Notes from Washington's Friends
Julie, my granddaughter had a wonderful time at the Ball. She is
looking forward to when she can go again.
Thanks. Mdm. B.W.
Excellency - I had a magnificent time!
friend and obedient servant,
I know we all had so much fun at the ball. Thank you so much!
Because of Him,
Scott & Gen'l Washington:
Had a most enjoyable time at the ball, the dancing was great, and likewise
the company. 'Twas so good to see so many faces from my 18th C. friends and
And Congratulations (again) to the lovely Miss Elizabeth on her 21st
Your most humble & obedient serv't,
Lt. Zachariah Carnehan Quatermass, 28th SNY
Dearest General Washington & Family,
Your recent birthday celebration shall rank as one my favourites of all
time. Not only did I enjoy each and every dance with every fibre of my
being, an abundant supply of happy moments shall dwell within me
forever. And yea, they include my winning of the delicious chocolate
truffles. I do have plans to share with friends!
However, if one should ask me to name my favourite moment, I say without
hesitation it was when I introduced myself to a lady of mystery sitting
alone, away from the gathering crowd during the social hour. I quickly
found she was no stranger but a beloved correspondent, an admirer of my
writings who had never attended a We Make History ball. I had replied to
her many times, longing for the day when we might join hands and enjoy my
dearest diversion -- which we did in all conceivable grace.
Both of us were uplifted that night, and I know she experienced the same joy
that flowed through me when I first set foot upon the ballroom floor among
the We Make History family. I know she will return for more dances. Such
moments reaffirm the Purpose I believe GOD has given me, the Mission of my
None of this would have happened without the efforts of Your Excellency,
Mrs. Washington, and every single member of the We Make History family.
We are leading our own Revolution, and victory shall be ours!
Thank You All So Very Much!
May GOD Continue To Bless You!
All of you are forever in my prayers...
Your Humble Servant & Friend,
George Washington's Ball,
We Make History,
as taken from the Journal of Private Christopher.
The ladies arrive in waves of two and three, parading through the narrow
ballroom door in their 18th Century gowns or modern representations.
Strolling about to greet the guests, I catch a stream of elegantly attired
children, and I silently remove my tricorn and bow to them in turn as each
one passes. Each pauses to return a curtsy.
Groups cluster along the side of the hall, conversing and greeting. I
recognize most, but when I turn around, I notice a lady sitting by herself
in a satin gown at the far end of the hall. My duty as a gentleman prods me
"Greetings!" I say as I introduce myself as a member of General Washington's
"Is this your first ball?"
"Yes," she answers, brightening.
"Do not worry. The dances are easy. If you can walk, you can dance."
The lady, however, knows more than I realize. "You don't recognize me?" she
inquires. "I usually dress in black."
My mind pulls together a string of clues, and I lobby a guess. "Would you be
My jaw falls open. Blood drains from my face. Without hesitation, I sweep
off my cocked hat once more and give reverence as low as my bended right
knee will allow, saying not a word until my display of honour is complete.
The lady is no stranger. An admirer of my writings, a certain "Madame Noire"
had corresponded with me several times, often sending words of admiration
and illustrations of others engaged in my dearest diversion of elegant
dance. In one reply, I wished that one day "we may join hands in a joyous
and graceful celebration of movement."
"I do agree that a well-rounded gentleman is properly educated in the art
and the joy of dance," she wrote in kind.
For months I puzzled over her identity. Who was this charming lady of
mystery? Might we someday meet? Only now is my hypothesis proven true. She
is the same lady who had graced me with her company a few times between
battles, always dressed in a stylish black frock with matching parasol to
protect her beauty against the torment of the sun. I knew her signature
attire, but not her name. Now the lady and her nom de plume are
joined at last. Madame Noire: French for "black."
The hour of commencement arrives for the evening's festivities, but the
honoured birthday guest has yet to arrive. Perhaps he is delayed by business
at Mount Vernon. Our beloved dancing mistress steps to the front of the hall
and summons our celebration to begin, no doubt on the General's order. In
honour to America, she leads us in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National
As the final words of musical tribute fade into silence, I suddenly burst
out with the traditional rallying cry General Washington would have offered
if he were leading this charge: "Three cheers for the United States of
The guests enthusiastically follow my command.
"Hip hip, HUZZAH!" "Hip hip, HUZZAH!" "Hip hip, HUZZAH!"
At that moment, as if on cue, the crowd parts and General Washington emerges
from the rear of the hall to warmth and smiles. "Happy Birthday!" greet a
He joins hands with Mrs. Washington for the Grand Promenade. I scurry off to
find the lady I wish to escort: Madame Noire is unaccompanied, as I had
hoped. So we join hands and wind about the ballroom with the others, led by
His Excellency, who eventually pauses in place with his beloved to bow to us
all in passing.
We end in a ring around the hall, the appropriate formation for Sellenger's
Round. Madame is not familiar with the dance, and with its verses and
choruses of movement, I sense a challenge before us. She must learn quickly.
I must demonstrate to her satisfaction the gentleman of refined words is
refined in his footwork.
Our dancing mistress rehearses us once before we begin, and then our flutist
and fiddler lead us off. I caper as with much liveliness through numerous
figures: setting and siding and arming and prancing back and forth in a
circle while fending off the weight of buckled shoes and a thick regimental
coat. My partner follows my moves with restrained elegance, no doubt living
up to the expectations of a well-bred lady and General Washington's own
cardinal rule of civility: "Every Action done in Company, ought to be with
Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present."
I labour to brush aside any errors, caught in the spirit of the dance. When
all is finished, and after we have exchanged stately closing reverences, she
gives me great compliment: "Your dancing is as beautiful as your writing!"
Following etiquette and my own desires, I seek another lady for the next
dance, "The Spaniard," a fitting tribute to some of our allies in the cause
of Liberty. It too is a lively caper, danced in long sets with couples
changing places along the line and leading down and up the set before
engaging in "rights and lefts," a potentially confusing figure. I know its
pitfalls, enough to lead my lady -- dressed in a brightly-coloured polonaise
-- through uncertainties and mistakes, especially my own.
The knowledge is invaluable when I turn along the line to find the couple
next to us has dropped out, along with the one next to them. A huge hole has
formed in the set as the struggling dancers have ceded the floor in
courtesy. I dance on, reaching out to join hands with invisible couples, and
my partner graciously follows. Other couples step up or step in, and the
abnormality resolves, albeit with a few more errors along the way until the
end, when I thank my lady for her persistence.
I struggle with the allemande left and right. My hands fail to weave into
their proper places around my partner. Now, however, is not the time for
amateurism, as His Excellency stands next to me in the three-couple set of
"Away To The Camp." Our dancing mistress graciously gives us the option to
substitute a simpler turn, but my lady expects the motion as called. She is
a newcomer, a student all the way from the Netherlands and a quick study.
She guides my hands as we dance, and we worry not of mistakes.
Excessive flirting is usually discouraged. Yet the dance all but requires
the gentlemen to tossle the ladies' locks as they take hands and parade
around them in a line. I do so with care, as does General Washington. The
ladies repay us in kind when their chance to parade arrives. Graciously,
they avoid tugging my tufty ponytail... unlike a certain colleague of mine.
As I lead the gentlemen, I raise my free hand high in joy.
"Many dancing masters would frown upon this gesture," I say.
"Let your light shine through," His Excellency encourages.
A row of beautiful young ladies stands before us: our 16 American Belles,
honoured representatives of the original 13 states and the three that
entered the Union during General Washington's presidency. Yet they are more
than just charming girls in pretty gowns.
They are ladies of good character, ladies for which we hold high
expectations, the General tells us. We care deeply about them, and we wish
to honour them because they are worthy of it. But they must begin, he
stresses, by honouring themselves, for it is only then that they can insist
all others treat them as ladies.
I consider myself honoured to help escort them as His Excellency presents
them to the gathering, one by one. Each steps forward and bows, as he
presents them a floral gift before a Continental Soldier steps to her side,
bowing, and escorting them forth. A British officer also takes part, invited
by His Excellency as a sign that we are beyond old hostilities. King George
III would approve.
The American Belles now have the privilege of selecting their next partners.
They disperse into the crowd, approaching their desired gentlemen and
offering their hands.
I stand as the ladies pass by me...
And pass again...
My head sags as if a commanding officer has just hung a sign of punishment
around my neck. Am I very wrong in expecting that at least one of these
ladies should dance with one of their escorts?
But before hope lies bleeding on the dance floor, one of the young ladies
will have me as her dancing companion. She has taught me, among other
things, a box step. Together we enjoy "Haste To The Wedding," one of my
As is tradition, we serenade those celebrating birthdays with a circle dance
of "For They're Such Jolly Good Fellows." In good measure, General
Washington also leads us in a round of "Happy Birthday."
"On one knee, Christopher."
I obey the command, and fall before them as their musical Romeo.
Outside, I appear the soldier, adept with musket and willing to lay down my
life for my Country. Inside, I feel the grace of a gentleman. Any music in
three-quarter time brings that passion to the surface, as in "Come, Let's Be
With a lady who savors as many dances as I can give her, I float through the
movements: turning and bowing to the two other couples in the set, casting
off to the middle and the end, leading my lady up the centre in a step-in,
step-out waltz. We then circle with the others so that a new couple may
begin the dance again.
The desire for grace holds firm during the "Duke Of Kent Waltz," especially
during a beautiful move known as a balance. My lady and I join by the left
hand, step to and away from each other, and then I twirl her gently
underneath my arm so that we change places. We repeat the move for the other
arm. Opportunities come to turn our corners and then our partners before
starting over again with right- and left-handed stars. My spirits are lifted
as is my free hand during the turning steps. I walk with a slight dip of the
knees -- perhaps a silent longing for a minuet -- as I venture round.
Nothing can displace me from this sphere of dreamlike bliss.
"We have a request for something we have not done in awhile," His Excellency
announces. "The Shoe Dance."
But, he adds, we are going to do it differently. Instead of the ladies
removing one shoe in the centre of the ballroom for the gentlemen to chase
down, the gentlemen shall be the ones to cast off their footwear. I remove
one of my pewter-buckled brogans, hoping the lady who finds it will not be
perplexed at the mysterious cushions inside and ask, "Who in this room, pray
tell, is Doctor Scholl?"
The ladies line up in formation. They are not used to the military drill,
but General Washington gives the orders.
Out of his eyesight, I hold a musket of air, demonstrating to the ladies the
proper manual of arms.
They race for the centre with restrained bravado, unlike the gentlemen who
would fall all over themselves to pluck a shoe from the pile. The ladies
hold up their prizes, beckoning forth their new dancing partners in this
inverted Cinderella story. A young lady finds me and we head a set for
"Soldiers' Joy" -- albeit a version substituting stars for the challenging
"hey for three." No one disparages the change.
The tradition of delicious prizes for lucky guests results in a curious
award. The name of our Dutch guest is drawn for a tin of Dutch cookies.
Those treats traveled as far as she did, His Excellency notes.
But the most curious of award pairings is yet to come.
General Washington holds up a box of Belgian chocolate truffles, noting the
gift wrapping for Valentines' Day. If this goes to a married person, he
notes, we would hope that person would share.
A name is drawn at random. And the chocolates go to...
"Private Christopher Francis!"
"HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" I cry, incredulous as I walk up to claim my prize.
His Excellency embraces me, and he must now explain this astonishing
"Christopher is an eligible bachelor," he says, and he notes many eager
matchmakers in the crowd. "Perhaps this is an omen!"
Perhaps. It is like catching the bouquet at a wedding. But I also know The
LORD's plan for me might not include a wife. And yet a friend once told me,
"First you find your Master, then you find your mission, and then you find
For now, however, I refrain from puzzling over the message.
"You can never tell!" I exclaim of the future, holding my box of truffles in
one hand while fluttering my tricorn with the other.
Belles In The Night
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in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of His Countrymen."
Serving unselfishly without pay and at great
personal risk throughout the American Revolution, Washington triumphed
against all odds overcoming the most powerful nation on earth. After victory
was won there were those who wanted to make him king but Washington refused
what would have been a betrayal of the great vision which so many had
sacrificed for and opted instead to return home to Mt. Vernon. The only president to be
elected unanimously, Washington served two terms and then voluntarily stepped down. His
continued refusal to betray his convictions and grasp absolute power inspired
even his former enemy King George III to be filled with admiration and refer
to Washington as "the greatest man of the age."
In his private life he was
known as a gentleman of lofty character who thoroughly enjoyed social
occasions. Washington loved to dance. He was regarded as one of the best
dancers in Virginia and would not miss a Ball if he could help it. There were
balls held in his honor while he was a general, a ball for his inauguration as
president and annual balls were held in honor of his birthday. Balls in honour
of Washington's birthday were held in various parts of the United States
during his lifetime. They were a tradition which continued far beyond
Washington's time, even by both North and South during the War Between the
States and indeed throughout the 19th century.
After the successful conclusion of the American
Revolution a season of Balls were held each year in the City of Richmond,
Virginia known as the Richmond Assemblies. Tickets were sold in advance and
guests were expected to abide by a certain set of rules. For instance ladies
needed to be at least 13 years of age to attend and gentlemen at least 18. No
apprentices were admitted. The only alcohol allowed was for the punch and that
in a "small quantity." Any lady who abandoned her place in a set committed a
great social faux pas and was not allowed to dance again for the rest of the
One of these "Richmond Assemblies" was held each year in honor of
George Washington's Birthday. John Marshall, a future Chief Justice of the
United States Supreme Court, attended the one held in 1783 and wrote to a friend the next day
that he had "been setting up all night at an Assembly [Ball]. We have
them in Richmond regularly once a fortnight [every two weeks]. The last
was a brilliant one; 'twas on the General's birth night. Never did I see such
a collection of handsome ladies. I do not believe that Versailles [the
Royal French Court] or Saint James's [the British Court] ever
displayed so much beauty. I wish you had been present. The Virginians would
have retained their high place in your opinion."
George was regarded as one of the finest
dancers in Virginia. That is saying something as journals, letters and other
first person accounts inform us that 18th century Virginians had a reputation
throughout American and England for their great love of dancing. Ladies were
known to wait for hours in order to have a dance with George and he was glad to
oblige even if it meant dancing all night. (One must be willing to make
sacrifices for the ladies!)
The Friendly Family of We Make History
(representing appreciative Americans of several time periods) have enjoyed
historic tradition of honoring the birthday of this most beloved American
through an annual Grand Ball, dancing (as we have learned) being one of Washington's
very favourite pastimes.
16 American Belles representing the 16
States of Washington's Presidency were presented at George Washington's
Someone Special for Special Events...
George Washington Portrayal