We Make History

Proudly Presented

The 1861

Remembrance Ball

April 8th, 2006    Mesa, Arizona

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April 1861

Though seven states in the Deep South have seceded, faraway Arizona has voted to join the Confederacy and even the mayor of New York City has called for secession, yet the seven states of the "Upper South" still adhere to the Union. Virginia, first founded of the original thirteen colonies, a cradle of liberty which has been home to founding fathers and four of the first five presidents, is among those who remain.

But then twin bolts of lightning strike. South Carolina forces fire on Fort Sumter. In a quick response President Lincoln demands from each remaining state a quota of men to invade and subdue the new Confederacy. A number of states refuse to supply soldiers for the purpose, believing the request to be unconstitutional.

Lines are more deeply drawn. Hope for diffusing the crisis fades. Neutrality proves to be a fast disappearing illusion. The states of the Upper South have a choice of either remaining in the Union and supporting the invasion of the Confederacy ... or seceding and being invaded themselves.

The question will be put to public vote.

The people of Virginia turn to many places for inspiration and guidance; the Constitution, the Scriptures, the writings of the founding fathers and their own heritage as Virginians.

What decision will they make?

In the meantime, as events have unfolded the state militia has been called up and a posture of defense has been adopted. The members of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry, eager but mostly green, sign their twelve month enlistment papers, stop by a tailor's shop to be measured for uniforms, practice drill on Broad St. ... and hold a Ball in honor of their home state.

To honor this poignant episode in American History, We Make History presented its 6th annual Civil War Ball, The 1861 Remembrance Ball, a special evening of period music, historic dance, singing, dramatic portrayals by eyewitnesses and first-person interpretations of those caught up in events bigger than themselves ... at the crossroads of history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring 1861

Beautiful Virginia, fairest of all the states, begins the month of April firmly in the Union, voting overwhelmingly against secession, committed to peace and sponsoring a multi-state delegation which has traveled to Washington in hopes of bridging the gap between the interests of Republican and Democrat, of New England and the seceded cotton states of the Deep South.

Yet within weeks Virginia will have been presented with a demand for troops to invade the southern states and when she refuses she will be blockaded and invaded. Finally, her people will vote overwhelmingly to secede rather than face subjugation and will then join her cause to the Confederate States of America.

Click here for a Virginia chronology.

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The music playing is "Carry Me Back to 'Ol Virginny."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughtful Comments from our Friends across Virginia and Beyond

 

My Dearest Lord and Lady Scott,

      Thank you again for another tremendous night. I'm telling you, it just gets better. But I must say that the best part of the whole evening was watching the gentlemen running each other over for the ladies shoes!
Thank you for all your hard work. I love you all.

Love in Christ,

Miss Valerie B. of Prescott, Arizona

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My favorite memories from the evening are the beautiful people from at the ball whose immense physical beauty is often exceeded by their inner beauty.  What a wonderful world it would be if everyone were like your guests.

I Remain

Your Friend and Humble Servant

1st Sgt. Mike C.    Glendale, Arizona

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My Dear Lord and Lady Scott,

      I must congratulate you all on yet another marvelous success.

Although the news from the front was grim, joy still reigned over the evening. Our prayers are with you both, as well as with the men and families of the 1st Virginia.

Many thanks and God bless,

             Miss Katie E.    Prescott, Arizona

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Dear Lord Scott,

    I just wanted to thank you for another wonderful ball!  I had a delightful time and am eagerly awaiting the next.  I loved the Virginia Reel!  I could have gone on reeling for another hour!  Thank-you for all the work you put into the balls.  I'm looking forward to seeing you and your family again very soon!

Sincerely,

Miss Alia Michele    Prescott, Arizona 

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Thank you for another wholesome, fun, historical experience! We had a great time and look forward to future events.

Randy K.    Sun City, Arizona

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Dear Lord Scott,
I had an excellent time at the 1861 remembrance ball. I enjoyed the dancing. I also appreciated the singing of "The Bonnie Blue Flag". Congratulations on another successful ball.

Sincerely,

Nate  M.    Glendale, Arizona

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Dear Capt. & Mrs. Scott,

  Thank you so much for your prayers and showing us a wonderful time on Saturday. It was so delightful to see you dancing so often rather than running hither and fro working and keeping things going smoothly.

  It would be a pleasure to see you on Resurrection day.  Feel free to come by if you are in the area.

Mrs. Lee    Phoenix, Arizona

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Dear Captain Scott,

As always, your assembly was a wonderful event.  My brother and I greatly enjoyed the hospitality with which we were greeted.  For the first time, I had a chance to truly get to know some of the ladies of the 1st Virginia, and was much enriched by the experience and the gentle hand of friendship which was extended to me. 

As always, the dancing was wonderful.  The evening's Virginia reel was a vigorous exercise in composure, equilibrium, and stamina  (I do feel a nod must also be made to the valiant maidens who rallied each corset-restricted breath for the successive "chasse" (sashay) ).  

Though I am still a staunch supporter of the Union, I was fascinated by the Virginians’ perspective on this great conflict, and am grateful for the opportunity to experience it with such a group of people.

Cordially,

Katherine Adalon aka Shelley R.    Gilbert, Arizona

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Lord Scott,

It was our great pleasure during our visit to Laura, Gerrit, Alec and Stuart to be able to attend the 1861 Remembrance Ball. In fact our trip from our home in Rockford, IL was set so that we could experience what the family has been excited about for some time now.

We particularly liked the period dress, the Virginia Reel and the news announcements throughout the evening.

Fortunately I (Tom) have a formal "top hat and tails" wedding suit actually worn by a bridegroom in 1878, and felt right at home. Laura sewed me (Claire) a beautiful period hoop skirted gown and I felt drawn back into history by the evening's events.

Thanks to you and your family for leading and preserving these glimpses into historical periods that make those periods come alive once more.

Sincerely,

Tom and Claire L.    Rockford, Illinois

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Dear Lord Scott and Family,
As always the ball was superior. We were so fortunate to be amongst the finest company, most pleasant conversation, and very enthusiastic dancing.
Even the profound news of the evening did not take away from the festivities.  My, what a reel!  We are very blessed to have friends like you and your lovely family.

Your humble guests,

The H. Family    Paradise Valley, Arizona

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Dear Captain Scott,

The heartiest of gratitude to you and the members of the 1st Virginia for an extraordinary evening.  I don't think I have been among a more enthusiastic and generous group of dancers!

The Virginia Reel is now on my list of favorites.  And I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the charming young lady who quickly taught me a box-step waltz.  With friends like these, who needs Arthur Murray?

I am blessed to be among such wonderful company, this wonderful family of We Make History.  Words simply do not do justice to my joy.

Thank you! God Bless You All!

Your Humble Servant and Friend In History,
Christopher F.
Tucson, Arizona

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Dear Captain Scott,

I do declare that this was the best ball ever!  Seeing old friends and making new friends was such blessing!  We plan on making future balls a regular habit!  Thank you for all your work in making the evening most memorable with the "Latest news" of all the goings on in Virginia.   Thank you for allowing the girls to participate in the presentation of the Belles into Southern Society!  The Virginia Reel will be unforgettable!

Blessings

The P. Family    Gilbert, Arizona

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On behalf of my troop--thanks for all the effort you put into the evening.  Our carload was so wonderfully happy at the event. Our one guest was still talking about it Sunday morning at church (kudos for him for making it to church!)

We appreciate the dvd that Willie won, and have already watched it.  Will have the whole family sit down to watch it and gain a little more history on the Civil War.  Thanks for giving gifts!

On behalf of the B. clan, thanks again!

Melody, for all.    Prescott, Arizona

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Dear Lord Scott,

    Thank you so much for the latest ball of the 1861! I enjoyed myself extremely well and can't remember when I had a more enjoyable time! Thank you for organizing such wonderful events! They are appreciated!!!

    Sincerely,

    Kayla Rose F.    Prescott, Arizona

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Dear Capt. Scott,

Would that there had not been such dreadful news during the Ball! I might have enjoyed it more so had I not been thinking all the while of what lies ahead for my family and our country of Virginia.

War, war...dreadful, cruel war! The mere thought of what awaits us strikes deep into my heart an arrow of fear and sadness. And yet I do not despair, for once the blow passes I remember in Whose hands my home is placed, and in Whose care my brothers rest, and where once Fear reigned, Hope rises victorious!

And yet, I must admit, despite the news of Secession, I did find myself laughing and dancing and socializing with genuine pleasure.

I declare, I meet the most unique, wonderful people at WMH events. Why, this time, I met a little boy who plays classical music on the piano and writes stories... and his older brother, and opera singer! (Which, you know, is a profession near to my heart.) I waltzed with a charming Yankee soldier who gave me a flower, and I spent part of the evening with my dear Uncle, Colonel Robert E. Lee.... and was able, mercifully, to stand by and comfort dear Aunt Lee during a trying time when news arrived of her home being occupied by Union forces. And of course, I had the delight to dance and chat with many old and dear friends, as well.

So many beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen! Where else in this state does such a Convention of General Excellence convene but at a WMH Ball?

Your faithful friend,

sister in Christ,

and ally in the Cause,

Miss Martha Barton    Winchester, Virginia

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Dear Captain and Mrs. Scott -

Our entire family had such a lovely time at the 1861 Civil War Ball last weekend.  Our daughters fully enjoyed learning all the dances and playing with the other children, and my feet have finally recovered from my husband’s attempts to spin me around the floor.  Do you offer remedial waltzing lessons?

We are so looking forward to your next wonderful event and so delighted to have discovered We Make History.

Blessings to you and your family -

Michael and Lori V.

Phoenix, Arizona

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 I had an amazing time! Only my second ball with WMH. Probably the best
event was the thing with all the women's shoes, a very clever idea!
Sincerely,
Jacquie S.

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Lord and Lady Scott,

The Remembrance ball this month was a huge success, and quite an honor to attend.  The dances were exciting, and it was worth it, even to see all the elegant costumes.  I must say Congratulations to you for hosting such an event. 

                                   Many Thanks, and your loyal supporter,

                                                                                Sir Andrew S.    Tucson, Arizona

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Dear sir,

     Thank you again for hosting another wonderful ball.  It was such a treat to run across several friends (even if they do now choose to wear the secessionist uniforms).  I even ran across a friend of mine (Robert, the fellow from New Orleans) who has heard me discuss these balls several times, and finally took it upon himself to come.  Perhaps the most amusing part of the ball was when the cinderella dance revealed that the militia that we regulars will be opposing on the field need a little more drill practice - especially with the "About Face" command.  Now that I know what to expect, I'm sure that the war will be over in a matter of months :o) (Sorry, I couldn't resist the joke).  As always, it was a real treat, and I look forward to making time in my schedule for the next ball.

Sincerely,

Private R., Provost Marshall    Gilbert, Arizona

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Capt. Scott,

We so very much enjoyed the 1861 Remembrance Ball.  The dancing was superb (I personally loved the long Virginia Reel), the costumes fabulous, and the company magnificent!  Your acting out of "the latest news" certainly added significantly to the "feel" of the evening.  Thank you again for a wonderful experience.

God Bless,

Greg G.

Prescott Valley, Arizona

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Hello, Lord Scott! :)

Although we arrived late, my boyfriend and I greatly enjoyed the 1861 Ball. We can't wait for the next one! :)  We'll have our outfits prepared ahead of time since it was quite a project putting together clothing for the first time.

Thank you so much!

Warm regards,

Jennifer G.    Phoenix, Arizona

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My Dear Captain Scott –

Where do I begin?  What a splendid way to enjoy the last moments of peace between our peoples before the outbreak of hostilities.  I wish events could have unfolded differently.  Why did those hotheads in South Carolina have to open fire on our flag?  A few more days and the soldiers in Ft. Sumter would have run out of food and they would have surrendered peacefully.  I think that the good people of Virginia age being led down a very bad path with their rash behavior and inability to calmly talk out the country’s differences.  Even the honorable Sam Houston is strongly urging for Union.  I wish the vote for secession would have taken place in Wheeling instead of Richmond.  Cooler heads would have prevailed.  Alas, after spending the evening with the lovely ladies of Virginia, I know you that you will fight fiercely for you have much to fight for.

I hope the images from the last evening will bring back fond memories in the years to come.  Let’s hope the predictions of a quick and bloodless conflict will hold true.

I have to say that I felt quite outnumbered during the evening.  It was a relief to see some good Union civilians to bolster our thin ranks. The advance of the gentlemen upon the ladies’ shoes for the “shoe dance” reminds me of the Confederate final assault at 1st Manassas that turned the tide against the Union.  I see where your forces received their training.

Thank you for all of your efforts for providing a most wonderful and memorable evening.

I Remain,

Your Friend and Humble Servant,

1st Sgt. Mike C.    Glendale, Arizona

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Letter From Virginia 

We Make History combines dance and drama in a period ball bringing ladies and gentlemen together as a nation tears itself apart.

Richmond, 1861

My Dearest Family and Friends,

I write you at a time of great uncertainty, tinged with the sadness of what may yet befall us. I will soon leave my home with my fellow Virginians in the defense of our liberties. Though I am proud to serve, I hoped never to see the day when I might have to spill the blood of my own countrymen to protect that which is dear to us.

For many months, I have prayed for an amiable solution. But that hope is no more. My beloved country is tearing asunder as a flag left to flail in the fiercest winds. Yet I write to you on the heels of most joyous ball, sponsored by the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry, a night of song and dance with the finest ladies and gentlemen of the state complemented by visitors from both north and south.

I attended in full uniform, the work of a harried seamstress in Williamsburg steeped at the foot of a mountain of work. She did not fail her task of creating a fine garment of yellow and gray with buttons shining brightly in the sun. But I do believe she overdid herself, as my first communications with Captain Scott revealed.

“Colonel Francis!” he greeted.

I ranked higher than I realized. But if I am called to a higher duty, so be it. When the festivities began, the Belles of Virginia were presented to us, the finest young ladies of the state. One by one, a member of the 1st Virginia escorted them before the crowds. The line of elegance extended beyond my vision. Here, I noticed the gentlemen were most desirably outnumbered.

These charming women had the honor of selecting their first partner. All I could do was smile, hold my breath, and hope for the best while my heart cried out, chose me! Choose me!

A beautiful lady approached. We honored each other and the evening began with a promenade followed by a few ring and line dances.

But as we were enjoying the evening, some disturbing news arrived of deteriorating relations between the states of the north and south. Anger was consuming both sides. Yet my fair state of Virginia had elected to remain in the Union. Perhaps peace would not elude us.

With that hope, the dancing resumed with more sets and circles and a few waltzes here and there. You will forgive me if I cannot remember the grandiosity and yet simplicity of each one, but I am indebted to a young lady who taught me a box step. She led and I followed. “You are a quick learner,” she complimented.

I had many compliments myself for the dozens of ladies I encountered. I felt it my duty to always caution that I was not the greatest waltzer, honesty being something I hold dear, but my partners were all gracious and not put off at all by simple steps from someone who desired above all to be a gentleman.

More bad news arrived. Fort Sumter had been attacked. President Lincoln was demanding troops to quell the Confederacy. We were being asked to attack our brethren, to invade our own lands. The question of secession was inevitable now. We would have to make a choice.

Our host did his best to lift our spirits in the midst of this crisis, noting that even in the dark days of the Revolution, President Washington found time for diversion in dance.

“Enjoy yourselves, enjoy your company,” Captain Scott said.

The highlight of the occasion was upon us now: the Virginia Reel. I had danced it before but still felt uneasy. This could either be delight or disaster. But it was the latter, and I am much obliged to the Virginia Belle who clarified a confusing step for me with one sentence: “You’ll always swing on this side.” Stripping the Willow, as they say, was never easier.

So our musicians began to play and we reeled. And we reeled. And we reeled some more, again and again, around and around, swinging each other, swinging our partners, swinging through the sets, progressing through at least a dozen changes in the head couple before I stopped counting. The band kept at it, and lost in our enjoyment, we could have reeled all night. We could have reeled all the way across Virginia, across the Potomac into Maryland. Then we could reel into Pennsylvania and on to New England, all the way through New York, Massachusetts and Maine. We Virginians will show those Yankees how to dance!

A lady recounted for me the Drop Dead Reel -- one where the musicians keep playing as long as somebody can still stand. The number only ends when everybody’s either off the floor, or lying on it.

“I don’t know whether to call that pleasure or torture,” I responded in shock.

“I think it is a little of both,” she replied.

The talk turned to the fate of our nation and our worries as the hope for an amicable solution faded by the minute. She hoped the people of Virginia would make the right decision.

“I think they already have.”

Not long after I uttered those words did we receive more news. The question of secession would be put to a public vote so Virginians could voice what their hearts were telling them. They were, as we were, learning of more animosities, blockades and aggression by the North.

Word of the rising tension was so unsettling I broke rank as I introduced myself to a new partner.

“Captain Francis, uh, Colonel Francis,” I stuttered. “Excuse me. The news has left me quite shaken.”

But as much as we worried, as much as we longed for another way out, we found the time for more merriment, more waltzes and more reels. One dance called “Chase The Squirrel” found me playfully pursuing a lady about the set only to find her chasing me back.

So much beauty surrounded me I did not know what to do when seeking out another partner for a waltz. Two ladies stood a few feet away, beautiful as Heaven would allow. The music began, and without a partner, I began to sway back and forth on my feet, unable to stand still even without a dancing partner. I sauntered toward the pair… whom would I ask?

“Colonel Francis!” Capt. Scott called to me. “Why are you waltzing by yourself when such beautiful ladies are before you?”

My feet halted. “Sir, they are so beautiful, I am filled with indecision.”

“Close your eyes!” he ordered.

He twirled me around a couple of times and directed me to point.

“Open your eyes!”

Before the tip of my finger was my choice: a charming lady and a better dancer than she gave herself credit for.

Our host relayed another dispatch. The votes were tallied. Virginia would secede. In some counties, the vote was unanimous. We had made our choice, but now came the challenge. We learned the first Virginia blood of this conflict had already been shed. Peace had failed, but a new nation may yet thrive, one honored with a song.

“Then here’s to our Confederacy,
Strong we are and brave,
Like patriots of old we’ll fight, our heritage to save.
Rather than submit to shame,
To fight we would prefer
So cheer for the Bonnie Blue flag
That bears a single star.
Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.”

My thoughts return once more to the duty before me. I know not all of you will agree with the choice I have made, but I hope you at least recognize the circumstances. I believe with all my heart we are a nation of undeniable liberty. Those who seek to deny us our rights as citizens, as human beings, do not understand the foundations of this great land. Did not we choose freedom over tyranny one hundred years ago? Did we not resolve to build a nation grounded in justice and guided by those rights given to us by our Creator?

But in the sum of all events, I find the most peculiar irony and a thread of hope. Whatever happens in these next few months, I will never forget the friendship and fellowship of this evening’s celebration, filled with many more memories than I can mention here. A slice of my heart tells me we could patch a great many conflicts with more occasions such as this. Happiness should chase anger away, making room for reason, which if left to blossom shall yield a harvest of reconciliation.

It is an absurd thought, I know, for some of you. But I must keep hope alive. We have passed beyond the crossroads. The road we have chosen will lead us to either redemption or suffering. And I can only pray God will give us the strength to carry out our duties as soldiers and as patriots. My future may be undetermined, but my heart is resolute.

Yours truly,
Col. Francis

A Postscript From Mesa

We entered in costume, in character, 145 years later, near the stroke of midnight. The scattered patches of diners at the In-N-Out perked up. They may have hesitated to swallow for an instant. One snickered while others smiled.

“Arizona just seceded from the Union,” one person explained to a puzzled stranger on the way out.

“We’re from a Civil War Ball,” another said to the young man behind the counter as he stared at all the Confederate uniforms and hoopskirts.

I always love it when present meets past, especially when I’m still submerged in my historic persona. The ball may have ended half an hour ago, but I couldn’t drop my southern accent.

“Could I have a number one, please, sir?” I drawled out.

At one point during a waltz, my partner asked me if that accent was real.

“I’ll leave that to you to decide,” I grinned. Why spoil any illusion? If you want to believe it’s real, by all means believe!

Our conversation put us back in the present day, but in a nation still divided -- this time by illegal immigration. We talked about the upcoming march in Phoenix. We talked about immigrant rights. We talked about solutions.

Should we grant amnesty or deport them all? Should we implement a guest worker program? Should we go after the businesses that hire them? Should we put pressure on Mexico to eliminate the corruption and poverty at the root of the problem?

I don’t think we found a sure cure. Everybody could at least agree on that.

In another time, this talk could have lit the fuse of war. But at our table, you couldn't even light a match as we talked thoughtfully and amiably about the issues.