Ballroom Etiquette by Susan Macatee

Thanks so much for hosting me today on your blog, Cynthia!

You’re welcome Susan. Everyone please help me welcome Susan Macatee back to my blog. She has a great prize for one lucky commentor so be sure and leave her a comment or question.

My post today is about Ballroom etiquette during the American Civil War period.

Although the setting for my Civil War Christmas story, The Christmas Ball, opens in a Civil War camp where the heroine is disguised as a man to serve as a soldier, the story ends in Washington, D. C. at a lavish Christmas ball. I thought I’d talk about the types of balls given during the war years and the rules for the attendees.

A few of the things I learned were:

1. Nineteenth century Americans were class conscious. They didn’t mix with people above or below their class.

2. A formal introduction had to be made when meeting a new person. Only after such an invitation, could people greet one another and gentlemen were permitted to ask ladies to dance.

3. Balls could be private, invitation only affairs, or public, open to everyone. Attendees of the latter type of ball purchased tickets, the proceeds going to various causes. During the war, they were used as fundraisers on both sides.

4. Ladies never asked gentlemen to dance. If a gentleman wished to dance with a married lady, he had to ask her husband first.

5. Round dances (waltzes, polkas) were considered scandalous throughout small town America during the war.

6. Dancing was considered the first drill for young men who would ultimately become soldiers. Formation dances taught right from left, timing, how to maneuver in formation and team work.

7. Young ladies attending balls should only do so under the protection of a married lady or elderly gentleman.

8. A lady should not be left unattended at any time in a public assembly.

9. Husbands should not dance with their wives, except for the first set.

10. If a couple falls during a dance, it is almost always the man’s fault.

Love that last one. For more information on period balls, visit this site.

Blurb: While pretending to be a male soldier, farm girl Sara Brewster falls for a handsome Union army surgeon. When her secret is revealed, will a lavish Christmas Eve ball work in her favor–or will her heart be broken?

Kirk Ellison is shocked to discover the assistant he thought of as a boy is a young woman disguised as a man. As his feelings for Sara grow, he must convince her she can fit into his society life, if he’s to make her his own.


Sara closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Doc Ellison’s kiss had scattered her senses. For months she’d dreamed of being in his arms. As he reached for the buttons on her shirt, her breath caught. His hands on her body thrilled her. She’d never felt like this before.

After loosening the buttons, he opened the shirt and gazed at her bosom.

She studied him, wondering what he was thinking. Did he like what he saw?

He dropped his hands and half-turned away.

“Please,” she gasped. “Don’t stop.”

Turning back, his gaze roved over her. She tried to read his expression. Was that desire she saw, or disgust?

“We should be going now,” he said. His gaze dropped to the hay strewn ground.

“No!” Boldly she reached out and fingered the buttons of his coat. He didn’t move as she slowly undid them and parted the material. Her fingers tingled as they brushed over his shirt, feeling hardened muscle beneath.

His breath hitched, but he gently pushed her away. “Miss Brewster, we mustn’t…”

“Doc!” A shout from outside, startled her. She jerked away from the doctor and scanned the barn opening.

“Yes,” Ellison called. He eyed her. “You’d best go.”

She nodded, hurriedly fastening her buttons. One of the other stewards approached. His dark eyes slid from her to the doctor. “They don’t need me in the hospital tent, and told me to come on over and give you a hand.”

Ellison glanced at Sara. “We’re about finished here. I was on my way back.”

“All right, Doc,” the soldier said. “I’ll head back with you.”

She swallowed, not sure she could find her voice. “Ah… I’m off duty, so I reckon I’ll head back to my tent.”

Ellison reached up and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She caught his gaze, trying to gauge his thoughts. Would he have allowed her to undress him if they hadn’t been interrupted?

The Christmas Ball releases today from The Wild Rose Press.

For more information on my other Civil War set romances, visit my website:

And if you leave a comment on this post today, you’ll have the chance to win a pdf copy of The Christmas Ball and a $10.00 gift certificate for The Wild Rose Press.

13 thoughts on “Ballroom Etiquette by Susan Macatee

  1. Hi Susan. These rules are staggering to my imagination. I really wonder how many couples fell while dancing that they would put it on the list. I also wonder why a man couldn’t dance with his wife except for the last dance. Amazing the strictness of the rules.

    As always a great post.

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