Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Joel Roberts Ninde's Great Uncle -Samuel Alexander Roberts

How a pair of cadets from Alabama started the 1826 Eggnog Riot at West Point             

So begins the story of the 1826 Eggnog Riot at West Point, one of history's lesser-known tales about the custard-y holiday drink, as told in the book "Christmas Tales of Alabama."
The cadets at West Point were not allowed to have liquor on campus but they were determined to have a party. They decided to row across the Hudson River to get two gallons of whiskey, then cadet T.M. Lewis of Kentucky brought a gallon of rum from Benny's Tavern. Someone else would add another gallon of whiskey before the end of what became known as the Eggnog Riot.
West Point Academy superintendent Sylvanius Thayer got wind of the party plans and asked additional faculty members to patrol the campus in the days before Christmas.
However, Roberts, Burnley and Center managed to get the alcohol into the north barracks and, on Christmas Eve, the cadets spiked a batch of eggnog and proceeded to get drunk. The original group of nine cadets, including a young man named Jefferson Davis, was joined by more cadets, and still more, until soon dozens were staggering through the halls, some armed with muskets and bayonets. Sounds of gunfire, breaking glass and threats against academy administrators could be heard across the campus.
When campus officers showed up, they placed 22 cadets, including Roberts, Burnley, Center and Davis, under house arrest. A total of 70 were implicated in the riot and 19 were eventually expelled. However, Davis was not among those expelled and would go on to become president of the Confederate States of America, which had its first capital in Montgomery.
Roberts and Burnley, two of the instigators, were among only four students attending West Point from Alabama that year, according to the 1826 Roll of Cadets. Roberts, who grew up in Mobile and whose father owned a store in Cahaba, Ala., was 17 years old and Burnley was 16 at Christmas 1826.
The riot had another Alabama connection: A Georgia cadet who was involved in the riot but not expelled, John Archibald Campbell, would later move to Montgomery and be elected to the Alabama House of Representatives. He was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Burnley and Roberts were expelled. Burnley's bright future, which had looked so promising after his West Point admission recommendations from John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson, was stalled. Roberts would eventually move to Texas, where he became Secretary of State.
Join reporter Kelly Kazek on her weekly journey through Alabama to record the region's quirky history, strange roadside attractions and tales of colorful characters. Find her on Facebook or follow her Odd Travels and Real Alabama boards on Pinterest. 

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