The violent uprising by the Shaysites forced Governor James Bowdoin to seek help from outside the Confederation. Eventually, General Benjamin Lincoln was put in charge of the private militia he had organized. The Shaysites’ assault on Springfield’s arsenal needed to be thwarted. When Lincoln’s troops finally met the Shaysites, what happened?
On January 25, 1787, Shays and his officers devised a three-pronged attack on the arsenal in the hopes of intimidating Shepard’s militiamen into surrendering. Nonetheless, Shepard was not in the mood to be tricked.
General Benjamin Lincoln was outraced by the prompt actions of Daniel Shays, who arrived at Springfield with 1,500 to 2,000 men to find that the arsenal had already been occupied by the vengeful old General William Shepard, on his own authority, and with approximately 1,200 militiamen.
He formed a battle line with his militia in front of the arsenal and placed two cannons along it. Shepard gave orders for two warning shots to be fired over the heads of the Shaysites from the artillery, but it had no effect.
Shepard’s artillerymen pierced the heart of Shays’s column with the next shot, and the subsequent barrage threw the entire column into complete disarray. Shays tried desperately to rally them, but it was to no avail.
Exodus Of The Shaysites
When Benjamin Lincoln and Governor Bowdoin’s private militia showed up on February 3, they caught Shays and what was left of his army by surprise. Shays had retreated northward 20 miles to the village of Petersham.
Lincoln was only able to capture 150 of them; the rest, including Shays, had fled into the woods in search of safety in Vermont or New Hampshire. A select few reached Canadian soil, where they pleaded with Governor General Lord Dorchester to be granted access to weapons and supplies.
Dorchester cared about anything that could cause trouble for the Americans, but the Foreign Office in London didn’t share his enthusiasm.
Affects Of The Shays’ Rebellion
Concern for the future of not just Massachusetts but of the entire Confederacy was deeply affected by Shays’ Rebellion. Despite the widespread fear that Shays’ Rebellion caused, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was unusually reluctant to make any of the rebels into martyrs.
On December 6, 1787, two rebels named John Bly and Charles Rose were hanged. In addition to the 4,000 insurgents who signed confessions and oaths of allegiance to the Commonwealth, sixteen more insurgents were sentenced to death but later pardoned.
Although Shays was granted a pardon from Vermont in 1788, he never returned to Massachusetts and instead passed away in 1825 in Sparta, New York, where he was able to collect a pension for his Revolutionary War service.
An Overview And Background Of The Shays’ Rebellion
Farmer Daniel Shays was among those who gathered to ask the Massachusetts government for help. To prevent foreclosure on their property, they requested a one-year moratorium on tax collection and the shutdown of courts.
Also, inflation and government-regulated prices for farmers’ goods were sought after as a means of providing more financial assistance to the agricultural sector. Not only did the state government not pass any debtor-friendly legislation, but it also kept seizing farms and throwing some in jail because the farmers couldn’t pay their bills.
Farmers got together and set up meetings to keep talking about possible solutions. In many ways, these gatherings mirrored the town hall meetings that radicals held in the years before the American Revolution.
Like soldiers who must be ready to fight at a moment’s notice, farmers gave the name “Minutemen” to those who supported the movement. To stop foreclosures from occurring, they went to county courts with the intention of closing them.
The Rebellion Of The Shays Has More Repercussions
Death threats and harassment followed William Shepard for months after the murder of his two brothers. At least the government listened, tax rates were lowered and legal proceedings against debtors were halted.
The value of bonds and securities issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts dropped by 30 percent as a result. In terms of politics, however, it did bring some calm.
All this would be of little solace to George Washington, and Henry Knox should have known that. His encounters with the Shaysites convinced him that civic virtue was not a priority for the average American.
It’s possible that disgruntled citizens wouldn’t follow John Locke’s path from the state of nature to the security of property if the Confederation Congress or even the stout Commonwealth of Massachusetts proved incapable of governing. Would freedom then turn out to be the same as suicide?
The amount of bloodshed connected to the rebellion was low. Although the Shaysites gathered at state courts with weapons, very few violent incidents occurred. At the federal armory in Springfield, a meeting between armed troops and the Shaysites resulted in casualties, despite the army’s use of warning shots.
There were fatalities of four and injuries of twenty or more. Thirteen Shaysites were rounded up, put in jail, and given death sentences. The rebellious farmers dispersed rather than continue the battle. Many of the leaders, including Daniel Shays, escaped to New York and Vermont.
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