Home > History of Wine > “163 Bottles of old Madeira Wine”: I am waist deep in research

“163 Bottles of old Madeira Wine”: I am waist deep in research


You have probably noticed my haphazard posting as of late.  While I never slack on generating tasting notes, my usually posting time is now largely dedicated to research.  One area I am curious about is General George Washington’s Madeira purchases during the Revolutionary War.  When George Washington was home at Mount Vernon he usually purchased his Madeira by the pipe.  But during the war, when he was at headquarters, he typically purchased his Madeira by the bottle.

Receipt for Madeira purchase. Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776. [1]

Receipt for Madeira purchase. Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776. [1]

To be specific, General Washington’s aide de camp, Captain Caleb Gibbs, Captain Commandant of the Guard, purchased his Madeira.  It is fortunate for us is that Captain Gibbs kept all of his receipts.  On October 18, 1776, some 240 years ago to this day, Captain Gibbs purchased 163 bottles of “old Madeira wine” for $163 from Levinus Clarkson.

Levinus Clarkson was a merchant in Charleston, South California.  He had Dutch connections with whom he traded with during the war.  From his correspondence we can see that he imported Madeira, amongst other goods, then forwarded the wine up to his business partner David Van Horne in New York.  Levinus Clarkson would eventually become a Continental Agent in Charleston where he traded.  Appointed during the fall of 1776 he was responsible “to supply any of the Ships or Cruizers with whatever Provisions, Stores or necessarys they may be in want of when they put into or arrive in any of your ports”.  Congress told him he was “in short do all things in this department that you think will serve the Continent and promote the service of the Navy”.  Clearly this included supplying the Commander of the Continental Army with old Madeira.


[1] Thomas Mifflin to Caleb Gibbs, October 18, 1776, Revolutionary War Accounts, Vouchers, and Receipted Accounts 1. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 5 Financial Papers. URL: https://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw5/117/0600/0661.jpg

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