Savannah and the Chatham Artillery Punch


So, I promised I would tell you how much Southerners loved George Washington back in the day.  And here’s how the story goes.

The Chatham Artillery was a local militia that was formed in 1786.  Militia members participated in the Oconee Wars between 1789 and 1793, and George Washington wanted to thank them for that service.  He came to Savannah in May of 1791, and during his visit, presented the Chatham Artillery with 2 cannon, one that was captured at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, and one that was presented as a gift to the young country by France.

The Chatham Artillery held a ball in his honor, and what’s a ball without punch?  So they made a special punch to celebrate George’s visit.  Here’s the recipe…

Chatham Artillery Punch – For 100 People (Or Ten Admirals)
1 ½ gal. Catawba Wine
½ gal. Rum (probably Jamaican)
1 qt. Gin
1 qt. Brandy
½ pt. Benedictine
2 qt. Maraschino Cherries
1 ½ qt. Rye Whiskey
1 ½ gal. Strong Tea (probably black)
2 ½ lbs. brown sugar
1 ½ qts. Orange juice
1 ½ qts. Lemon Juice

Mix from thirty-six to forty-eight hours before serving.  Add one case of champagne when ready to serve!  This punch recipe makes 5 gallons!

Some sources on the internet say that this punch was dreamed up sometime in the 1850s.  Others say this was the punch served during George Washington’s visit.  You’ll have to decide.  Whatever the answer is – wow!  That’s some punch!

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9 thoughts on “Savannah and the Chatham Artillery Punch

  1. I’ll have to bring this recipe to the boys doing the reenactments in Lake City, SC next weekend. I’m not a drinker so I know 2 drops of that would really knock me on my butt. LOL

  2. I had my lights knocked out by artillery punch when I was in the military…………….during a squadron party
    I had one cup of it and to this day I have no recollection of what happened next until I woke up in my bed the following morning at bachelor officers’ quarters.
    It is POWERFUL stuff………..

    • That does sound like Powerful stuff! I didn’t try it when I was there, and I would never be having a party large enough to justify making 5 gallons of the stuff!

      That experience would make me never drink it again… Scary!

  3. I made this for a yard party back in the 80s. I used a 5 gallon Igloo water container and filled that puppy to the top with all the ingredients. As I had a couple of rounds of this punch during a visit to Savannah, I warned the party guests about it’s potency. They sampled again and again, declaring that it was the best iced tea they’d every had. Buy the time the fireworks started, the party was mostly sedate. I took the cherries home and bottled them for great munchies for the next two months – got me through a Virginia summer.

  4. One more thing. I understand the the punch was in development long before G. Washington arrived in Savannah. Apparently the Chatham Artillery dates to 1786 and was an elite militia organization in Savannah (…imagine that!). The ladies of the organization put together frequent socials where they served an innocuous fruit punch. Under cover, the gentlemen backed up to the punch table and added a dose, or several, of their favorite spirits. By the time G. Washington arrived in Savannah, the concoction was fairly mature and established. Mix this unhistory with your next sip of punch and see how far it floats before someone shoots it out of the water. I tried…

    • I heard both the stories about its origins. That it was first made back in the founding days of the Chatham Artillery and that it came along later. There don’t seem to be any primary sources that can pinpoint it to Washington’s visit, but even if they didn’t serve it there, it makes a great story. I’m glad you hear from somebody to made a batch and enjoyed it! Cheers!

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