Posted by: Dominic | January 20, 2013

More on Washington’s Wine

In one of those wonderful rabbit holes that one may fall into when doing library research, I found this following letter while reading primary documents on the origins of the Marine Corps. It seemed a fortuitous find!

On 11 July 1780, the Chairman of the Continental Board of Admiralty, Francis Lewis, sent the following to Gen. Washington, who was at camp in Preakness (now Wayne), New Jersey.

 “May 6th the Board by direction of Congress, sent to your Excellency two pipes of Maderia Wine [sic] should be glad to know if they have been received.–On the 18th instant Congress directed the Board to deliver Colo. Blaine Commissary General of Purchases two pipes of Maderia with a quantity of french Wine for your Excellencys use, we have accordingly delivered One pip and two hhds Maderia, and Colo. Blaine has undertaken to procure the french Wine.

–I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Obedt Servant,

F LEWIS per Order”.

Seems like Washington really did like his Madeira wine! A pipe (also hilariously known as a “butt”) is 475-480 liters, so Washington was about to be swimming in 960 liters (254 gallons) of fortified wine. A hogshead–hhds in the letter–is essentially 1/2 of a pipe, so one pipe and two hhds is the same as two pipes. And as regards the French wine, it just so happens that as this letter was being written, a force of 6,000 French was landing at Newport, Rhode Island under the command of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau.

The Colonel Blaine mentioned was an Irish immigrant and Pennsylvania citizen who had also been in charge of providing supplies to the Continental Army during their horrific winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. Lewis was born in Wales and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Francis Lewis, Chairman of the Board of Admiralty, 1779-1780.

Source: Out-Letters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, Vol. 2, pp. 227-8.

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