Washington danced here (and Oliver Case slept here)

This is the third in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.

The number of places that George Washington slept, drank and ate is enormous. Therefore, I’m always skeptical when I hear Washington associated with a particular building.  But, this one is somewhat unique. It is reported by Annapolis historians that George Washington danced at the City Hall on several occasions. As it turns out, the building that currently contains the chambers of the Annapolis city council on Duke of Gloucester Street once contained a ballroom and was one of the first president’s stops on his visits to Annapolis.[1] The capital city is closely tied with Washington as it was in Annapolis that he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783 and he records in his diary a lament over losing money at the local race track.

george washington dancing

 

So, what does this have to do with Oliver Case? Nothing until a recent visit to Annapolis and a little research presented me with fairly conclusive evidence of the connection. Let’s start with an excerpt of Oliver’s letter to Abbie dated November 11, 1861.

We marched to the city, halted before an old brick building and were marched in and told that those were to be our quarters. The duty assigned to us was to patrol the city in squads of ten, arresting all soldiers without a pass or any drunken or disorderly ones. Our quarters are a large room with a large old fashioned fireplace, with benches all round the outside and gas [light?]. In the room where the officers stay there are some old revolutionary relics consisting of bayonets, long hooked swords and other things. In the room where we are quartered are some portraits of the first settlers.[2]

This building is the same one that hosted George Washington for dancing in the 18th century and is known as the “new” City Hall or the “old” ballroom.

The new City Hall or Old Ball room dates back to 1764. It was on this date that a Ball Room was built to accommodate visitors, balls, lectures and public entertainments. The Ball Room has served for various purposes other than that for which it was intended. It has been the meeting place of the Maryland Assembly, the headquarters of the Union troops in that section during the Civil War, a guard house, and a prison camp. [emphasis added][3]

Annapolis City Hall

Annapolis City Hall built 1764 and home to Oliver Case in November 1861

 

Inside of Annapolis City Hall

The City Council chamber of the Annapolis City Hall where George Washington danced and Oliver Case slept while serving as a provost guard

 

When General George Washington arrived in Annapolis on December 23, 1783, he presented his resignation from the Army and delivered a farewell speech in the Maryland State House. The city turned out a celebration befitting the man who led the American Army to victory and ensured independence from Great Britain. To cap off the festivities, a ball was given in Washington’s honor in the Annapolis Ball Room.  It is reported that “General Washington opened the dancing with Mistress James Maccubbin of Annapolis, one of the most beautiful women of her day!”[4] These events are confirmed by a Daughters of the American Revolution plaque placed on the front of the building.

There is also a confirmation of the interior of the building from an 1840 account that closely matches the description given by Oliver Case.

The Ball Room is on the Duke of Gloucester street, and is a spacious edifice. The dancing room is large and of elegant construction, and when illuminated, shows to great advantage ; the walls are decorated by a full length likeness of Charles Lord Baltimore, and portraits of several of the former governors of Maryland. At the lower extremity is the supper room, which was formerly the revenue office of the province. At the upper end is a card room, for the use of the gentlemen who may choose to enjoy the ‘circulation of the party-coloured gentry,’ without having their attention diverted by the sound of the violin, and the evolutions of youthful performers.[5]

Matching the two descriptions, it appears the officers assigned to guard duty in November of 1861 were residing in the card room and the enlisted soldiers stayed in the main ballroom. Oliver’s account is also in conflict with the 1932 research paper written by Willingmyre which claims that “at the time of the Union invasion, the paintings and decorations were removed to private homes and other safer places.”[6] Oliver writes to Abbie that “the room where we are quartered are some portraits of the first settlers” and “the room where the officers stay there are some old revolutionary relics consisting of bayonets, long hooked swords and other things.”[7]

So, it appears that Oliver Cromwell Case slept where George Washington had danced.


[1] “City Hall restoration committee delves into history,” Capital Gazette, Annapolis, Maryland, May 31, 2012, accessed from http://www.capitalgazette.com

[2] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[3] “The History and Construction of the City Hall of Annapolis, Maryland,” Daniel W. Willingmyre III, January 15, 1932.

[4] The Monumental City, George W. Howard, Steam Book Printers, Baltimore, 1876.

[5] Annals of Annapolis, Edited by David Ridgely, John D. Toy, Printer, Baltimore, 1840.

[6] Willingmyre, 1932.

[7] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

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One thought on “Washington danced here (and Oliver Case slept here)

  1. Pingback: Annapolis Cityscape, November 1861 « Oliver Cromwell Case

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