I’m trying to understand the appeal of Civil War Balls or Civil War Dances. They seem as out of place as Remember the Alamo Celebrations or World War II Festivities would be. Why celebrate a time of death and destruction? In my quest for understanding, I traveled to various destinations on the world wide web. I visited sites dedicated to promoting future, and recently past, Civil War Balls and read firsthand accounts of ball attendees. Here is what I’ve learned.
Many of these Civil War Balls are offered as a “ministry” to homeschooling families, though non-homeschoolers can also be invited. These dances serve as a replacement for high school proms. Rather than holding an equivalent, modern-day prom, hosting an old-fashioned dance is intended to keep clothing modest and to keep manners respectful. Young women are encouraged to wear dresses with hoop skirts, while the young men are encouraged to dress in military uniforms. In keeping with the time period re-enactment, dance cards are used and dances conform to the style of the 1860s.
So I wonder if that is part of the appeal of these balls? Men dressed as soldiers—warriors. Women dressed as belles—beauties. Dance cards setting up males-only in initiating in the choice of dance partners. Period dances requiring men to lead and women to follow. Are these dances seen as an acceptable alternative for families who embrace patriarchy? It seems like modest dress codes could still be enforced and suggestive dancing could be prohibited at a modern-day prom replacement if modesty and manners were the only concern.
Do these Civil War partiers realize that their alternative glamorizes war?
Civil War Balls give the appearance of celebrating a dark time in our nation’s history—the United States no longer united but divided and at war with itself. Partygoers coming to celebrate—not commemorate—a time where more than half a million people perished in an unnatural disaster. It seems odd to celebrate a war where pain, death and destruction occurred in epidemic proportions.
If the celebration is meant to focus on the ending of legalized slavery, why are some of the men wearing gray, confederate uniforms at these balls? After all, the confederate soldiers were fighting to maintain the right to own slaves in their states. The most disturbing site I visited on my journey advertised a “Belles and Rebels Masquerade Ball” where “smart gray uniforms slipped through swaying, colorful hoop skirts.” They also billed re-enacting the time of the Civil War as “a fun, family activity.” Does anyone else find this trend disturbing?