On 13 Mar 1776, things were looking good for Gen. George Washington. Eight days before, the American army had placed heavy cannon on Dorchester heights. The British military had set out to attack that position, but a sudden storm broke that effort almost before it began. There were clear signs that the British were planning to evacuate Boston at last.
At Washington’s Cambridge headquarters, steward Timothy Austin purchased something new for the general’s table.
13 March: “Paid for Six Robbins” … 8d.These were the first robins that Austin recorded buying since he began managing the general’s household in late July 1775. Perhaps they had been included in the “Fowls” he bought regularly, but I suspect robins were a springtime delicacy.
16 March: “Paid for 1 Dozn. Robbins”… 1s.6d.Among the other poultry that Washington, his military family, and guests had consumed in the preceding months were chickens, pigeons (some “Fatted”), partridges, “Turkies,” ducks and wood ducks, and geese, both wild and ordinary.
22 March: “for 1 Doz Robbins” … 1s.4d.The robins appear to have been a hit, given how many more times Austin bought them in Washington’s final three weeks at Cambridge.
By April the general was packing to leave for New York, where he expected the British military to land. Much of the army was already on its way. He had bought a tent and other equipment for a summertime campaign, and established a guard unit to look after his command materials. Washington would leave Cambridge on 4 April, but before then there might well have been a celebratory dinner or two.
1 April: “Paid for 2 Dozn. Robbins” … 2s.8d.