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Jennie Brownscombe (American, 1850-1936) Dolley Madison's Ball, c 1910-15 oil on canvas, 27 x 36 in. Collection of the Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama

Battle of Craney Island Victory Ball

June 22, 2013
            Victories and other notable events were sometimes celebrated during the War of 1812 with formal balls and dinners.  One of the most notable such examples occurred in our capital on 8 December 1812 to honor in particular the Constellation’s commanding officer, Captain Charles Stewart, in acknowledgement of his magnificent dinner held onboard Constellation a few days previously, at which the President and First Lady, and several hundred of Washington’s society were Stewart’s guests. 
The ball was at Tomlinson’s Hotel.  The ballroom was decorated with the captured British Colors from HMS Alert and HMS Guerriere.  First Lady, Dolley Madison was present, and the tone of the ball was festive, honoring recent naval victories won by the Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and the Essex.  A fresh victory at sea had yet to be announced: Commodore Stephen Decatur of the United States (and husband to Norfolk’s own Susan Wheeler) had taken HMS Macedonian but news of this exploit had yet to be made public.
The City of Washington was illuminated that December evening.  An eyewitness account published a few days after the ball captures the thrill of the evening, and the deep impression it made on all who attended:
“A large and very respectable company assembled. The scene was graced by the presence of nearly all the beauty and fashion of our City.  All was joy and gaiety, such as could scarcely admit of augmentation. And yet it was destined to be increased. About nine o'clock a rumor was spread through the assembly that [Midshipman] Hamilton, the son of the Secretary of the Navy, had reached the house, the bearer of the colors of the Macedonian and despatches from Commodore Decatur. The gentlemen crowded down to meet him. He was received with loud cheers and escorted to the festive hall, where awaited him the fond embrace of a father, mother, and sisters. It was a scene easier felt than described. The room in which the company had assembled had been previously decorated with the trophies of naval victory. The colors of the Guerriere and the Alert displayed on the walls roused the proud feelings of patriotism, and had revived in every mind the recollection of the bravery which won them. The flag of the Macedonian alone was wanting to complete the group. It was produced and borne into the hall by Captains Hull and Stewart, and others of our brave seamen, amid the loud exclamations of the company, and greeted with national music from the band.”
            While we are not aware of any specific occasion on which the American victory at Craney Island was formally toasted, the battle’s bicentennial will be celebrated with a Victory Ball in the tradition of those of the time.  Join us—in early 19th century costume or modern evening wear—and commemorate this critical moment in Hampton Roads history by experiencing the sights and sounds of a War of 1812 era ball.   

The Victory Ball - June 22, 2013

7:00PM – 10:00PM

Victories and other notable events were often celebrated formally with balls or dinners during the War of 1812.  While we are not aware of one in Norfolk following the Battle of Craney Island, we will be commemorating the victory with a period ball in the spirit of those held on similar occasions.
Join us (in early 19th century period attire or modern evening dress) for an evening of 1813-style entertainments.  Dancing Master, Larry “Corky” Palmer, will teach and call period dances accompanied by live music from Devine Comedy.  Ticket price ($35/person) includes all of the festivities during the ball, valet parking at the event, food, drink…and even the chance to meet Dolley Madison (portrayed by interpreter Katherine Spivey)!
Tickets may be purchased online by visiting the Regency Society of Virginia website at
Coming in from out of town and need lodging?  The Bicentennial Committee has reserved a block of rooms for Saturday, June 22 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside at a rate of $109/night plus taxes (for double occupancy).  The rate may be extended to Friday, June 21 and Sunday, June 23 for those who wish to participate in other activities during the Bicentennial weekend.  Parking is also available at a discounted rate of $5/night.  Rates are good until June 1.
Click here to access the Victory Ball group reservations page and reserve your room.

Interested in distributing a flyer with information about the ball?  Download and print one here.

The victory ball will take place a Harbor's Edge and will be a ticketed event. Harbor's Edge is located at One Colley Avenue Norfolk, VA 23510-9869. Harbor's Edge is a sponsor of the Victory Ball. For more information on Harbor's Edge visit their website at

For more information about the Regency Society of Virginia visit their website at

A Thank you to Huntsville Museum of Art

For allowing us to use the image of:

Jennie Brownscombe (American, 1850-1936)
Dolley Madison's Ball, c. 1910-15
oil on canvas, 27 x 36 in.
Collection of the Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama

Please visit the Museum to see this work of art.


Virginia Militia firing muskets - photo by John Forrest

Virginia Militia Camp in the Peach Orchard

Harbor's Edge is built on the site of a Peach Orchard in 1813. The Virginia Militia built huts in the Peach Orchard and many Virginia Militia soldiers were stationed here during the War of 1812.