As I searched for corroborating evidence of the events referred to by Wells in his letters, I came across this somewhat more colorful description of the evening. In a history of the regiment called Life with the Thirty-Fourth Mass. Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, published in 1879, William Lincoln, who had served as an officer in the regiment, offers this tribute to the ladies attending the ball.Thanksgiving, the officers of the 34th gave a ball which was really a most elegant affair – music, supper, decorations and pretty women were all in style. How it was accomplished God only knows.
Ouch! At the risk of getting trapped in a quagmire of political incorrectness and cattiness, let me just say that archival research can be as entertaining as it is challenging.The ladies, God bless them! were there in large numbers. And oh! the dresses! and ah! the un-dresses! Sprigged muslins, and other gauze-like fabrics, floated round forms of 200 pounds, at the least, of good solid adipose matter; and heavy stiff black silks stood out from and helped cover skeletons, whose bones could almost be heard rattling an accompaniment to the music of the dance. Flashy calicoes contrasted with heavy, glaring red merinos. High-necked and long-sleeved dresses, jealously guarded from, perchance, a too searching eye, the least particle of flesh, dry and withered too often, it is true; and again, there were other dresses so cut and disposed as to reveal the rich amplitude of shoulders and bosom to any who would not turn away.