Only three years after the close of the American
Revolution, thousands of Massachusetts citizens took up arms against
new state government. Faced with mounting post-war
debts, a shortage of currency, and unfair laws, many of the citizens
A leader of the rebellion was a Revolutionary War
veteran named Daniel Shays.
Economic hardship drove the debt-ridden
citizens to protest Massachusetts' failure to address their concerns,
taxes and a currency shortage. At local conventions
angry citizens signed petitions demanding the state government respond
to the financial crisis. In the summer of 1786,
thousands of Massachusetts farmers, veterans, and other citizens,
themselves "Regulators," began forcibly closing courts
to prevent seizure of debtor's property. Armed mobs surrounded the
courthouses in Concord, Worcester, Northampton, Great
Barrington, and Springfield and halted most court proceedings. Daniel
Shays personally led the force at Northampton to
demand the release of jailed debtors. In response to the rising crisis
James Bowdoin called for an army of militiamen.
General Benjamin Lincoln was given command and ordered to restore the
and protect the state. A riot act was drawn up and
habeas corpus was temporarily suspended.
In January of 1787, Shays and his army of
farmers and veterans turned their attention to the United States Arsenal
Shays knew his men were poorly equipped and in
desperate need of muskets and supplies. The arsenal had both as well as
to house the men for the winter.
On the afternoon of January 25th Shays and
nearly 1,500 Regulators marched on the arsenal. Defending the arsenal
William Shepard and about 1,200 local militiamen.
Shepard fired into the ranks of the advancing rebels, killing four and
several others. Shays' men retreated to Petersham,
Massachusetts. On the morning of February 3rd General Lincoln attacked
the remaining force of Regulators and routed them.
Shays' Rebellion was effectively over.
Although labeled as traitors, Daniel Shays and fourteen other leaders of the rebellion were later pardoned by newly-elected
Massachusetts governor, John Hancock.