captain even Alan Hitchcock and Lieutenant William, a burden to the North Barracks to keep them to keep an eye on things
on Christmas, Eve and initially the evening was relatively quiet. So the two officers went to bed around midnight. Thinking that there's nothing was gonna happen, but several hours later, Captain Hitchcock awoke,
the sound of several of the young men partying several floors up here,
upstairs and he discovered a half dozen drunken cadets
Surely he just thought he was breaking up.
Their situation and he ordered all of them. The boys to their rooms, but before he could lay
Eve noises in the next room, tipped him off to additional inebriated cadets when he had got into the next room too drunk cadets were trying to hide under a blanket and a third was hiding his face behind a hat
This kind of crack you up like I could so picture these drug people thinking they are somehow imperceptible
under a Blake. I feel that this is a weird sit com said suddenly, a long time ago, so Hitchcock confronted the hat hider and tried to get him to reveal his identity and then things pretty.
the became heated yeah. They exchanged some words, Hitchcock eventually left, but the cadets that
and were really angry at having been confronted in and his heated exchange with the young man hiding behind the hat, just kind of ratcheted up everybody
are a little bit like, I think they just felt like they were being hassled, and it appears that this is
and when the tone of the revelry took a turn any
please, someone is said to have shouted, get your door
and bayonets and pistols. If you have them before this night, as over Hitchcock will be dead. That's what catalyzed the riot
yeah well drunken preaching about violence, so
an unruly party, another one sprung up on one of the lower floors and Captain Hitchcock ran to break it up
spend on his way he actually encountered Jefferson Davis, who was in toxic,
You did in the hallway and
slosh Davis accompanied Hitchcock into the room where this new phase of the party was going on shouting put away. The
boys, captive, Hitchcock, coming. We, of course he was standing right next Hitchcock said David back. There was room and he acquiesced which really saved his bacon later on his cooperation, kept him from being court martialed,
and when Hitchcock attempted to break down a barricaded door in another room that where a party was erupting another kid,
tried to shoot him in this
it was only thwarted by another young man that jostled him. As his pistol went off and from the accounts I read, it was on
we or whether that second man, that did the jostling did so on purpose or was just kind of having a drunken stumbling a moment: s serendipitous prevention of murder. You
But meanwhile, Lieutenant Thornton had also gotten up from his bed and was trying to stop the various pockets of partying that were popping up all over the barracks. But he was having even more trouble than Captain Hitchcock at one point:
that brandished a sword at him and the and another whacked him with a piece of wood
and these all sound from you, but I have to like to step back for a moment and think lake. Ok, these are young man that have been trained rigorously physically there. You know in the
prime of life, in terms of their health,
they are running around drunk, so they do not have full control of their mental faculties brain
fishing weapons at these poor man. Lake did the sounds kind of funny, but it
can imagine in the moment it was terrifying well- and I am also reminded of a number of blog posts- have been circulating around the internet rate lately of white people riding over stupid things, and I feel
This is a historical example. You have of ridiculous riot over something stupid and we wanted some booze are ignored so
after Captain Hitchcock Smear Miss with the drunken shooter he called for backup and he called for the come commandant of cadets, but some of the drunken.
And misunderstood what he said, and they thought he was calling for their campus rivals, which were the artillery men. They were stationed at West Point and this set-
a chain reaction of these inebriated young men arming themselves to defend against the bombardiers that they were convinced were coming as they prepare
The coming enemy- they also trashed the barracks they broke
in windows and tore apart the furniture they pulled, banisters away from the staircase cases. Hitchcock had never called for the artillery men, so they never came, but the violence and the barracks cap
escalating anyway. Finally, William Worth he was, the commandant of cadets came to Hitchcock Hitchcock call,
able to shut it down. So, even though, at this point you know things subside a bit it what's left is that roughly one third of
cadets at West Point at the time. So I've seen the number ninety out of two sixty
were involved in this booze fuel to chaos, for they basically destroyed their own surroundings.
some of the young men were still drunk on Christmas morning is remember this started well after midnight, so it was actually technically Christmas. Already when it began, can they looked a mass at this point? You no clothes dishevelled. Some of them turn their barracks were completion
balls and basically, what it boils down to is that a few gallons of whisky had incited nearly one hundred young men to do a serious amount of damage to their academy in their home away from home and
sort of the the mental environs.
What they were as well- and I actually kind of dismayed to learn by this episode or it
have reiterated that right,
over ridiculous things is not actually a new phenomenon.
no, not even a little Emma. I wonder how much
that is sort of the expression of in this particular case. You know if they were kept to this incredibly high standard and they were in a force to be rigorously devoted to their studies and devoted to being in a sort of on point at all times. If this is just sort of lake a build up
the normal ran bunches near the people have that's been kind of top down for a while, and then you get some whiskey in the maxim you can't hold back any more and it goes berserk near. There is actually some really interesting. Sociological and psychological research about what sparks riots that are made were like combating oppression. Basically he so when it comes to ones that are just about drunkenness. I don't know yet
make it might be an unfair is not the right word. I mostly MIKE, as there is no excuse for their behaviour when one
reason is that they told you you couldn't have alcohol in your ignored
yeah, but there's that that happens right when you're, drunk and a small mob forms it quickly becomes a large mob and then just there's not really much logical thought going on. It's just
like, via their heads
like a rocket thick uses, the people just get swept up in that
that weird wave of intensity, but before
talk about sort of what happened. After all of these young men lost their minds while they were drunk. You don't have. A word from our sponsor. Chair
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so to get back to what happened after this ridiculous riot was ever colonel. Bear gathered the academy staff together to discuss the matter and eventually to order
were issued by major General Alexander make em. He was the chief engineer of the army and inspector of the academy, so following them,
order. Number. Ninety eight names, twenty two cadets who were placed on immediate restriction and
order number forty nine opened a quart of inquiry into the riot and the events surrounding it. The goal was to identify the key players who led the right.
Yeah. They were trying to be fair and understanding that, like yes, there were. Ninety young men involved, but surely there were ringleaders and those are the ones we're going to go after
these inquiries took several weeks to investigate just what had happened during the cadets Christmas festivities, and eventually nineteen cadets and one soldier were court martialed for their involvement in the mob that caused all the problems. The trial
began. A month after the shenanigans on January, twenty sixth of eighteen, twenty seven, those nineteen cadets were William a Swift, Benjamin G Humphries, Walter big. We all James, W M Burying Faye at Normal David M airily George E Bompard, James L, Thomson Hued, W Mercer, Benjamin F Guard Thomas Swords, Junior Richard B.
Graven Bill Fitzgerald, Chauncey, Stocker, Tm Louis William, are Burnley Samuel.
Robert and Anthony Johnson and William D C Murdoch, and at this point, as they faced this tribunal that had been assembled to try them these cadets were basically do.
Ending themselves to preserve their futures if they were not going to be able to effectively plead their cases. Their time at West Point would end really abruptly and at that point their future was to become military men. So it really was. The stakes are quite high for what was gonna happen to them. Based on this one night of really stupid behaviour
and fellow cadets, with some now famous names, came forward and support of the cadets that were on trial while they testified
including Robert E Lee, and, as we mentioned before, Jefferson Davis, that proceedings
concluded on March eighth of eighteen, twenty seven cadets, a squid Mercer Swords, Murdoch's, graven, normal
than and guard were all allowed to remain at West Point, although nor
all Murdoch and Guard eventually left the rest of the young men were dismissed,
were no longer welcome at the academy, and just as a side note above
percent David, so he there are many incidents associated with drunkenness on record for him during his time at West Point he apparently really like to party and is
mentioned earlier. He was not charged over the ignorant riot, though he got into plenty of other troublesome little exploits when he was inebriated.
the north barracks as they were during the ignore riot no longer exist when the school build new barracks. On campus and eighteen forties, the new stuff
chairs were made with no Interior Ford for access and short hallways as a form of crowd control to prevent a sum
or a scenario where rowdy cadets could manage another riot. The bear the barracks that were built in eighty,
These are also long gone
and is also no longer a holiday celebration at West Point that, while the ignored
I have a lasting ramifications and eighteen hundred that seems to have been largely forgotten as part of the schools. Lord, I definitely had never heard of it before
and that was even after, like a heavy starts last year for ideas of of Christmas related topics that are you,
when Smithsonian Writer, Natasha guiding interviewed West Points Command historian Sherman Fleet about the eighteen, twenty six Christmas episode, she was told quote
Hardly anyone knows about it. If pulled among four thousand four hundred cadets three thousand federal employees, fifteen hundred military staff and faculty
about thirty people will know a thing about it:
until now, it's kind of email, etc entertaining story, and it certainly one of those things that you camp. I can't help I'll admit it kind of lake,
I d like idiots, I am. I gotta go to your room, guys
go to your room. I love it yes about the eggnog riot, which did you know, significantly change the trajectory of the Weis of the young men that were dismissed from West point as a consequence of their behavior
but it is it's one of those things where, even when I, the few articles that I've
about it. They all kind of sum it up is like this is a good life lesson to not get too drunk at a Christmas party and I'm like well kind of bigger than
but who can only be a like? It belongs in the same blog posts as like the pumpkin riot that just happened this year.
The riot. They were various sports teams, winning games are losing games or not actually playing their games or whatever lake. I feel like it's, that caliber of foolishness
That's the scoop pays them much for joining us on this matter day, since this episode is out of the archive, if you heard of email address or facebook url or something similar over the course of the show that could be obsolete. Now, our current Emil address is history. Podcast at I heart radio dot
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Transcript generated on 2020-12-19.