Only three years after the close of the American Revolution, thousands of Massachusetts citizens took up arms against their new state government. Faced with mounting post-war debts, a shortage of currency, and unfair laws, many of the citizens rebelled. 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, especially high 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, calling 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 Governor James Bowdoin called for an army of militiamen. General Benjamin Lincoln was given command and ordered to restore the courts 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 in Springfield. Shays knew his men were poorly equipped and in desperate need of muskets and supplies. The arsenal had both as well as barracks 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 were General William Shepard and about 1,200 local militiamen. Shepard fired into the ranks of the advancing rebels, killing four and wounding 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.


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