Some people live large and don’t ask for permission. Charles Heidsieck. There’s your example. Champagne Charlie, as his adoring American public dubbed him, had drama in his veins like some of us have fear and loathing. His father rode before Napoleon into Russia on a white stallion to take orders for celebratory champagne (someone was going to win, right?).
Charlie toured New England and the state of New York and saw at once that these people needed some bubbly. Have you met New Englanders and Upstate New Yorkers at the end of a long winter? He seized the opportunity by hiring an agent to sell his family champagne and when he came back five years later it was to roaring crowds and banquets. He had become the toast of New York high society!
Drinks are fun, but someone has to pay for them and when shots were fired at Fort Sumter Charlie wondered who was going to pay the tab for his bubbly. The US government declared that since the South seceded Northerners didn’t have to pay their cotton debts–or their drink debts. More than half of Piper Heidsieck assets were in unpaid US drink debt.
What to do, what to do? A lot of people would throw up their hands in despair, maybe go into hiding or commit suicide, but not our good man Charlie. In the midst of war, Charlie determined to get his money directly from the merchants. All of this must be done in secrecy so he made for New Orleans in hopes of eventually sneaking north.
One merchant gave him cotton as repayment, but the boats loaded for France failed to get through the blockade and were sunk. By now all routes north were cut off so he tried getting out of the country. The consul in Mobile gave him a pouch to deliver to New Orleans before leaving, but Benjamin Butler’s men caught him, found the pouch that had documents about French textile merchants supplying Confederate uniforms and Charlie was sunk, imprisoned at Fort Jackson as a spy.
The whole thing created a big stir between France and the North and left Charles a broken man–but wait. There’s more. Once back at home he received word that the brother of the New York merchant who had cheated Charlie had a guilty conscience. He wanted to repay Charlie but only had a stack of deeds to land out west–Denver deeds. In a very short time he recouped all of his losses and with the profit rebuilt his drink business and everyone was happy.
Thanks, mbracedefreak for the great lead! If you like cryptic, opinionated blogs here’s one for all of you.
6 responses to “The Fabulous Life of Champagne Charlie”
Fiction never sounded so exciting. Well shared, Adrienne.
What a great story!
Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
I love these blogs about ‘ye olde’ characters like this. Champagne Charlie, what a guy
I’m glad 🙂 I bet there’s modern people like this but we seem to like following movie stars better. lol