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|The Insurrection of 1786
From my best recollection Daniel Shayes had
comparatively few partisans in our native town
& those I think were mostly in the south western
part. Some few were scattered here & there
in the street. But I do not remember any man
of much repute who openly espoused
that cause. Party spirit was very high -
an instance of wh. will appear from the fact that
my oldest brother when he volunteered in support of the
existing government was told by one our nearest
neighbors, who was one of the opposite side that if
they shd come to action he my brother shd be
the first man at whom he wd aim a shot.
That there was strong feeling too on the other side
may be inferred - from what I remember
of my own feelings though a boy of ten years, for it
was a long time before I ever look on a "Shaysite"
as any thing else than a very [?], or a very fool
I well remember the entrance of the
insurgents into P. & the alarms it excited
among those who were known to be on the
side of government. Several insurgents had
been arrested & condemned to death
for having been found in arms the second
time in violation of the oath of allegiance wh
had been imposed after their first capture,
& the party had threatened to take prisoners
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This is an excerpt from a letter from Reverend Samuel Willard to E. B. Wilson of Petersham, Massachusetts. Willard was the minister in Deerfield from 1807 to 1829. Willard gradually went blind and probably wrote his recollections when he realized that he was losing his sight. He was ten years old at the time of Shays' Rebellion. Willard remembers that his brother volunteered on the side of the government but one of their neighbors was on the side of the Regulators. He describes the Regulators coming into Petersham and the subsequent arrival of the government troops. Government troops were quartered in homes for four days, and Willard comments that they "left our houses in such a state as would inspire a dread of armies in every bosom". This seems to support the need for the third amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Willard also describes the Regulators' lack of weapons. He says that there was panic and a want of military tactics during the retreat.
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Excerpt of Willard letter to E. B. Wilson on Shays' Insurrection of 1786
| author Reverend Samuel Willard (1776-1859)
| date c. 1820
| location Petersham, Massachusetts
| width 8.5"
| height 11.0"
| process/materials manuscript, paper, ink
| item type Personal Documents/Letter
| accession # #L07.052
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