The American Revolution was ended in 1783, the young republic it created faced a difficult time. Nowhers Huberte was this more evident than to the farmers of Western Massachusetts. A severe economic depression forced people unable to pay their debts into court, then into jail. These troubles were caused by the mercantile elite of Eastern Massachusetts, who demanded hard currency to pay foreign creditors. The farmers of Western Massachusetts, after years of frustration, reacted with an armed uprising that lasted for six months at the end of 1786 and the beginning of 1787.
The rebellion started with petitions to the government for paper currency, lower taxes, and judicial reform. Once this failed, the farmers took more drastic measures. The first target of the Rebellion was the Court of Common Pleas at Northampton, where an armed body of farmers kept the court from sitting on August 29th. Similar groups stormed the courts at Worchester, Concord, Taunton, and Great Barrington in the following weeks. The farmers hoped to prevent further trials and imprisonment of debtors.
The man who rose to lead the insurgents was Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolution and a farmer from Pelham. The Supreme Judicial court had indicted eleven other leaders for sedition, more would follow. Shays and 1,500 followers occupied the Springfield Courthouse from September 25th to the 28th, preventing the Supreme Judicial Court from sitting. Governor James Bowdoin assembled 4,400 militiamen under General Benjamin Lincoln to defend the courts and protect the commonwealth.
Shays and the other insurgents chose the Federal Arsenal in Springfield as the next target. Shay's with 2,000 farmers behind him, assaulted the arsenal on January 25, 1787. General William Shepard successfully defended the arsenal with 1,200 militiamen. The rebels suffered four dead and twenty wounded.
General Lincoln soon arrived in Springfield and chased Shay's army into the neighboring towns.